[This post was originally written about five years ago for my first photo blog]
I was asked by a new commercial client today if it’ll be necessary to set up lights for a shoot we’re doing. I know the location will be bright enough to shoot without any additional lights, but I responded that we may use them anyway. Here’s why…
Photography literally means ‘drawing with light’. Think about it– without light, whatever you’re taking a picture of won’t be visible. As a photographer, I’m always faced with decisions about how to photograph a particular subject. Should I use available light, or light with my portable strobes (variable power flashes)? How will the light fall on my subject? Will they be backlit? How will I light up the background so it doesn’t go dark? If I’m using available light, will the color be weird due to mixed sources (all lighting emits different colors- tungsten light bulbs are yellow, fluorescents can be green or light yellow, and halogens defy normal colors)? Will the available light complement my subject, or should I use supplemental lighting to define my subject?
A while ago I did a shoot for a client that went on the cover of a magazine. This was an important shot, probably seen by 100,000- 150,000 people, and the cover sets the tone of the magazine. Put a bland picture on the cover and people may not even open the magazine. Put a quality picture on the front and readers will associate that quality with the organization producing the magazine. I wanted it to look really sharp and draw attention to the woman who was the cover model. Bland lighting wasn’t going to cut it. In the end I used three lights– two on the woman and one bounced off the ceiling, lighting up the colorful background. It took more time to set up and shoot the picture, but the effort was justified by the final result.
And that brings me to my point. The magazine client and I have been working together for many years and we almost always use additional lighting. Another client of mine has a tight budget (ok, all my clients do…) and wants to squeeze the most out of my time while we’re shooting together. We rarely use my lights, often moving quickly from shot to shot without time to think about making things look any better. Basically, we’re shooting snapshots with little thought about lighting. There are times this works ok, but most times, unfortunately, the pictures don’t look like anything special. Image is everything, and for better or worse, people will judge your business by the image you portray. If the images of your business are classy, well executed and eye catching, your customers will look at your business that way too. There are times when I won’t want to use additional lighting and natural light can sometimes be perfect for the job, but for the best quality, take the time to create your images, don’t just let them appear.
The first picture was used for placement, to see where the subject would stand and how the background would appear; the second shows the effects of additional lighting. BTW, extra space above her head and around the edges was purposefully planned for the magazine masthead and additional copy.
The final magazine cover
The Adventures of Mike’s Camera is the blog of freelance photographer, Mike Hudson. He is available for commercial photography assignments– marketing, corporate, editorial, annual reports, lifestyle, web page photography, and events. His clients have included many regional and national magazines and newspapers, several healthcare providers, colleges, hotels, architectural firms, small businesses and more. Visit MichaelHudsonPhotography.com to check out his portfolio or contact him via email.