Rick Dahms

Originally from Missouri, Rick Dahms is a Seattle-based photographer who has been in business for 25 years. He got his education in photography by working for five years as a photographer’s assistant. He learned to light by studying pictures: everything from Italian Renaissance paintings to photographs in Vanity Fair.

Rick pays close attention to how and where he sets the shadows in his photographs because the use of shadow is the secret to creating depth and drama. The first thing he does when setting up a lighting scheme is to decide where and how deep he wants the shadows, using fill or subtracting light to get the effect he wants.  

The photograph here, which was shot for CFO Magazine, was lit to minimize the unpleasant overhead shadows that are created by the ceiling lights at Costco and then create light (with his strobes) on his subject while leaving enough light from the overheads to make the background look natural.

Working with a very accommodating store manager, they shut off eight overhead lights, but it wasn’t enough to create the shadows around the subject that he wanted, so they hung a large black scrim just off the right side of the frame, which moved the shadows to a satisfactory level for a portrait but not so deep that the subject looks “pasted” to the background.

Once the subject was in shadow, Rick re-lit him, using a 75-inch Octabox from the left. To create a sharper light that would better match the ceiling light, he took the diffuser off the Octabox. He also added a 20-degree grid rim light on the right. Aside from talking the CFO into getting into the cart, most of the work in putting this image together was bringing the shadow forward, toward the camera, by manipulating the positions of the strobe and the black scrim.

Rick did some post-production work to warm up the ceiling lights by making a duplicate layer, changing the color slightly and then painting the lights back in with broad strokes.

See Rick’s work at www.rickdahms.com