Post + Photos by Frank Doorhof
World-renowned fashion and glamour photographer Frank Doorhof is always an absolute pleasure to work with. From an enthusiastic live demo shoot during his TWiT Photo appearance, to his eager involvement as a judge in the Guest Quest contest, the Kelby Media Training instructor is one of the most generous in the business, offering his time and knowledge without a thought. He even wrote today’s guest post while he was recovering from the flu! The lighting whiz shares his tips for seeing the light – and figuring out what to do with it.
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Some of the most talked about things in photography are the fact that you have to learn to see the image even before you take it. To be honest, I strongly believe that when you are an active photographer you actually do see the world differently. For example, when I drive around with friends or even my wife, I see details in the landscape that other people don’t. Somehow, I’m focused into the small things that stand out for me; for example, in our area we have a lot of small birds of prey, and I always seem to pick them out of the landscape. The funny thing is that one of the first things I loved to photograph were, indeed, birds.
This is, of course, not the only thing. Somehow over time I’ve also started to see the right angles for light, the right angles to shoot from, etc.
When we take a photograph we are in fact thinking about many things: How do I coach my model, which angle do I choose, how do I set my lights, where does the shadow fall, etc., etc. To list them all would drive you mad. However this is not necessary, if you think about it.
All these technical parts in setting up a shot can be made much simpler by understanding the light and metering it – yes, there we have the light meter. When I teach, I’m a strong advocate of teaching people to not only understand their lights but also to understand the right tools to meter it.
For example, if you understand the inverse square law, you will know that light falls off over a certain distance. This means that if you place a light source very close to your subject, the light will fall off very quickly and give you a high contrast image. When you want a little less light fall off, you place the lights slightly further away, and so on. You can also learn to use tools like grids to make sure that the balance between light fall off and the area you light are in control. Using these kinds of tools, 90% of your worries are gone from your mind, and you can focus (pun intended) on the subject.
The more you look at images you love, and use your photographic eye even when you’re not shooting, the more you will train your eyes to recognize good angles to shoot your subject, as well as interesting angles for your light.
In the end, combining technique and vision will make you not only a faster photographer, but also a better photographer, producing images that will set you apart from the masses.
Also when you are freed from the technical bumps and problems on the road you will see very quickly that styling, expression, and location are a great way to make your images more interesting.
Over the years of teaching I found out that most beginning photographers are thinking about light and settings, but whenever I talk to the more advanced pros, it’s very clear that they hardly ever talk about light. They talk about settings as in styling, sets, adding some smoke/mood, adding some makeup etc. – they all concentrate on what makes the image “speak” and not about the technique that makes the image appear on the sensor.
So learn your theory, use the right tools and practice (with and without camera) to see the light. Understand the light and when you master this, start concentrating on the things that really matter.
Your images will grow without any doubt.