Lesson 4 – Do it your way

I’m new to photography and I have so much to learn. I listen intently to recommendations from other photographers, watch training videos, read articles online and most importantly learn from my own experience.

Lighting has been the one area in which I have read about most. Subjects could be lit too much, too little, create undesirable shadows and so much more. Early on I experienced many failures with this however as a result have learned a great deal.

I started off with very simple kit which included continuous lighting in the form of two soft boxes. Over a period of time I encountered numerous issues and realised they just weren’t for me.

  • The soft boxes were a source of constant heat. From the moment the photo session started to the minute it ended these light sources were on. As you can imagine the huge bulbs heat up pretty well and in a small room can cause some warmth.
  • With two soft boxes I required two convenient electrical sockets or had to take an extension cable with me
  • Two electrical cables also meant two safety hazards not only for us adults but especially where children are concerned, especially if they decided to veer off set…which was quite often the case
  • These soft boxes didn’t have varying output which could be adjusted to suit the ambience of the photo shoot
I considered investing more money on additional/better/different kit as an alternative lighting solution. I spent a few nights online to see how other studio photographers managed their lighting and what they suggested was the better option.
Studio lighting obviously depends on what results you’re looking for but my goal was ultimately to eliminate the disadvantages I had encountered above.
One tutorial suggested a set up similar to mine with additional lights illuminating the backdrop. This just wouldn’t work for me as I was aiming to reduce the number of cables, heat and create a safer environment for children.
Another tutorial suggested reducing the lighting and incorporating a reflector. This seemed a logical solution but which toddler sits still long enough for a reflector to be positioned correctly? The alternative was a parent chasing their child around the set with the reflector.
Some photographers have the luxury of a dedicated studio where equipment remains in place twenty four hours a day. So their suggestions of white walls and ceilings or 12ft white panels are valid enough but they weren’t going to be an option for me. I have to fit my kit into the car if shooting at a clients’ house or taking it up and down in my own house.
I decided to create my own lighting solution by taking ideas from a variety of professionals and articles. I was a little nervous at the next photo shoot but I was ecstatic at the results, the reduced cables and cooler temperature of the room.
So although I’ve changed some of my kit and altered the set up slightly I’ll continue to use my old soft boxes for new born sessions. The number of cables won’t be an issue, the softer lighting will be more appropriate and I’ll not need to move them once they’re positioned. So they’ve not been retired completely.
Since researching how other photographers work I’ve realised even all the professionals have their own way of working, there isn’t only one rule. What works for some doesn’t always work for others. Listen to the advice and guidance, research alternatives and apply where you can but remember just because your way is different that doesn’t mean it’s wrong!