Using available light

Clive Booth is a fashion, beauty and portrait photographer, and a filmmaker. He is known for his distinctive style of selective focus in natural, available, continuous and found light, which gives his work an atmospheric, intimate and ethereal quality.

He uses a huge array of Canon prime and selected zoom EF lenses, which can at times number anything from three to 15 per shoot depending on the subject matter.

Recent commissions include ad campaigns commercials and short films for Asus, Ernst & Young, Fiat, H&M, Intel, L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton, MAC Cosmetics and The Mail on Sunday.

We asked Clive about using available light and how it has shaped his photography and films.

Defining available light

"There are a few ways you can talk about it, but I usually refer to it as available light. In essence it's all about looking carefully...keeping your eyes fresh and seeing what light is available and what will work in your photos. It's about considering where the light falls on your subject and how that will translate in an image.”

Working with natural light

"One of my favourite ways to harness available light is to shoot a subject next to a window indoors. Often when I'm on a shoot, I'll take a few things with me to ensure I can make the most of the light. Some of these can be quite simple, like some drapes or netting. This means I can use the available light, diffuse it and work with it."

Using prime lenses

"I almost never use a flash or lights. One of the most useful things for shooting with just what light's available is to invest in a prime lens. I was a guest at a friend's wedding recently and went along, without much kit, to take a few shots. They looked great. I used a Canon EOS-1D X and a Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens. It's fantastic for low-light shooting and those situations where I want to get that beautiful shallow depth of field. Prime lenses needn’t be expensive – and they’re perfect for low light portraiture.”

Clive’s creative vision

“As an image maker I am always asking myself the question: How can I better interpret the way I see and feel about the world around me and then communicate that to an audience? It sounds simple and yet it’s possibly one of the most challenging aspects of photography and film. What occupies the space between us and our subjects is of critical importance and it is this which becomes our paintbrush, pen and voice.”

The power within

“Full-time mechanic David McArthur stands broodily in the engine room between the mighty MTU 22.3-litre V10 turbocharged engines of the Severn class lifeboat. Put into context, the lifeboat can reach a top speed of 26 knots in 17 seconds and has a range of 250 nautical miles, capable of stopping within a boat length."

© Clive Booth - Canon Explorer. Taken using a pre-production Canon EOS 5DS with an EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/15s at f/2.8, ISO 640. A tripod and cable release were used.

The calm before the storm

"This portrait of Islay resident and lifeboat volunteer Cara McEachern in lifeboat uniform is an example of all the elements working together. The purity of available light complemented by a prime lens captures an emotion and intensity that’s difficult to beat."

© Clive Booth - Canon Explorer. Taken using a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/160s at f/2.8, ISO 1000.