The Spring 2018 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial asking for feedback on the Newsletter, a review of the new features in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, an article detailing my recent big wave surfing shoot at Peahi– also known as JAWS, an editorial entitled Embracing Failure, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Spring 2018 issue on my website at:

http://files.michaelclarkphoto.com/spring_2018.pdf

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

Kohl Christensen riding a mountain of water on a chaotic day at Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

It’s official. After a few years off, the Surfing Photography Workshop is back and is slated for February 2019. This workshop has been so popular over the last several years that we are putting it on again. This workshop is by far one of the best workshops I have ever been a part of. In fact it is so much fun, we have had several people take it twice and a few of them even want to take it again in 2019. I have never had anyone take any of my other workshops more than once so that gives you some idea of the great time we have in this Surfing Photography Workshop. For all of the details read on…

Dates: February 21-24, 2019

Workshop Leaders: Brian Bielmann and Michael Clark

Location: Turtle Bay Hilton Resort, Oahu North Shore, Hawaii

About The Workshop

Join legendary surfing photographer Brian Bielmann and adventure sports photographer Michael Clark for an exciting one-of-a-kind workshop that delves into the world of surfing photography. Brian is a top surfing photographer who has been shooting the sport for more than 40 years. Michael brings his adventure photography skills and knowledge as well as his in-depth experience with digital workflow to round out the workshop.

This 4-day workshop combines daily photo shoots at world-class surfing locations, lifestyle photo shoots and classroom instruction. We will be spending half of our time shooting in the early mornings and in the late afternoon and evenings when the waves and the light are at their best. The other half of our time will be spent in the classroom. All of the classroom instruction will be centered around image critiques, discussions on gear, strategies and the business of photography as well as in-depth discussions on shooting surfing. We’ll also cover digital workflow in detail using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop.

The workshop is scheduled during a period where large waves hit the north shore frequently. Though we cannot predict or guarantee the wave size or surfing conditions, the north shore of Oahu serves up sizable waves regularly. Depending on the waves, we will choose the best locations for shooting and we will also schedule lifestyle shoots that help to fill out our coverage of the world of surfing.

Workshop Schedule

Day 1 – Morning
Introduction to surfing photography, gear selection, camera setup and shooting options.

Day 1 – Afternoon/Evening
Cover basic digital workflow and then head out to shoot at the world-famous Pipeline on the north shore of Oahu.

Day 2 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 2 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, discussion of underwater photography and shooting from the water. Evening shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – All Day
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 3 – Afternoon/Evening
Group critique of previous days images, portrait shoot on the beach with male and female surfers.

Day 4 – Morning
Dawn Patrol: Early morning surfing shoot on the north shore of Oahu – actual surf break to be determined depending on conditions.

Day 4 – Afternoon
Group critique of previous days images, wrap up and discussions on the art of surfing photography.

Please note that locations may change depending on conditions.

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions, such as bad weather, lack of waves, or other issues may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserve the right to alter any itinerary at any time, if necessary.

About the Instructors

Brian Bielman is a legendary surfing photographer. He has shot everything from fashion, to rock stars, to surf. From world champ surfers Mark Richards to Andy Irons, he has captured them all and just about everything else important that has happened on Hawaii’s North Shore since 1975. He was there to document the early days of Teahupo’o (Tahiti) and put a fresh perspective on it ten years later with his underwater images. He is well known for not only his above water surfing images but even more for his stunning underwater images of surfing. Able to shoot more than just the action Brian also captures the spirit and faces of surfing. You can see more of Brian’s work at www.brianbielmann.com.

Michael Clark is an internationally published outdoor photographer specializing in adventure sports, travel and landscape photography. He produces intense, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit and has risked life and limb on a variety of assignments to bring back stunning images of rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers and mountain bikers in remote locations around the world. He contributes to National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, and The New York Times among many other magazines. He also produces images for large corporate companies like Apple, Microsoft, Nike, Nikon, Adobe, Red Bull, Nokia and many others. You can see Michael’s work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.

Empty_Waves002set_1

The Cost

The cost of this workshop is $2,295.00 per person. The same rate applies for each participant regardless of whether they are doing photography and participating in the workshop, or not. A deposit of $700 is required to secure your spot on the workshop. Final balance will be due no later than January 15, 2019.

