Artificial Lighting – Learn to love it: Tip of the Week

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light and you will know the key to photography - George Eastman When I first started photography, I was scared of artificial lighting.  I didn't understand it, so I avoided it.  It was always easier just to put my subjects in the shade and call myself a "natural light shooter".  Ah, the lies we tell ourselves. Eventually, I learned how to use artificial light and light modifiers, and it opened up a whole new world. No longer was I dependent on the time of day or weather.  Supplementing natural light grants me freedom on when and where I can shoot. Good lighting is key to making your images dynamic. This  means avoiding the on-camera flash which typically blasts your scene, lighting  up every nook and cranny like it's high noon. The location of this image was already dramatically lit, all that was needed was to illuminate the couple. Without additional lighting they would have been underexposed and lifeless; with an on camera flash the drama of the scene would have been washed out.  So, I set up a directional Profoto head using a strip soft box with a grid that illuminated the couple with very little spill and shot the scene at 1/15th of a second on a tripod to bring in the dimmer ambient lights of the environment. Don't be afraid to get out and play with a strobe or a reflector. Take shots both with them, and without; direct the light in from different angles and see how the light and shadows interact to create more drama and zing. Is the image more interesting when backlit? Try it! Maybe the side works better for your shot. Pay just as much attention to where the shadows fall as to what the light illuminates, that is where the drama lies. Want to learn more? Tune in Tuesday, April 17th on TWiT Photo to watch and learn from lighting master Joel Grimes. Did you catch Trey Ratcliff's last Variety Hour? He battled beautiful fireworks, yet still put on a wonderful show about the Great Aussie Photowalk. Watch it here and check out all of the beautiful photos on G+ by searching the hashtag #TheWalkDownUnder TWiT Photo - TWiT Netcast NetworkDon't miss a chance to watch or listen to your favorite photographers – download the TWiT Photo podcast on iTunes for free :)


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  1. Great tip and lovely image…quick question where did you stick the soft box? Up on top of the stairs above the couple?

  2. Joe Peters

    I think it must be on the top as there is a shadow behind the couple and also the stair-rail. Also looking at he spots I think this is F8-F10 as they have nice ray of light. Maybe with ISO greater then 200. The sculptures are getting light from right hand side and this is coming from below, but this could be another source of light or just under the stairs. Well I am not professional, so excuse me if I am very off base. :)

    • Nice assessment Joe! You are pretty much right on.

      The light was in a strip soft box with a grid (to minimize spill) and placed at the top of the stairs to the left of the couple.

  3. Beautiful image! Great tip on noticing the shadow and drama it brings. Shadows have become a recent focus for myself – still a learning process :) Thanks for sharing!

    • THank you so much. I just interviewed greg gorman about the importance of shadows. Stay tuned for norway footage on TWiT PHoto for some more great insights!

  4. For learning strobe lighting, people should definitely check out – tons of useful info there!

  5. Mike

    OK, delete the comment as I got it sorted through the Twit web site instead.

    Thanks :-)