Ultimately, the lighting you choose to go with creates the mood of your photograph and showcases your style and vision. The more you experiment and add new techniques to your lighting toolbox, the more stunning your lighting will be!
In many circles throughout the world, people debate about what kind of lighting makes the best photographs. Hard light, soft light, natural light, strobes, LEDs…
Lighting is the foundation of a photographic composition. Photographers who are skilled in lighting can offer their clients flattering portraits no matter what environment they are working in. In the old days, lighting was just something that photographers understood. However, during the digital revolution, as cameras became more intuitive, people were able to obtain exposures much more easily by utilizing the automatic functions in their cameras.
I feel it is important for me to pass along the things I’ve learned on my photography journey. In the last few years I have also had the opportunity to teach and lecture all around the world including some of the industry’s top conferences, including the first conference I’d ever attended when I was starting out, ShutterFest. I’ve begun hosting my own workshop, The Embrace Workshop, a comprehensive photography workshop where I help new photographers expound upon their current training to grow their business just as I’ve grown my own.
From a professional point of view, understanding light and being able to execute your vision 'at will' despite the time of day or the location makes you an incredible asset to your client. Light is both an art and a craft. This broad spectrum can make lighting a daunting task to learn and teach. However, one simple philosophy of light can help clarify everything. There's good lighting, there's bad lighting, then there's the RIGHT lighting to help express the emotion you want.
There are a lot more advanced techniques that will produce greater results, but everything I’ve explained here will get you off to a great start. I’ve seen photographers with the most expensive equipment take Milky Way images that were “meh” and others with starter cameras create mind-blowing images. The key takeaway here is that your imagination and planning will produce better images than advanced techniques and expensive gear. Keep it simple. Stick to the basics and plan your shots.
High key lighting is a highly sought after and easy to create technique when you know how to do it. In this month's feature, I’ll show you how to create beautiful high key lighting on a low budget. I’ll take a reductionist approach, walking you step by step from the most complex, pro level, gear-intensive method, to a great 50% midway point, and then to our final 1-light method, the subject of this month’s tutorial.
The versatility you can achieve with just one window is amazing. I’ve often heard the excuse, “I don’t have a beautiful space or home to shoot in.” At one point in my life, while my family was in the middle of building a home, we lived in a tiny, old, drafty apartment. It was far from picture perfect, but in the right light none of that mattered.
Creating dynamic portraits using a reflector is not as simple as you might think at first. Understanding the lighting from the scene will help you determine the best place to position your reflector. On this shoot, Sal uses the sun as a kicker light, while using the reflector to create a nice even fill.
Successfully controlling the harsh light from the sun requires two inexpensive tools: a diffusion panel to soften the light and one or more reflectors to bounce light, fill in unwanted shadows, and create accent light. Both of these tools are available in a wide variety of models, build qualities, features, sizes, and price points. The good news is you can pick up basic models of both tools that do the job well for around $100. Not too bad for professional location lighting! Ideally you’ll also want a light-duty stand to use with the reflector and a sandbag or two to keep things stable in the event of windy conditions.