Why proper lighting matters and why available light photographers often suck!
When you look at a magazine ad or ads on the web, do you wonder how awesome it would be to be photographed like that? It is done by controlling light along with other factors. But for now I want to focus on lighting. I need to create perfect light or I won’t have awesome photographs. Great people photography cannot be done consistently using only available light photography. What happens if you want to shoot mid-day? Shoot under the shade of a tree? What happens if their are no trees? What happens if the light is quickly fading like the image above? You could have the hottest model standing in front of you, but without the ability to create fantastic lighting on demand the image will just look like a snapshot.
Lighting sets the mood of an image. If I want to make my client warm and inviting looking, I may gel my strobes to warm up them, but leave the background looking natural. Or if I need to make a subject sinister looking I may gel my strobes a different way to get the right affect. Available light photographers don’t have these tools at their disposal. Using light modifiers like umbrellas, gels, and grids opens up an entire new world of lighting possibilities. You will want that in your shoot!
When you shoot with available light as your only light source, you will be searching for the right light often at the expense of the background. Sometimes you can make a subject move around a little to improve the lighting situation, often times not. Great portrait photographers know how to use studio flash and other light modifiers to complement light. When a photographer tells you they “shoot with available light” that translates into “I’m afraid to use flash because it’s too hard”.
By now you are probably thinking that I don’t shoot with available light. The truth is that I do, but I’m also not afraid to bring in other light sources to turn a good picture into a great one. Just about every portrait photographer has a set of available light images they are proud of, the problem is that they can’t recreate available light on demand. A trained professional photographer who knows how to use studio lights can recreate lighting scenarios at will.
When hiring a portrait photographer you may want to ask them these questions:
- Do you use flash in your sessions? If the answer is “No I only shoot available light” You should probably look for another photographer.
- If they answer yes, ask this question: Do you shoot off camera flash? If they answer no, look for another photographer.
I hope I have provided some valuable advice on one aspect of photography and questions to ask your photographer.