Is the Main Light You Choose Really That Important?

The answer is yes….and no!  Lighting companies and speakers would have you believing that switching from one soft box to another that is very similar will make the difference between average portraits and outstanding portraits.  That`s crap!  The slight differences between the shape, interior fabric and design between two soft boxes of the same size will never make a big enough difference in the final portrait to be worth the money spent to switch. And, if you have knowledge of lighting you will almost always be able to match the lighting characteristics that one soft-box produces with another similar soft-box   If you are working with a soft light source with little or no control, basically a $500 light box will produce a similar lighting characteristic to a $30 umbrella or translucent panel with a flash behind it.

Differences that are worth paying for are when you want to start taking control of you where the light from your main-light illuminates your client.  While one brand of soft-box will produce a similar limited control of the light it produces as another, a grid attachment, barn doors or louvers takes a light of limited control and turns it into a more controllable light source.  With these attachments you control where your light will go and what part of your subject you want to illuminate.  So many photographers never think of such things, but in our “ever-growing society” the ability to control the viewer`s eye, revealing the part of the subject you want them to see and hiding those less flattering areas you don`t want them to see is critically important.  You want to set your work apart from other photographers, learn to control your lighting and use corrective techniques to make your clients look their best.

Once you start into controlling your main light source you will look for more ways to control you light.  This is where you find yourself going from the `bigger is better` thinking of most speakers and light companies, to the smaller is more useful thinking of a photographer that wants control over their lighting.  Even in a full length pose, I will often use a small light box with a grid attachment to light just the face and the top of the shoulders, then I use accent lights and the background light to illuminate the just the areas of the body I want the viewer to see. This allows women who would otherwise be unable to do standing full length poses to have a portraits that doesn`t distroy their egos.

So as I said in the beginning the answer to the question, “is the main light you choose really that important?”  the answer is truly yes and no!  If you are replacing a light-box with a similar light box because a speaker says to, you are wasting your money.  If however you are buying a light box to master a different style of lighting it can be very well worth it.




~ by jeffsmithbooks on October 16, 2010.

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