Photographic Lighting

A Little Bit About Light—a Photographer’s Tool.


I’ve seen trends in photography come and go over the last 20 years.  Similar to the whims of fashion where a designer’s impulse dictates what’s cool for the following season, photographic fads seem to capture the attention of both the public and professionals behind their respective cameras.  To the shagrin of many pros, the biggest impact of these photographic fads seems to be the inspiration they lend to new comers keen on joining the rest of us who make living with a lens or two.

When I speak of fads and trends I refer to any medium, gimmick, style, or tool that people use to render a photograph either more interesting or interesting at all.  The use of digital photo filters is one great example in which an average photo can be manipulated or re-rendered so that it has more impact or apparent creativity than the original capture could convey.  Not that I’m opposed to the use of these tools per se, I myself occasionally use such filters when I’m left with no choice but to go ahead and shoot in less than creative conditions.  When we’re forced to shoot in harsh circumstances or our clients have allotted us with virtually no time to create or capture natural moments, I may incorporate a filter or tool to help with my initial intent, to be creative at all costs.

Recently, I took part in a conversation during a gathering of both photographers and clients, in which the question was asked, “How long will it take before people get tired of over-manipulated photography?”  Shortly after the question was bounced around the room, the next obvious question surfaced,  “What do we do then to make our work interesting?”

As I’ve always said, photography is about light, how you see it and how you wield it.  Whether you’re creating images or assigned to capture moments, light is the key ingredient in photography.  Natural light in its many forms and shades, artificial light with all its possibilities, any and all light is the crucial source of creative photography.  Faster isn’t always better and trendy photo tricks don’t usually last.  So when you look at a great photograph and the reason you like the image isn’t obvious at first, it’s probably the way it was lit that got your attention.

With every new assignment I try to see my client or subject differently than the last.  It isn’t always possible, but when circumstances are kind and my client is into the creative process, I draw on my knowledge of lighting to capture a unique photograph .  There is no substitute, digital filter, or gimmick that can replace real people and real lighting.

Next time you review a photographer’s work, take the time to appreciate how they lit their subject and try to do the same with your own photographs.model014fall 08  029



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