"Capturing Life"

Archive for February, 2012

Lighting Workshop


Lighting Workshop, a set on Flickr.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on the subject of studio lighting. It was presented by Brian Morris, of Morning Star Creative Group in Renton, Washington.

Held in his studio, Brian spent the first half of the day discussing all forms of light, how the different characteristics of light impact a picture, and how to modify light to create a desired mood. He stepped through a vast array of lighting options, from hard light to soft light, and physically showed the impact of the different sources of light.

After the morning session, it was our turn to play. He has created a seamless white backdrop in his studio by using plywood and building an incredible structure that wraps from the floor up towards the ceiling. He uses fluorescent lights that he has modified by building a PVC frame with white ripstop fabric acting as a diffuser. He set up a high key lighting area and, in another studio space, he also set up a low key lighting area. He brought in 3 models for us to work with as well.

I must admit that it was intimidating in some ways, yet immensely exhilarating in others. Brian did all of the set up of the lights so none of us were put on the spot trying to determine proper set up. That is a good/bad thing; it’s great to not feel on the spot but I probably would have learned more about the relationship of light location to lighting results by having to work it through myself with guided help.

However, when it was time to do the photographing, standing in a group with people you haven’t necessarily met before, thinking about what to do with the models, the light, and camera position felt a bit intimidating. We passed the trigger that activated the studio flash lights from camera to camera, taking turns practicing with the lights. I stood there for a bit waiting for my turn, then decided to just switch my camera settings so that I could work using the available light and not rely on the studio flash. When the trigger would come to me, I’d make more adjustments to my camera, and then shoot away with the studio lights activated by my camera. I think I took more pictures using the available light than I did using the triggered studio flash.

I wouldn’t say I captured any over the top grand portrait shots. I did come away some nice basic shots that helped me to gain more insight into how light works, how it affects the final outcome of a photo, and how I can work to apply what I learned to the various scenarios I encounter.

I would encourage anyone who desires to grow their photographic ability to attend a few workshops led by people who have grown their knowledge in an area you desire to learn. Even putting yourself in a learning situation with someone who is drawn to a different style than your own can grow your skill. Don’t be satisfied with just the everyday photo your cell phone can produce; learn to use light to make those photos better, learn a few basics of composition so that your photo makes more sense, and soon you’ll be drawn to your own photos, stopping to gaze at them thrilled that you produced a fantastic lasting memory.

As a side note, if you are interested in viewing part of the workshop I attended, you can do so by going here. The video quality is not fantastic but the audio worked pretty well for the most part. They were doing a trial run of streaming the workshop. Not all the videos are labeled so note the time stamp on the posting so that you can figure out the proper order to view them.


“Spray and Pray” or “Waste the Day Away”?

Enjoy the moment.

A friend and I were discussing wedding photography the other day.  A comment was made about “spray and pray” photography and for some reason the term stuck in my head.  I’ve been contemplating it since then and decided I would blog about it.  I’m certain there has been plenty said on the topic however why have a blog if you are not going to discuss the things that are going on in your thoughts as well as your actions?

While a lot of what I found online about the whole “spray and pray” method was condescending, I did find a few interesting thoughts on the topic.  To summarize what I found, there seem to be a couple of camps on the subject: those who think that it’s an out of control way of taking pictures vs those who find that, on occasion, it’s an okay method of photography.

I think a little differently about it.  First off, it has the feeling of an arrogant statement, which makes me bristle. Why should we worry about how another photographer works their way to a great shot?  What does it matter if they take 20 pictures to arrive at their vision vs the one picture another might take to arrive at their vision? I believe it’s okay to be any type of photographer as long as you’re reaching your photographic vision.

I likely fall more into the “Spray and Pray” camp than the “Waste the Day Away” camp, which is probably why I bristled at the sound of the label.  By “Waste the Day Away” I mean the opposite of “Spray and Pray”, the person who spends an hour waiting for the perfect shot, gets it and goes home. That term likely makes others bristle; both terms have negative connotations to them.  Because of my personality, the way I work creatively, and how I arrive at my vision for a picture, I frequently need to “shoot” my way to what I’m thinking.  I’m a dive in and get it going kind of gal.  I rarely just sit back and contemplate.  It’s worked well for me thus far.  Every person should work within their personality style to  capture something that makes them feel as if it were worth their time.  I have spent time trying to develop the other side, the more contemplative type photographer.  For me, it feels as if I’m wasting my day away.

I recently took pictures at a baby shower and as I began the post-processing afterwards I was pleased with the moments I had captured.  Of the 111 pictures I took, so far 36 of them are “picks” for keepers. Yes, there were many throw away pictures, ones that a contemplative photographer wouldn’t have even taken.  However, because I am more of a “rapid fire” photographer, I captured some priceless moments, some expressions that depict who an individual is (note the photo at the top of this blog page), shared moments between sisters, special moments between friends.

“Spray and Pray” does not have to imply that a person is out of control in what they are doing, that they are just praying they get something worthy of their time.  My goal for every photography session is to capture the essence and emotion of whatever/whomever I’m photographing.  I take a lot of pictures trying to capture just the right moments that tell the story that matches my vision.  I delete a lot of photo’s in post processing.  I could probably save myself a lot of time if I were wired differently and contemplated each and every picture before pressing the shutter release.  For me, I’m not willing to miss the possible shot that would make my whole time spent taking pictures worthwhile.