Enrollment for the workshop will be limited to ten people maximum. We are limiting enrollment this year to make sure we can give our full attention to a smaller group. The cost of the workshop does not include travel expenses, hotels, transportation or meals. Those expenses are in addition to the cost of the workshop. We will provide an opening night get together and one group meal as part of the workshop.

Accommodations

The classroom portion of the workshop will be held at the Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore of Oahu. We have negotiated a group rate that is discounted from their advertised prices. To receive the discounted rate, please mention the Surfing Photography Workshop. Please note that there are few if any other hotels on this side of the island. If you would prefer to stay elsewhere there are also hotels in Haleiwa, which is 12 miles south of the Turtle Bay and approximately a 30 minute commute.

Transportation

Most major airlines service the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Honolulu, the major city on the island is approximately one hour south of the north shore and our hotel. The Turtle Bay Reset is located on the northern tip of Oahu and is somewhat remote. The hotel has a restaurant, golf course, tennis courts and of course is located right next to the beach.

We do not provide transportation during the workshop. Please plan ahead and reserve a rental car. Rental cars are available in Honolulu. Of course, we will share vehicles and car pool to make life easier for all of us. We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets in the event of a workshop cancellation.

Workshop Materials

You will need to bring the following equipment with you:

• A 35mm digital SLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses.
• A laptop computer with an external hard drive. Instructors will be using Apple Computers.
• Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software installed on your computer (you can download the 30-day trial version of Lightroom before the workshop if you don’t already have the software.)
• Digital memory cards with a card reader.
• Power adapters and cables for laptop and digital camera
• Camera manual
• Batteries and charger for rechargeable batteries

It is expected that you know how to download images from your camera to the laptop, know basic editing techniques using your software, and are able to organize the edited images for critique.

Waves exploding in Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii the morning of the 2009/2010 Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave surfing competition.

Telephoto Lenses and Underwater Camera Housings

Also since surfing photography relies on large telephoto lenses, each participant will need to bring a telephoto lens that is at least 400mm. A 500mm or 600mm lens is preferred. If you don’t own one of these lenses please rent or borrow one to bring with you. Please contact Michael or Brian with any questions about lens selection and rental options. Both B&H and Samy’s Camera in the USA have rental houses that can rent these lenses. We also have a special deal with Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu who have 500mm and 600mm lenses for both Canon and Nikon and will be renting these to workshop participants at discounted rates ranging from $323 to $550 for the four day workshop. Call Josh Strickland at Hawaii Photo Rental Oahu at (808) 735-3838 for more information on renting one of these lenses.

Also, if you plan to shoot in the water please bring your underwater camera housing. Brian has several underwater housings for Canon cameras and will have these available for those that want to try them out.

Registration

If you’ve always wanted to shoot the amazing sport of surfing, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they’re spoken for, that’s it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to info@michaelclarkphoto.com. To register for the workshop send me an email and I’ll send you a payment request for the deposit and a packet of information about the workshop.

 We hope you can join us for this stellar workshop! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact either myself or Brian.

I am very happy to announce that I will be back at CreativeLIVE in the Seattle studio on April 16th and 17th teaching an in-depth two-day class on digital workflow. The class, entitled The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow, will cover everything from image capture to the final print. This is not just a class on how to process your images, it is a detailed class for any and all photographers looking to take their photography to a whole new level, stay organized and make sure that they are getting the best possible image quality.

Thousands of my followers have purchased my e-book A Professional Photographer’s Workflow: Using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop over the last decade. I have had incredible response to that book, but many have asked that I create a video version of the book. This CreativeLIVE class won’t cover everything contained in the e-book–we would need a few weeks at the very least to do that–but it will cover a good portion of the key basics contained in the book. We are going to take a deep dive into color management, sensor cleaning, image organization, file and folder naming, processing images in Lightroom and Photoshop, printing, backing up your images and much more. Shown in the flow chart below is my backup system, which is quite complex compared to what most photographers probably need. But, this is just an example of some of the topics we will discuss in-depth.

While my specialty is adventure sports photography, this class is not at all specific to adventure sports photography. This is a class that every photographer can get something out of. When I teach photo workshops, I often tell students that they can improve their photography massively by learning a solid digital workflow and learning how to work up their images better. In this class, we will cover everything that you need to know to take your photography to the next level. Please note that this class will be taught in a way that you can implement what you want and leave the rest behind if it doesn’t work for you. So, in that sense, it is applicable to amateurs and professionals of any level. I hope you can tune in!

