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๐”ฝ๐•๐•’๐•ค๐•™: ๐Ÿž ๐•ฃ๐•–๐•’๐•ค๐• ๐•Ÿ๐•ค ๐•จ๐•–'๐•ฃ๐•– ๐•’๐•—๐•ฃ๐•’๐•š๐•• ๐• ๐•— ๐•š๐•ฅ & ๐Ÿž ๐•ฃ๐•–๐•’๐•ค๐• ๐•Ÿ๐•ค ๐•จ๐•– ๐•ค๐•™๐• ๐•ฆ๐•๐••๐•Ÿ'๐•ฅ ๐•“๐•–

โœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœต โœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœตโœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœตโœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœต

Felix Kunze lighting workshop, Brooklyn 2023

โœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœต โœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœตโœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœตยฐโœต.๏ฝก.โœฐ โœฐ.๏ฝก.โœตยฐโœต,ยธ.โ€ขโœตโœตโ€ข.ยธ,โœต

We are ALL afraid of studio lighting at the beginning. I have had countless conversations with promising photographers with a great eye who limit themselves to natural light out of fear (even though not all admit it). I was one of them. Not unusual, quite the contrary. You learn to master the light. Learn to read the light and understand it, then you learn how to bend it to your will. You can absolutely prefer natural light! As long as it is an artistic choice out of your repertoire.

(โ‹†~โ‹†) ๐–๐ก๐ฒ ๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฌ๐จ ๐š๐Ÿ๐ซ๐š๐ข๐ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐š๐ฌ๐ก?

โถ Math

โ€˜Thereโ€™s math involved. I hate math.โ€™

There is indeed a technical complexity aspect. Flash power and sync speed are measured in numbers (or stops), lighting modifiers change the spread of light, etc. I hated math in school, and everything involving numbers - to this day - gives me a gagging reflex. The good news is you can still use flash with minimal number management and a bit of elbow grease! However, there is no way around practice. Ya gotta do the work. Just start somewhere, anywhere. Take one type of light with one type of modifier (umbrella, softbox) and take a picture. Then move the light slightly one side or a step backย  or turn the knob, then try again, and so on and so forth. Thatโ€™s it. Sure, the list of options can be daunting at first, but you wonโ€™t get any better by staring at it. Pick one and go from there! It becomes fun quickly.

โท Cost & knowledge

Not gonna lie, itโ€™s true. There are expenses and a learning curve to the use of new tools (same as a new sound system except with more cables, ugh). Studio lighting means new equipment, but the good news is you donโ€™t have to start with the top of the line. Until you know how to drive, you donโ€™t need a Ferrari. There are many options to choose from at various price ranges. I started with a basic lame kit before graduating, all the while trying my way around softboxes, umbrellas and reflectors. You can borrow or rent items, get second hand, take workshops, attend conferences or expos to put your hands on different things. I learned a lot by reading the lighting set ups in every photograph I laid my eyes on (I still do light set up reading, it's fun. It means trying to figure out the set up by just looking at a picture, shadows, catch light etc). I attended workshops as well, I reproduced styles, and for the rest it was practice and repetition repetition repetition!

For the anecdote, I dropped an expensive flash into a pool at the end of a very very long shoot once and I still grind my teeth over it. It hurt. I learned to use sandbags quickly after that.

โธ Load

Itโ€™s cumbersome, conspicuous and hard to carry around. No doubt.

Heading to a location shoot for natural light and for flash set up is a very different ball game. To this day, I've had the opportunity to work with an assistant only a handful of times, but I highly recommend it. A second pair of hands is everything. Working with props and flash involves an exponential attention to details, not to mention the fact that you log around full cart loads (or even truck loads) of heavy and sizable objects to build up, move around, and break down.ย 

โน Overwhelming

There are gazillions ways to set lights up. BUT, there are also millions of different ways to make chili! And cooks donโ€™t lose their minds over it. Sometimes you buy it, sometimes you make your own. Some chilis you like, some you donโ€™t. Light is the same! There definitely are a bunch of ways to do it REALLY wrong, but in the end โ‘  if you love it, who am I to judge, โ‘กif you do it wrong and learn from it, youโ€™re still exactly where you should be.

