To produce photos of a certain look, we need to know exactly how to use the light. In this video, Hans Rosemond gives you five tips that will help you improve your lighting skills in no time.
What I particularly like about this video is that these are not “technical tips” about types of lighting and where to put them. These are the guidelines that will help you get the right mindset and attitude when it comes to lighting the scene. And when you master those, you’ll master any kind of lighting setup you need for the shoot.
1. “Why” is more important than “how”
Why you’re using a certain lighting setup is more important than how it looks. Okay, in the commercial work, the certain look of the light can be important. In such case, sure, you should focus on it. But if you want to take good portraits for example – take into consideration why you’re lighting someone the way you are. What’s the message you’re trying to convey?
Think of it this way: do you want people to look at the photo and say “Great lighting” or “Great portrait?” In other words, you want to say something with the photo and the light you use for it, not just make it “look pretty.” In a word, don’t let technique mess with the story and get in the way of expressing something.
2. Do the opposite of what you’d plan to do
You probably have some of your preferred lighting setups. The second Hans’ advice is to open yourself to lighting something differently than you normally would. For example, change the camera angle or the position of the key light. Experiment a bit, and this may expand your repertoire.
The new setup you create may not be useful for this shoot. But, you’ll remember it at the next one where it can be perfect. Creating different lighting settings is like adding tools to your toolbox. So, with time, you’ll have the lighting “tools” for plenty of situations and the looks you want to create.
3. Light the middle of the scene
When setting up the light, don’t just light the backdrop and the subject. You also need to light the middle of the scene to make the light look more natural. This especially goes for environmental portraits, where the surroundings to take a role in the photo and add to the story.
How you can do this? Take a very large light source and aim it at the center of the scene. This way you’ll get a little bit of light in the environment and make the entire scene more natural and appealing.
4. Don’t let your style constrain you
The fourth tip adds to the second one. If you have your style and the “arsenal” of lighting setups you use – it’s great, but don’t let it constrain you. Don’t be afraid to try other styles of lighting, even if you’re not totally comfortable with them. This goes for natural light photographers using studio lights, and vice versa. As Hans says, your job is to get a certain look of the photo, and this means you need to be adaptable and use all the resources you have. To put it simply – don’t limit yourself, and work outside your comfort zone.
5. Buy a light meter
Even if you shoot digital (and most of us do), Hans recommends buying a light meter. It helps you understand your ratios and get to know how much each of your lights puts out. This way, you start getting used to the ratios, which helps you get repeated results reliably.
Since I don’t do studio photography, I don’t use studio lights. I am either focused on natural lighting, or I improvise with a speedlight, desk lamps and cheap, DIY stuff. Still, I find these tips useful, since they are focused more on the attitude towards lighting than using certain gear or placing it in the scene. What are your tips for becoming a master of lighting?