From the CreativeLIVE website:

Setting up a practical and efficient workflow with your photography feels like a daunting part of your business. Internationally recognized photographer Michael Clark introduces you to techniques to allow you more time to shoot the images you want. His workflow philosophy is that you must first know how you are going to edit the image in post production to know how you need to shoot it.

In this class Michael teaches:

  • Best practices for a shooting workflow from setting up your camera to histograms and exposure
  • How to clean the sensor on your DSLR camera
  • Color management workflow including your work environment and monitor calibration
  • An overview of Lightroom® and multiple ways to speed up your workflow including file folder and batch naming as well as metadata and archival processes
  • Techniques to finalizing your images in Photoshop® with basic adjustments and retouching
  • Making fine art prints, choosing your printer, paper, understanding ICC profiles, and much more!

Michael covers everything you need to know in order to streamline your post production workflow in Lightroom® and Photoshop® and best practices for printing your art at home. Digital photography is far more complicated than shooting film ever was. Knowing the best practices for a digital workflow will make you a better photographer.

To sign up or to purchase The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow class visit the CreativeLIVE website.

  • Marcia - Michael hit the road running this morning on Creative Live! What a great start to a meaningful course. This is great. Thanks.

Last week I had a conversation with Ric Stovall of the Visual Revolutionary podcast. This was one of his new short podcasts, i.e. 30 minutes instead of a few hours, where we discussed the future of photography and specifically how the equipment has changed the industry. We covered a lot of ground in this interview including what I’d like to see in future cameras in the near future, as well as where I see photography going in the long term. It was a fun conversation and we also highlighted how the technology affects the photo industry and professional photographers as well.

Ric is doing a stellar job with this podcast. I find myself listening in to all of his podcasts while I travel. I am always fascinated by how other photographers got their start and how they got to where they are today. If you are interested in my story, you can find my in-depth interview with Ric in Episode 42. I hope you enjoy this little short and check out some of the other podcasts. There is a ton of great insight in these podcasts! I am really stoked that Ric is doing this and is continuing the series. Keep up the great work Ric!

This morning I found out that one of my images from the Lighting the Spirit shoot last summer with Rafa Ortiz was among the winners in the Maria Luisa Photo Contest, in the category of Adventure and Extreme Sports. The winning image, shown below, has already been widely seen and has already won a few awards. It is awesome to see the images from this assignment for Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography make the rounds. This award, yet again, confirms my thoughts that it was one of my best assignments to date. This image of Rafa Ortiz was created by rappelling into a spot just next to the waterfall and using the new Elinchrom ELB 1200 strobes to light up Rafa and the shaded side of the waterfall. To see how this image was created check out my blog post and the full behind the scenes video on my blog here.

The “Memorial María Luisa International Mountain and Nature Photo Contest” was created as a means of remembering María Luisa Alvarez Alvarez, a Spanish mountaineer who passed away in November 1990. Over 15,000 images were submitted to the 2017 Maria Luisa Photo contest by 1,586 photographers from 89 different countries. The winning images, along with the honorable mentions, will be included in an outdoor exhibition in Infiesto and Oviedo, Spain and the images are also published in a portfolio commemorative book. I have to say that while the adventure images are amazing, when viewing the winning images the Submerged World and Biodiversity images really stood out to me.

Above is the winning image of Rafa Ortiz dropping over Spirit Falls while whitewater kayaking on the Little White Salmon river near White Salmon, Washington. In this image, Rafa passed by me at only five feet away. This image was shot with a super wide angle 14mm lens. In addition to the above image, two other images of mine were selected for honorable mentions in the Alpinism and the Climbing categories. Those two images are shown below.

Zach Vanderlei snowboarding in Shane’s Glade on a very snowy day at Angel Fire Resort at Angel Fire, New Mexico. This image was shot on assignment for the Angel Fire Ski Resort on a deep powder day. Here again, I used Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync technology to light up the snowboarder and the snow. In fact, all three of these images were created using Elinchrom strobes and Hi-Sync flash technology.

Aaron Miller fighting to stay on a tough 5.12c at Diablo Canyon just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This shot was created on spec while testing out an early prototype of the Elinchrom ELB 1200 back in the fall of 2016. You can view the entire set of winning images here in a video produced by the Maria Luisa contest staff:

28 MML-Photo from MemorialMariaLuisa on Vimeo.

My thanks to the Maria Luisa Photo Contest and the jury that chose the winning images. Congratulations to all the other winning photographers on their remarkable images.

