IF YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER YOU SHOULD PROBABLY UNDERSTAND LIGHTING!

Call me old fashion, but if you professed you were a professional painter, you should probably have an understanding of using and blending paints, if you profess to be a professional photographer you should probably understand lighting.  I see so many photographers with the name of their “photography business” all over their car or truck and yet think that it is only necessary to know how to set the on-camera TTL flash to be a professional photographer.  Whether working outdoor or in the studio you should understand the characteristics of light and be able to determine it’s direction.

Younger photographers HATE when I make comments like this and tell me I am “bring them down man”.  If reality brings you down, you need to change your reality.  I spend a good portion of my life writing books, blogs and making DVD’s to help young learning photographers become successful professional photographers, so I don’t write to discourage people, I write to encourage them to lay the foundation for a career, not take the easy road to make a quick buck selling snapshots.

Outdoors you need to “See the Light”.  Where its coming from, it intensity as well as the general characteristics of the light (harder, softer).  You need to choose the spot you photograph your client, not by how “pretty” it looks to YOUR eye, but how the quality of light will make it look to the camera’s eye.  Many photographers are so new and trying so hard to be “professional photographer” they haven’t even taken the time to learn and understand the difference between the way in which our eyes see things and the way in which the camera sees things.

I have talked in my books and DVDs about scene selection and how most of the time I position the person with the sun at their backs….but why?  First of all it illuminates the foliage in outdoor scenes from behind which brings out the color, making and outdoor scene look alive as opposed to the olive-drab look of foliage with no back lighting.  The second reason is that any light filtering through the trees and striking the client will provide a hair/separation light.  Finally, I look for scenes that provide this positioning because I use reflectors to over-power the existing natural light and to be my main light source.  I do this because I work at all times of day and it is the most workable lighting system I have found for the way I shoot.

Other photography lectures, authors and/or instructors might use and/or teach another system of outdoor lighting, but they do teach of a system which is based on having an understanding of seeing natural light and selecting the scenes you use based on that system and your knowledge of photography.  Wondering around outdoors until you see something that look pretty to your eye and thinking your on-camera flash will take care of the light for you probably isn’t taught too often.  This isn’t a system of outdoor lighting for professional portraits, this is a system of taking snapshots of our family members that are not paying money for what we create.  This is all where we start in photography, but most of us realize this isn’t the point at which we start charging for our work or having clients.

In the studio, lighting is easier to control, but in reality much harder to learn.  Outdoors you often have to work with what you are given, in the studio, you are starting with a clean slate in which you can create any type of lighting you wish.  This is often intimidating for younger photographers.  I think the biggest mistake that educators of photography are making is the process of “de-professionalizing” the profession of photography.  I cringe when I see the man with the Home Depot shop lights.  He does create outstanding images, but what makes the images outstanding are the hours he works with them in Photoshop, not the lighting or quality of photography he used to create the images.  This isn’t teaching professional photography, this is teaching graphic design.  Photographers create in the camera and enhance in the computer, graphic designers take artwork they are given and “create” art in the computer.  The downside of this teaching, is that I and all the other professional photographers that learned lighting can create salable portraits, taking only a few seconds to properly adjust the lighting, while graphic designers often have to spend major amounts of time on a single image to take sub-standard photography and give it a professional look.  This is Not a viable business system because you only have so much time and in the competitive profession we are now in, clients are not willing to pay for all that time to transform a snapshot into a portrait using Photoshop.

Lighting is the foundation for creating professional photography.  If you can’t see the light, learn to see the light and until you do, you might think twice about putting a photography business name on your automobile:  unless of course You would pay for a professional painting of yourself from a painter that knew nothing about paints and how to blend them!

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~ by jeffsmithbooks on February 21, 2011.

2 Responses to “IF YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER YOU SHOULD PROBABLY UNDERSTAND LIGHTING!”

  1. […] IF YOU ARE A PHOTOGRAPHER YOU SHOULD PROBABLY UNDERSTAND LIGHTING! (via Jeff Smith Books Blog) Posted on February 21, 2011 by Blossom Images Portrait Studio Call me old fashion, but if you professed you were a professional painter, you should probably have an understanding of using and blending paints, if you profess to be a professional photographer you should probably understand lighting.  I see so many photographers with the name of their "photography business" all over their car or truck and yet think that it is only necessary to know how to set the on-camera TTL flash to be a professional photog … Read More […]

  2. If people get offended by what you say then oh well! I like how you tell it like it is. I am new to this business and I have a lot to learn, I am willing to admitt that. I gladly accept tips from people who KNOW what they are doing (like urself!) and don’t bitch about it…it’s free learing folks, from a well known experienced photographer! 🙂

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