Since I started experimenting with artificial lighting, I’ve become a fervent evangelist of Profoto – known for creating and shaping absolutely gorgeous light. I am extremely excited to be interviewed and have my work featured on Profoto‘s blog. Thank you, Ron Egatz, for the wonderful and insightful article into my background and lighting journey. Here’s an excerpt:
“I was relying on natural light because I was actually scared of strobe,” she says. “I wrote about my lighting journey on my blog. It’s basically about the fact I was scared of strobe and used natural light as a crutch more than anything.”
Quick to point out she feels strobe isn’t better than natural light, nor vice versa, Hall believes every individual environment, situation, and shoot is unique. “To be the best photographer you can possibly be, you need to have all the tools at your disposal,” she says. Using artificial lights in ways she hasn’t before continues to revolutionize her approach, ability, and things she can do.”
Read the full article here.
The use of artificial lighting allows for more flexibility as a photographer. Although natural lighting is undeniably beautiful, it ultimately limits your control over the background. For instance, when I’m shooting indoors, a subject might have alighted upon the perfect position in the room for the window light to beautifully illumine the cheekbone and clavicle. A perfect shot, right? Not so fast. At the same time, that subject could very well be standing in front of a door bearing a garish ‘Exit’ sign overhead! A prime example of optimal natural light, but a less than ideal background.By employing artificial light when on a shoot, I can expose directional light onto a subject–no matter where she or he might be in the room. This allows me to pick the best location for the quality of composition, while consistently maintaining optimal quality of light. You, too, can have optimal lighting and an optimal background, without being constrained by location or time of day. Please send me a link to any images you would like to share where you were able to achieve gorgeous lighting and a fantastic background due to artificial light.
Since getting my feet wet with manual camera settings, I’ve honed-in on some tried-and-true methods for making the most of my new-found manual mania.
1) 5d Mark II Works for Me (Unless It Doesn’t): Perfect as it is, the 5d Mark II shutter drags across the capture sensor when you set the shutter speed at 1/180th of a second and faster–resulting in only a partially lit frame. Conversely, the 1DS series offers an iris-leaf shutter that captures completely lit images at any shutter speed.
2) Sharp Shooter: If you’re a quick shooter, it’s best to invest in a high capacity strobe like a Profoto 1,000 w/s monolight. Not only does it offer the obvious advantage of more power, it also recycles much faster if you don’t have your strobe set on the highest possible power setting.
3) Saucy Strobe: Because a strobe emits all of its light in a single burst, whether the shutter speed is fast or slow doesn’t matter. The amount of light that the capture sensor receives from the strobe remains constant regardless of the camera’s shutter speed. The desired light level from the strobe will still be retained. For instance, when shooting with strobe in a moody environment, drag the shutter to preserve the low-level, environmental ambient light. The strobe will expose your subject and the longer shutter speed with capture the ambient-lit background.
How I expanded my aperture priority horizons to include manual camera settings.
For the past decade, I’ve enjoyed a long, monogamous relationship with aperture priority settings. My modus operandi is a 3.2 aperture and 1/100th shutter speed. I thought I’d spend a lifetime with AP–and then came along my new lighting director with his off-camera flash units in tow. What I love about my Canon ETTL is its camera flash auto-metering–it’s been years since I touched my light meter. But the incorporation of detached strobes into my photographer’s toolkit necessitated dredging up the light meter from the (well-organized, neat-freak, immaculate) recesses of my lovely San Francisco Bay Area studio. Once my lighting director and I began experimenting, however, I realized that working in a manual setting is a blast–it challenges me to see in deeper, more nuanced ways, allows me to exercise more control over my photography, and provides increased consistency with my images. It’s also easy.
The digital camera exposure viewing capability coupled with the histogram allows me to take test shots, make adjustments, and modify my exposure using a basic conversion chart. Although I don’t rely exclusively on manual, folding it into my repertoire has expanded my skill set. I feel more confident and empowered as a photographer. Considering making the great leap to manual settings? See my forthcoming Lighting Journey blog that provides some hot tips for photographers old and new, released next Wednesday, July 14.
How I squelched my fear of using strobe on-site.
In the wedding-photography industry, the use of natural lighting is the norm. I’m interested in changing that. By incorporating artificial lighting techniques into my repertoire, I am able to share with my clients the gift of visual depth, saturation, and drama–something I couldn’t always otherwise achieve if I weren’t getting cozy with strobe. Given my all-over-the-place, a-hundred-miles-a-minute schedule, it’s been challenging to carve out time to sit down and learn how to use new lighting tools. That’s where the hire of a Lighting Director re-focused and re-directed my photography career.
When on-site at a photo shoot, adrenaline floods my body. My work day is marked by a sense of intensity, urgency, and hyper-vision (and, obviously, pleasure from doing the thing that I love most). Working with artificial light only ups the ante.Despite all of the test shoots leading up to my first use of strobe out in-the-field, when the big day came around, I was a nervous wreck. A total contrast to my typical California-girl cool.My nervousness translated into clumsiness. During my first round of shots for a new corporate client, I completely forgot that my lighting director synced my camera to fire the strobes–resulting in overexposed, barely recoverable images. I felt heart-racing panic. (My emotional state wasn’t helped by the artistic director who was breathing down my neck, watching my every move.)
Yet as a Bikram yoga devotee of three years, I’ve developed a knack for breathing through fear and intensity. For those of you unfamiliar with Bikram, just imagine you’re in a room heated to 100+ degrees, contorting your body into positions with names like camel and cricket. Now, imagine you’re in this scenario and somehow achieving a meditative head-space. This is the practice of yoga. With measured inhalations and exhalations, I summoned my resolve and returned to the moment–the most important thing was my client, and focusing on my own fear wasn’t helping them. I asked my lighting director to give me a meter reading and returned to the fray. My next images? Total Rembrandt. The results were rich with texture and depth–dare I say, jaw-dropping?
It turns out that using lighting in the field makes my experience as a photographer more dynamic–rather than relying on old tricks, I’m stimulated by the synthesis of new techniques into my skill set. Not to mention that my clients receive images with a quality that exceeds their expectations.