Inspiration: “Find the Light” by Daniel Messana

Inspiration: “Find the Light” by Daniel Messana

If you are reading this and wondering, who is Daniel Messana, and why does he want me to find the light? Stop. Open Instagram. Go to @danielmessana and follow him. He is a professional photographer and a fantastic dresser. He’s got a great eye for pairing colours and patterns, and finds the best ways to modernize vintage pieces. Earlier this fall, he released his first book, Find the Light; vol. 1. It’s an exploratory journey into using light to create drama and emotion in your photography, through the lens of menswear. Through the lens. Nice.

In order to find the light, you must first look for it. This idea has really stuck with me, and has helped me to be more aware of the light in the 10-15 minutes I have every morning to shoot my outfit. I wrote about indoor photography a couple weeks ago, and Daniel’s mantra has guided my lighting setup. I’m lucky to have this setup, as I have access to a constant, controlled environment for photography. It has allowed me to produce decent shots in a limited amount of time.

The Basics

Getting a sense for how light interacts with 3D objects is important. Understanding how your position and distance to a light source will influence the shadows is key. There are some great pointers in this section that will help you find the light, and make the best of it. One thing that has helped me immensely is to give proper consideration to how the light will hit your face. In the past, I didn’t give much thought to it (probably why I usually have such a stern look on my face) thinking that people were really just looking at the outfits I post. I’ve realized that approach was actually taking away from the photos in which I include my head. I try to be more conscious of how every element of the photo will contribute to the whole – including my face.

Creating Shadows

This might be my favourite section of the book. The photographic examples used are the ideal balance of drama, interest and showcasing interesting elements of an outfit. To create shadows, you need to find the light, but also to find the absence of light. How can you work with what you’ve got to create drama around the lapel of a jacket, or to deepen the dimple of a tie? Find the light, and create the shadows. Want to accentuate the texture? Find the light! And by doing so, find the absence of light.

Direct Sunlight

Shooting in direct sunlight is definitely a challenge. You need the right environment – somewhere with surroundings that will hold up to the potentially harsh light and shadow, to balance out the effect the direct sun will have on your subject.

Pockets of Light

Daniel says this is where the magic happens. Daniel is right. Find the light in this way and you’ll create beautifully dramatic photos. You’ll control where you want the viewer’s attention, both by inclusion and exclusion. This section has some incredible examples of menswear photography done right.

Indirect and Artificial Light

This section is one that really resonated with me. I don’t get to go out and shoot at cool locations. At home, especially in the fall and winter, I have limited (or no) access to natural light at the times I can afford to shoot my outfits. Using a simple lighting setup from Amazon, I have to try and create something interesting out of standing in front of a plain backdrop.

Finding the Light

Here are a collection of images where I think I “found the light”.

I’m a big fan of what Daniel is doing, and he’s one of those guys that is instantly approachable and friendly. Since “meeting” on Instagram, we’ve engaged in many a conversation about photography, menswear and all the things between. With a volume two in the works, I’m getting excited to see it. You can buy his book on Amazon now.

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