5 | During the exposing process, I find it far easier to have a friend or an assistant open and close the camera shutter while I run around in a Zen state painting light onto objects in my composition. It's a totally unusual process. (Having been a photographer for more than 35 years now, my use of this technique is the closest I've come to true creative fulfillment. It's certainly a sort of magic to be exposing and painting with light.) You also can manually open the camera and lock the shutter open in the Bulb mode, closing it again after each exposure. But this can become very physical, running back and forth to the camera if you're shooting a larger scene. You can also use a PocketWizard or other remote triggers.
6 | During the process of shooting and painting light onto the scene, I try to use the same procedure for each of my shots, as it seems to work well.
I start by painting light from the top center of my main subject. I get several frames of the main subject lit from above, then move outward and down with my lighting. After the main subject is covered, it's a matter of systematically exposing the ground, then walls and other structures to create a full palette of exposures to play with in Photoshop later. After you've exposed the entire scene—from the top and right and left sides, also skimming the ground at the front, back and sides, etc.—you're done shooting. This may be only four shots total if you're shooting a small scene or choose to start small and simple.
7 | Now that you have all your shots downloaded to your computer, start by opening one image, the one you like best of the main subject lit from above. Then open another image from the shoot and import it into the first photograph file. If you use layers, you can simply stack the second image on top of the first.
As you view both layers, all you see is the top layer, since the default blending mode is "normal" or fully opaque. Go to the Layers blending mode dropdown at the top-left corner of the Layer palette and change the setting of the current top photograph from normal to lighten. Now you can see through the top layer or exposure that's sitting above the bottom layer. You can view both photos at the same time.
If the image that's above your base photo is too bright in some areas, or you accidentally exposed some of the light from the flashlight onto your shoes during an exposure, you can simply erase that part of the image you don't like with a soft brush. The more you play with the top image to smooth it out, the more the two images combined will look like a single smooth and even exposure.
So that's basically it. All you have to do is repeat the process of stacking images on top of each other and then erase (or use layer masks) to remove the parts of the top layers you don't like. After you stack the next layer or image onto the top of the stack, all the layers underneath remain as you tweaked them. Eventually, you build up to what is a strikingly powerful image that has a sort of glow because the lighting isn't the traditional, simplistic light that comes from a single or even multiple strobes. It looks as though it's coming from dozens of sources to create a full and rich scene powered by light.
Lastly, I'll share with you a thought I've heard expressed before about Hollywood. In Hollywood, they have all the lights and sound equipment they could use, no more cameras or props are required. What's in short supply is a good idea! So go out and create something special that's individual to you. All you need is a bit of patience, planning and some creativity.
See more of Eric Curry's photographs, along with video tutorials, at his website, www.ericcurry.com.