Lighting Journey: Strobe-Phobic

Cath Cute
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.


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  1. Megan Wortham

    *Love this story–great picture of you, too!

  2. CatherineHall

    Thanks so much Megan!