A little over a decade ago, I wrote an article in my Fall 2007 Newsletter, entitled Digital Photography: Where do we go from here?, which discussed improvements I was hoping for in upcoming camera announcements. To be sure, there have been some incredible advancements in both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras over the last decade. Owning two Nikon D850 camera bodies and a Hasselblad H5D 50 MP camera, I love having a high-megapixel camera but megapixels aren’t everything. Much of what I listed in that original article has still not yet come to fruition, so I thought I would update it here in this blog post. Who knows, perhaps Nikon, Canon and other camera manufacturers will see this and take note.

Built-in Sensor Cleaning that works!

One of the major frustrations I have had with digital cameras is sensor cleaning. As a pro, I clean my sensors regularly. Usually, before every assignment, I clean all of my camera sensors. Clean sensors really helps to make the post-processing easier since I don’t have to spot my images that often. With DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the sensor is down in a well below the lens mount. This makes it hard to access and also complicates the cleaning process. In this day and age, when cameras can do everything but cook your lunch, it seems ridiculous to me that the camera manufacturers have not come up with a way to push a button and clean your sensor 100% perfectly. All they would have to do is put a mini-windsheil wiper in there and a nozzle that secretes a little cleaning liquid. Bam, then you can keep your sensor clean all the time. Sure, we might have to get the liquid replaced from time to time but that would be a 1,000-times better than trying to clean it ourselves.

I have had some epics when it comes to cleaning sensors. Years ago, I was cleaning my Nikon D800 the day before I was supposed to leave for an assignment, and I accidentally dragged out some oil from the edge of the sensor. (I think Nikon put that there intentionally as I wasn’t the only one to go through this headache.) I cleaned the sensor 20-plus times trying to get the oil off the sensor and even used a solution specifically designed to get oil off the sensor. Nothing worked. I went through $250 in sensor cleaning supplies. In the end, completely frustrated, I sent the D800 back to Nikon to have the sensor cleaned and took my older Nikon D4 on the assignment without a backup camera. When I got the D800 back from Nikon, the oil was gone, but there were still dust spots on the sensor so I had to clean it again.

I am putting this issue first in this list of items as it is the biggest headache and one the camera companies can easily fix. Some cameras have a “sensor cleaning” feature built in but these are all worthless. Most just vibrate the sensor to “shake” the dust off. I have never really seen this clean anything. Anyone who has cleaned sensors knows that if you don’t clean them regularly then the dust gets hardened onto the sensor and the only way to get it off is with a wet cleaning. I have been using the Sensor Gel Stick for the last four years or more, which works better than anything else I have tried, but still, we just shouldn’t have to clean our sensors manually. If any camera company offered a real built-in sensor cleaning option that worked I would switch to that camera brand immediately. Camera companies take note!

As a side note, my Hasselblad H5D is ridiculously easy to clean mostly because the sensor is super easy to access. Just take the digital back off and blow off the dust with a can of compressed air. If it needs a wet cleaning, simply wipe it down with an e-wipe. If that thing had decent autofocus and could shoot 10 fps, I would ditch DSLRs all together just because of the ease of cleaning the sensor.

Accurate Histograms

This is another of those head scratcher issues. Why when we have DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that can shoot 46 MP images at 9 or 10 fps can’t we get accurate histogram readouts on the back of the camera? You may not be aware, but the histogram on the back of your DSLR is built off the jpeg image, not the full raw image file. If I choose to shoot raw images in the wider Adobe RGB color space, then we should get a full and accurate histogram for the raw image file. As it is, I have to compare the histograms on the camera to those rendered by Photoshop (for the same image) to see how they compare. Based off that I have to guess as to what is blown out or not when shooting out in the field. This is insane. How hard is it to render an accurate histogram and show that on the back of the camera?

Higher Bit Depth

Bit depth is not widely understood. Bit depth is calculated with by using the following equation: 2ª, where the letter “a” equals the bit depth number. For instance, when a=12, the number of possible colors per channel is 4,096. Luckily we have graduated from 12-bit up to 14-bit sensors on most modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Greater bit depth equals smoother transitions in colors, especially when looking at skies where the sun is in the frame. Higher bit depth also means better transitions in skin tones for portraits. All things being equal, a higher bit depth equates to better image quality, though the resulting image files will also be significantly larger. Some medium format cameras use a 16-bit image file format, and the image quality is remarkable. At this time, no DSLR or mirrorless cameras use 16-bit processing in-camera. I am sure it is possible, but we just haven’t seen it yet.