โบ Harsh

โ€œFlash will ruin the softness of natural light!โ€ NO IT WONโ€™T!!!

Believe it or not, studio lighting can create the softest textures (hello feathering). It all depends on how you manage your contrasts and your depth of field. Trust me, I learned from the best.

โป Too much set up

Flash does take longer to set up, thatโ€™s absolutely correct. Itโ€™s not a bad thing, just a factor. I used to feel bad about it with clients. I donโ€™t anymore because it guarantees the quality of my work and there is nothing wrong with explaining it. Of course, there are times when itโ€™s not an option. Other times, you will not have a choice but to use it. For instance, night time event photography wonโ€™t give you many other options other than mandatory flash with mobility (light weight and attached to the camera).ย 

(โœชโ€ฟโœช) ๐–๐ก๐ฒ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ก๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐๐งโ€™๐ญ ๐›๐ž

โถ Control

Flash has the immense advantage to allow the control of the light no matter the circumstances presented to you. Weather or time of day wonโ€™t be as stressful and limiting. With more control comes more consistency, longer shooting time frame and management of ambient light.ย ย 

โท When natural light doesnโ€™t cut it

In situations when natural light is insufficient or inconsistent, flash will help you work better, faster and safer. โ€œWill fix it postโ€ is a crutch, you are better off getting the best you can in camera. Natural light can change rapidly. It is unreliable, the temperatures and intensity are inconsistent from one moment to the next and the balance exposure varies drastically from high to low contrast. Flash allows consistent and malleable lighting to fit your needs, with repeatable results in a variety of conditions which allows you to work in all situations.

โธ Sharp

To gain light without flash, your options areย  โ“ open your aperture which reduces your depth of field and exposes your image to a missed focus, โ“‘ accelerate you shutter speed which limits the time light hits your sensor (hence less light) โ“’ increase your ISO which will eventually increase the noise or thicken the grain (I donโ€™t necessarily hate that, depends what Iโ€™m shooting). With flash, you donโ€™t have to compromise as much. Your image is sharper, cleaner, tighter. You can freeze motion for sports photography or dynamic scenes. You gain details, reduce noise and illuminate shadows.

โน Creative palette

Because flash expends your variety of options, it also makes room for a wider range of creative choices, thanks to the gear and techniques we were discussing earlier (in the โ€˜scaryโ€™ section of this article). Tools such as snoots, gels, grids, soft boxes, umbrellas, and dishes open a world of possibilities. Check the work of Lindsay Adler or Felix Kunze for some inspiring examples.

โบ Depth & Harmony

You can achieve an array of soft to hard light depending on the tools you use (naked bulb straight on to feathered double layered octabox). Flash allows you to fill the shadows (I didnโ€™t say wrinkles, you said wrinkles) and render a more flattering portrait. It can also add a three-dimensional quality to the subjects by separating them from the background (hair light or fill light). You can facilitate background/subject light harmony by balancing high contrasts in harsh daylight, or keep all the colors and the subjects lit equally during a sunset/rise shoot.

โป Catch light

That priceless spark and twinkle in the eye, the โ€˜catch lightโ€™ gives life to a portrait. Natural light can achieve catch light to a certain extent, but Flash guarantees it.

( อก~ อœส– อกยฐ) โคโ™กโค (อกยฐ อœส– อก~ )

Overall, flash is a light-sculpting tool here to support your artistry. Natural light images have a beauty of their own when done well and purposely. Flash doesnโ€™t have to overpower it, it can simply support it by helping to reestablish what the eye can see but the camera cannot interpret. Better master both for a full tool kit and a diverse repertoire.ย 

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