is demonstrating studio lighting a must have skill?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by danzel_c, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. i don't own any backdrops, umbrellas, soft boxes, monolight strobes, etc and have never demonstrated the ability to use studio lighting to replicate the kind of effects you would get with natural soft directional light that shapes and forms subjects. my question is, is this a must have skill for wedding photographers? i know there are lots of wedding photographers that don't even take this kind of lighting with then because the day is too fast paced anyway, but that doesn't mean that they don't know how to use it if needed. just wondering if i'm missing out by not owning, and not being able to demonstrate this skill. this has been bugging me a little lately if you haven't already picked up on that. i don't necessarily want to be bothered with studio lighting at a wedding, but i feel like i should own some kind of basic setup and be good at using it...
  2. All the *stuff* -- backdrops, umbrellas, multi-strobes -- might be fine for a very, very formal wedding (i.e., no children or pets) and in a scheduled period of time for you to set it up, shoot your images, and then allow you time for you and your helper to pack-it-all-up, and head on to the reception.
    Generally, for a local wedding in a local church or on a beach, no, the studio set-up is not required, in my estimation.
  3. It is most important to develop your style and if you don't do that sort of thing then that is just your style. Commercial photographers fall into this conundrum all the time, they do things a certain way and then someone asks them to do it differently. Some just say "I don't do that that way". In a wedding situation, you show what you do and that is what you need to do when hired, nothing else. The conflict seems to arise when there is money on the line and you don't want to pass it up.
  4. I think this is a question only you can answer. However, I can only say that I've found location lighting tremendously useful, and it doesn't have to be overly complex or expensive. Also, I can't help thinking that it's something that can set you apart from Uncle Joe with his new digicam.
    Two portraits, two different setups:
  5. A smaller setup:
  6. Other than the fact that the principles guiding studio lighting can be of help in shooting any wedding, the decision should be based on several things.
    1. Do you want to acquire the gear and study studio lighting?
    2. Do you think your wedding product will be the better for it, or do you see a lack anywhere in your current offering that can be filled by studio lighting skills?
    3. Are your customers showing any indication that they wouldn't hire you because you don't show studio lighting or the skills associated with studio lighting?
    Knowledge of studio lighting isn't only about gear. Knowing the classic ways to light a human being is part of these skills, and that, by itself, can help a lot when shooting a wedding.
  7. this a must have skill for wedding photographers?​
    No. People shoot weddings in all kinds of ways, with all kinds of equipment, including nearly no equipment. If it were a must-have, then everyone would be using similar studio lighting techniques all the time, and that's obviously not the case. Some people use it. Some people don't. Both are correct.
  8. I'm not sure that any actual skills are necessary anymore before people get a nice camera, business cards, a price list, and their own website storefront.
    I can tell you that when I began shooting weddings that most established pros belonged to PPA and understood broad light, short light, Rembrandt lighting, etc.... This was also during a time where most studios shot weddings, Seniors, personal & family portraits, along with some commercial and corporate events/assignments. Technicians can get by with less skills than do craftsmen. On a personal note, I think that a better awareness of lighting which includes a knowledge of studio lighting can be a source of some pride that is often lost on those who don't share it.
  9. I think the answer to the question falls into the 'it doesn't hurt' category. It certainly doesn't hurt, and can help. However, it isn't a must have skill for a wedding photographer, particularly if you are a wedding photographer outside the norm. If what you do is so visually satisfying in and of itself, and if you can get clients with your vision, great.
    However, let's face it--the majority of us are not visual geniuses and are not in the position of totally dictating to our clients what they will accept. IMHO, for most wedding photographers, some knowledge, like knowing a little about the history of wedding photography, will help, even if you hardly use the skills but go 'beyond' them.
  10. Well it's a skill that is very handy to have even if you don't use it at a wedding as you may use it somewhere else not to mention the fact that it makes you aware of light. Personaly I am glad I learnt how to use studio lighting and learning how to color and B&W print in darkroom are also skills I am very happy to have.
  11. Well over twenty years ago Monte Zucker the famous but now deceased wedding photographer taught me some simple lighting principles with studio lights that I have used since then to do portraits in my former studio and on location but which I never used shooting a wedding. I did my weddings solo and had too much to do to fool with location lighting. I thought it essential to be highly mobile. I have had the same set of Novatron lights since about 1990. I used them a while ago on location to shoot PR pictures. Using studio lights for simple commercial photography is not rocket science IMO and may help with an overall knowledge of light diffusion but was not really necessary in my wedding business. Having said that, I believe that if you are trying to be a professional as I was, that anything one learns about photography contributes to ones overall professionalism and ability to satisfy customers.