A 14-bit sensor can record up to 16,384 colors per channel. A 16-bit sensor can record up to 65,536 colors per channel. All that math means a 16-bit sensor can capture four times as many colors (per channel) as a 14-bit sensor. That is a huge difference. In terms of the final image, a 16-bit sensor shows many more subtle tones than an image captured with a 14-bit sensor. It is about time that the big three (Canon, Nikon and Sony) come out with high MP cameras that have 16-bit pipelines for raw images. The Hasselblad H6D 100c, shown above, and the Phase One XF (with the 100 MP digital back), are to my knowledge the only cameras currently with a full 16-bit processing pipeline in-camera.

Wider Dynamic Range

The major camera companies have come a long ways when it comes to dynamic range. Nikon and Sony in particular have really pushed the dynamic range of their cameras in recent years. My Nikon D850 is state of the art in that respect for DSLRs and it has changed the way I shoot. I now concentrate on protecting highlights and let everything else fall into shadow knowing that I can pull up those shadows and balance out the final image in post with almost no noise penalties. My Hasselblad H5D is even better and the H6D 100c is even one-step better than that. So, the camera companies are definitely making progress on this front. I just hope they continue to push the dynamic range of future cameras further.

Our eyes can see about 24-stops of light. My Nikon D850 can render nearly 15 stops after the image is processed. Hence, we have a ways to go. Some Red Digital Cinema cameras have the ability to capture 18 stops of light so the technology for greater dynamic range is out there, it just hasn’t been implemented in DSLRs and mirrorless cameras yet. Many photographers are pretty happy about the current dynamic range built into their camera, and it is massively better now than it was with film or early digital cameras, but in this case more is always better.

Better Lenses

With a never ending stream of higher megapixel cameras coming out, it is becoming obvious that the limiting factor, other than camera handling, is the lenses. When the D800 came out, it was obvious that the best lenses were required. With the 46 MP D850, I am starting to see optical weaknesses in my otherwise top-of-the-line Nikkor lenses. This is not to say that the Nikon lenses are bad, they are incredible, but they weren’t built for 100 MP cameras. If camera companies want to push the envelope in regards to megapixels, then we are going to need to see Zeiss Otus style lenses across the board. This might explain why Sony has developed some incredibly sharp lenses for their lineup of mirrorless cameras.

On this topic, in addition to higher quality lenses, all future high MP cameras will have to have in-body stabilization or that high MP count will be pretty much worthless. Camera handling becomes a limiting factor above 50 MP with any camera and counteracting camera shake from handholding a camera will be a huge issue. With my Nikon D850, even at higher shutter speeds like 1/2,000th second, I am seeing camera shake creating blurry images every once in a while.

Mirrorless Camera Bodies that are better ergonomically

Thus far, I have not committed to any mirrorless cameras. I just have not found one that ticks all the boxes I need it to. For now, my DSLRs have been the best option for me. Part of the issue I have with mirrorless cameras is their size and the ergonomics. I would love to have a smaller, lighter camera than my current DSLRs. My back would love it if I had a much lighter camera bag. But, so far, there are only a few mirrorless cameras that have decent ergonomics. This is obviously a very individual topic that depends on your hand size and preferences. Having rather large hands, the little Sony and Fuji mirrorless cameras don’t fit my hands well. They are so small that I find them hard to hold onto.

By contrast, the Hasselblad X1D, is one of the most incredible cameras ergonomically that I have ever held. If the X2D removes the shutter lag, I will be trading in my Hasselblad H5D for the updated version of the X1D. The grip on the X1D obviously went through some serious design experimentation. When you hold it, it just fits (at least my hands) incredibly well. The overall design of the camera is also pretty marvelous. In contrast, the Fuji GFX looks and handles like a Frankenstein camera.

My Nikon D850 has an amazingly well-sculpted grip. I have yet to see any mirrorless camera with a grip that is as good as my D850 or as good as any pro-caliber DSLR. Perhaps this is why mirrorless cameras seem to be getting larger and larger. The Leica SL is a stellar camera but the grip on it is rounded and hard to hold onto unless you have an after-market thumb catch mounted on the back of the camera. Here’s hoping that Nikon and Canon, when they release their full-frame mirrorless cameras later this year, come out with a mirrorless camera with decent ergonomics – as they are known to do with their DSLRs.

