- 2013 Photographer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Photography
- How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
- Best Business Practices for Photographers
- The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan: Build a Successful Photography Venture from the Ground Up
- Group Portrait Photography Handbook
- 500 Poses for Photographing Women
- The Best of Family Portrait Photography: Professional Techniques and Images
- 500 Poses for Photographing Group Portraits
- Selling Your Photography: How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets
- Starting Your Career as a Freelance Photographer
- Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
- Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images
- Taking Stock: Make money in microstock creating photos that sell
- Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
The amazing technology available today has allowed us to shoot in lighting conditions that were once unthinkable. We can now boost the ISO to 25k and still get a decent shot. But this isn’t what I think good photography should be like . Photography is all about light, believe it or not, and the pixels, the editing , the fancy cameras are all just bonuses. Available light isn’t always good and I think that every photographer should know how to create their own light, suitable for each particular situation. This is where many photographers get lazy. Buying a 50mm f1.2 will get you cool bokeh and good low light exposure, but it won’t always offer you the most flattering light for your subject. That’s your job, not the lenses’.
There are also photographers who are keen to learn about artificial lighting but kind of push it too hard. They go out and spend thousands of dollars on pro lighting gear without even knowing where to begin.
The first rule in lighting is learn how to use a single light source. What many photographers fail to understand is how light works . It took me a while to figure out where to place my lights in the beginning. I would look at lighting diagrams from other photographers, or check out behind the scenes videos on Youtube. I would replicate those setups , even though everything else was different. Obviously, the results were usually disappointing and very different from what those videos were showing. I would get very frustrated and I couldn’t understand why those guys could pull it off with the same number of lights and same modifiers, and I couldn’t. I was sure it had something to do with the editing and I quickly found a good excuse in that. But the truth is I didn’t try to understand light. It’s the most important aspect and all I was doing was copying setups . I’ve seen quite a few do it, and ironically they put themselves through a lot of trouble to imitate some of the most complicated setups, like those used by Dave Hill and other high end commercial shooters.
As I mentioned , the best thing you can do to make light work for you is to understand how it works, and unfortunately , things are different from how you would shoot with available, soft, sunset light. Many photographers, especially those unacquainted with artificial light , try it and give up . I think the main reason is that they get scared of it because it’s a lot harder than what they’re used to. Soft , natural light can look amazing and indeed, to make artificial light look good does take some effort and some modifiers.
The first thing you need to understand about using a single light source is that you need to balance it with existing light . If you use a bare flash at dusk or dawn, chances are the results won’t look as good as you would want them to.
Natural light ,the one from mother nature is soft and wraps easily around the subject, where as a strobe light is hard and creates strong shadows. Matching it with natural light is key, especially when shooting outdoors. This goes for using a single flash or more. If you shoot at noon, when the shadows and the light are strong, a bare flash might be better than a large modifier, like an octobox. On the other hand, if you’re shooting in a location with soft light or, let’s say early in the morning, a modifier designed to make the light softer is what you should be looking for.
The idea behind the one light principle is a lot like driving. You shouldn’t be driving a Ferrari ( read 6 six professional Hensel strobes) when you’re just learning to drive. Not because you can’t afford it ,but because you would just be wasting power . Take it one step at a time. Master one flash ,than two, three and so on. It won’t be the quickest process in the world, certainly not as quick as choosing the right natural light, but it will ultimately make you a better photographer, and one that is independent when it comes to existing light conditions.
I am far from being any kind of expert in lighting and I too still have a lot to learn from guys like Dave Hill, but everything I wrote here is based on personal trial and error. Do yourself a favor and start shooting with one light, be it a small speedlight or a studio strobe It doesn’t matter. Just make sure you experiment with every possible angle and power setting.