  12. The reason BTW that I took strobes on location on the job I mentioned is because I wanted control of light for shooting PR shots of a somewat prominent client. They are a guarantee against failure as the natural light on that day was dull and gray. I also had to take a few years off the subject on her request and a close softbox does wonders to help reduce the work in PS. I had not used the lights in a while but they really made the job much simpler. I also brought a portable backdrop to have control of the background and not worry about bokeh.
  13. I think learning lighting will help in recognizing certain types of existing light on location and make better use of it. I.e. if you know how to produce the light, you'll recognize it when you see it.
  14. Usually, the whole notion of the unobtrusive candid wedding photographer is not in sync with the use of studio lighting. So, style has a great influence on whether one employs lighting or not. However, not all candid photographers are purists, nor are all geographical areas the same in their expectations of wedding photography.
    Lighting is a GREAT help if one has to shoot formals in poorly lit interiors, or to overcome poor lighting ratios outdoors on location due to schedules. People use speed-lights for this all the time, but studio lighting is much better at it.
    To add to previous opinions with another perspective, I've found that if you study natural lighting and really learn how to work with it, then moving to studio lighting is easier. Most (not all) studio lighting is generally mimicking "ideal" nature ... not the other way around.
    Mastering lighting can diversify your offering as a photographer and/or be a path else where should you not want to do weddings forever. I live and breath candid photography, but it's not the only type of photography that interest me or lights my after-burners : -)
  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I don't think I have learnt anything, which hasn't been useful at sometime, or another.
    I think the fact that this has been bugging you, is “you” wanting to know more to increase / broaden your skill level.
    Why don't you listen to yourself and go where you is taking YOU?
    You don't have to buy a three tonne truck and six head portable studio to get the hang of the basics: keep it simple at first - and see what develops.
  16. So far, mono-lights have not helped me at all at weddings. It seems to always happen that I'll pick a location to set them up and when the time comes to shoot groups, the location never works. I have to relocate to a location without access to power and I'll use my CL-45 flash. This portable flash packs enough power to work in many situations. I may see about adding portable power, but I have had to trek a long distance to find the best background, so dragging all of that equipment is something I would have to re-think.
  17. I think you need to know how to use lights, yes. But I don't think you need to actually do it. I would strongly recommend picking up a high-end Canon/Nikon/Sony flash (whatever is appropriate) or two, and learning how to use it. If you get something in your brand, you can use them off-camera in TTL mode, provided you stay fairly close. If nothing else, you never want to have to pass on a paying gig because you don't know how to do something.
    If you don't like the studio lighting look, then just use the lights to augment natural lighting rather than creating it.
  18. To expand a bit: Studio lighting can be fun to learn, and as Nadine said ... "It can't hurt".
    Beyond being used to light formals and portraits ... which one may, or may not, have the time or man-power to achieve (or the inclination to do), it CAN be used at a wedding reception ... which often features very low ambient light. When used in this manner, the notion of being in conflict with shooting candidly is no longer necessarily true.
    One radio triggered mono-block strategically placed (even if working solo), working in concert with an optional TTL on-camera speed-light for fill, can open up new possibilities ... whether the subject is aware of you or not. A strobe firing is no more intrusive than the DJ's disco lights, or 50 guests firing off their point&shoots. Plus, it isn't coming from your position, it's elsewhere in the room, so it doesn't draw attention to you.
    What it does do is provide directional lighting, and can be powerful enough to over-come poor ambient lighting which is usually straight downward and of questionable color temperature. Even smaller studio strobes are 3X the power of the best speed-light used off camera ... and can be less expensive. This allows you the option of faster shutter speeds and/or stopping down for more depth-of-field ... or both. It is the alternative to dragging the shutter techniques. I say optional, because you can simply turn off the radio sender.
    Attached are two examples that are completely candid, unaware shots: the B&W one is just a directional strobe without use of a TTL speed-light on camera ... the color one is a directional strobe using an on-camera TTL speed-light for fill. Note, that unlike just using a speed-light the close foreground subjects are NOT over-flashed despite the on-camera light. That is because the key light was the more powerful strobe elsewhere in the room. The TTL flash sees it, and suppresses the amount of light from the camera position just enough to act as fill.