These are just a few of the things I think about when working with my current cameras. This is a small list. I have to keep reminding myself that every great image in history was created with a far inferior camera than those I am using today. Modern cameras are magical. The fact that we can create an image off a piece of silicon in itself is pure magic.

 

  • Will Holowka - Thanks Michael. Good Article!

This is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of my recently updated e-book Location Lighting for the Outdoor Photographer. The updated e-book is 361-pages and covers location lighting from start to finish. It starts out with a comprehensive chapter on equipment and ends with an in-depth chapter on the most advanced lighting techniques available today. For more information about Location Lighting for the Outdoor Photographer and to purchase a copy please visit my website.

 

 

One of the questions I often get when I teach workshops and seminars is, “How do I know what good lighting looks like?” There are hundreds of ways to answer this question. Knowing what is good when it comes to any piece of art is a matter of assessing its relevance to art that has come before it and also assessing how it makes the viewer feel. I realize that is a very amorphous answer. Let me clarify it a bit with some examples. For myself, learning what constitutes good lighting means looking at thousands and thousands of images including those created by industry masters and those created by the average Joe. This is not unlike learning what makes a great photograph. Master photographers are considered masters for a reason, just as “classic” novels are considered classic for a reason. Whether or not said master photographer’s work inspires me is unimportant, it was deemed important enough in the context of photography to elevate those images to a certain status and as such there is a lot to be learned by analyzing that work and how it was created. Hence, my answer is to look around you. Look at those photographers whose work you enjoy and are inspired by, also look at all types of art, and figure out what you like and how you can implement that inspiration into your own work.

Portrait photography in particular is an interesting example. There are a lot of standard rules for lighting a portrait—to the point that it can become fairly formulaic. Just as with photography, or any other art form, you need to learn those rules before you can knowingly break them successfully. Learning “good” lighting techniques therefore involves a lot of research, a fair bit of experimentation on your own and a process of discovery that not only informs your skills but also your taste. To that end, I highly recommend buying a variety of fine art photography books, or checking them out at your local library, and taking in as much as you can. Alternately, tracking down a wide variety of “master” photographers online and spending significant time studying their work is also extremely valuable. I personally prefer books for this exercise as that allows me a lot of time to sit with the images and assess them in a much higher quality format.

On my bookshelf, I have a wide variety of books from photographers and painters alike. Among those are photography books by Brassaï, Helmut Newton, Ansel Adams, Sebastião Salgado, Steve McCurry, Dan Winters, Annie Leibovitz, Albert Watson, Howard Schatz, Platon, Andrew Eccles, Marco Grab, Gregory Heisler, Jay Maisel, and Galen Rowell among many others. I also have a wide variety of art books covering artists like Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Monet, Andy Warhol, Matisse, Degas, Georgia O’Keefe and on and on. In addition, I have hundreds and hundreds of my peers websites book marked and I often look to see what new work they have produced. I am constantly looking at photography, art and cinema for inspiration and to further my own understanding of the craft. Taking in as much as possible will not only improve your lighting, but also your photography.

The more experience you have using strobes, Speedlights or any artificial lighting tools, the more you will be able to glean from looking at other photographers work. With experience, you will be able to better analyze how an image was created, how it was lit, and even to some degree how it was processed after the fact, which is a significant factor in this digital age. As with any subject, intensive study will lead to improved understanding, which will help improve your own skills and inform the final image.

 

 

Excellent lighting takes time. Unless it is a set up that a photographer has worked with often, no matter what type of lighting used, it slows you down—and that is generally a good thing as it makes you think. Using artificial lighting, of any sort, is one big giant experiment and time is required to dial it in. Often, when experimenting, you don’t fully know what the results will be or what you are looking for but by continually experimenting and pushing your skills you will find new methods and new looks. Photography is an ever evolving art form. With new technology, new options are available to the photographer that have never been possible before. That creates opportunities to push the art form to a new place.

I also want to emphasize here that learning to use artificial lighting is a process. You won’t learn it all here in this book by any means. Learning to use artificial lighting is going to take many years, and the learning process never ends. The lighting masters became masters because they spent decades learning how to tame their lighting. This book will most likely accelerate your skill level but really learning actual techniques can only be accomplished by doing and practicing.

T W I T T E R
L I N K S