How Many Lighting Styles Have You Mastered?

Photographers start to feel pretty good about themselves when they start mastering traditional portrait lighting.  Some even get a little big-headed. While traditional lighting does make up a good portion of the lighting used in portraits that sell the best, it is far from the only lighting style you should be the master of.  Let’s be honest, the guy at the mall, the department store photographers, hell even the high school student with access to a make-shift studio can learn the basics of traditional lighting and the results are often not all that different from many working professionals that haven’t spent their time really “mastering” lighting, they are going for more of a passive knowledge.

Is it any wonder why so many consumers questions why they should pay more for a “professional photographer” when they really don’t have a complete understanding of traditional lighting to say nothing of learning other styles of lighting?  Many newer professionals shoot very soft, very flat light, what a surprise, so do the guys at the mall, the soccer moms and the students.  Everyone does this because this type of lighting is the most forgiving to mistakes in placement.  It kind of like shooting a shotgun, often close is close enough, but the problem is it has the same look to the consumer, so they question do I pay more or do I pay less since they pretty much look the same.

As photographers learn more about studio lighting, most photographers start looking for more control.  While a 4×6 foot soft box does have it place, it really doesn’t offer much when it comes to controlling where the light goes.  When you learn to control your light, you learn how to control the viewer eye within the portrait.  Master photographers of days gone by like Don Blair and Marty Richert use parabolic light sources with barn doors and other home-made attachments to give them pin-point control over their lighting.  They learned to do everything “in-camera” and were true masters of lighting.

These are the techniques I used when I wrote the book corrective lighting and posing.  The idea is to control the light and lead the viewer’s eye only to the areas of the subject you want them to see. In today’s every growing population this is getting more and more important, as people get larger and larger.  Smaller, more controlled light sources allow you to achieve a look in your portraits that other studios and less experienced photographers can not duplicate.  Grid attachments, barn-doors, louvers, smaller light boxes and parabolics all give control, but you must have the knowledge of how to use the control. This is where testing your lighting comes into play.

In addition to mastering traditional portrait lighting there are popular fashion styles of lighting which lend themselves well to the portrait photographer. Butterfly lighting, spot lighting, beauty dish, ring lighting all have their place in the modern portrait studio for their clients. Yes you have to learn how to use these lights effectively. Not all faces are meant for every type of lighting and not all style of portraits are right for every client, but the more you can do to set your work apart from the lazy photographers that don’t want to take the time to learn these things, the best off you, your business and your client will be!  Lighting is about knowledge, not equipment.  If you have something, make or modify it to work.  If you only have a large soft-box, make a reducers by cutting a whole in the middle of a sheet of foam core.  You can use the same idea to make barn doors or even grids.  You can skimp on tools, but don’t skimp on your education. If every photographer would worry as much about the quality of their education as do the quality of their equipment , this profession would be amazing transformed.

My New DVD, Studio Portrait Lighting is now available and I discuss all of these types of lighting as well a corrective lighting.  FREE SAMPLE VIDEO


~ by jeffsmithbooks on October 11, 2010.

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