    This can be accomplished using one or more strobes carefully placed around the room. With modern radio senders, you can turn off one light and use the other to change the direction of the lighting depending on where you and the subject are when shooting. With just a little practice, it is quite fast and is actually a lot of fun controlling the direction of lighting.
  19. i apprecitate everyone chiming in on this! sounds like people who don't use them, still at least know how to use them and have an appreciation for it. my goal is still to master on location type of lighting using both natural and suplemental lighting and i don't anticipate dragging studio lights around at weddings, but yeah i agree with everyone learning studio lighting can only help. the funny thing is i feel like i already know it: i've studied it, seen others use it first hand, taken classes on it at a local camera store, but never demonstrated that i can do it myself. so it should be a piece of cake, just need that confidence that comes from being able to demonstrate it. and during the off season it may come in handy, a few family portraits here and there. i always get asked about family portraits with a backdrop but turn them down. i'll rent a setup and try it out. thanks!
  20. Don't understand why bringing lights to a wedding seems like such a chore. In the Chicagoland area it's very common to see wedding photographers cover a reception alone and bring a portable studio as well. Occasionally you can catch a portrait of some interesting P-net characters :)
    Monte Zucker was able to capture beautiful portraits using one light, his illuminator, and a backdrop......truly a master. For comprehensive location lighting, this DVD set offers several hours of instruction:
  21. Don't understand why bringing lights to a wedding seems like such a chore.​
    Well, geographic and market influence has a lot of bearing. Clients don't always want or expect their wedding to be turned into a photoshoot with pro heads, cables, powerpacks, lightstands, umbrellas, octolites....
    And canvas portrait backdrops are in negative demand in many places. What works well in one location can be notably unsuccessful in another.
  22. I think you should use it to play with on your off-time, but not use it at weddings. Weddings are so fluid, that you might be missing important moments by fussing with all that equipment. You are right that you can often find better lighting in nature than can be produced in the studio. There are only three situations where I feel I must have strobe--indoors in the dark during a formal portait shoot, freezing motion indoors, and balancing a scene that contains the indoors and outdoors. I have studied Zucker and Zeltzman and all the lighting patterns. The knowledge of formal lighting patterns is very valuable but the patterns can come from natural lighting. At weddings there is also the issue of safety with lightstands to be knocked over or equipment failing. Studio lighting has to be adjusted for maximum results and often there is just not the time for all of this.
  23. Sounds like you kind of answered your own question. I would say "Yes" if you want to be a serious photographer then having the skill and know how to use studio equipment is a must. There will always be the unexpected, what if some gets married and wants a night wedding? What about the formal shoots before the wedding. I am a die hard studio photographer and even when I shoot outdoors or a wedding I am always using exteranal lights. Those may be 580 EXII on or off camera, 1000 Watt LED panels, or my trusty Alien Bees which I always have with me. Of course I can shoot natural light, but that is how most ameteurs also learn I feel my lighting skills is definetely what sets me a part. I would rather upgrade my strobes or light modifiers rather than spend money on L-series lens. Why, almost any lens looks good at F8 1/200 not zoomed to extreme and on a tripod with beautiful soft lighting.
  24. "Well, geographic and market influence has a lot of bearing. Clients don't always want or expect their wedding to be turned into a photoshoot with pro heads, cables, powerpacks, lightstands, umbrellas, octolites....And canvas portrait backdrops are in negative demand in many places. What works well in one location can be notably unsuccessful in another." Neil Ambrose
    Nice job stating the obvious, of course clients will want & expect whatever it is that they want and expect. Since I'm limited to the Midwest of the US, I certainly can't speak about what is or isn't successful anywhere, and everywhere, else in the world. However, Chicagoland is about as middle to Middle-America can be and I doubt that there’s a huge general difference across the States. When I attended the National Conventions of PPA I also witnessed more similarities than differences across the studios. Intuitively, I don't know that what may work well here might not work well somewhere else, it simply could and the fact that the locals may not be doing it could increase the odds of success. The canvas backgrounds continue to more the norm than the exception in my area in weddings that typically involve 150-300 guests hosted at the local banquet halls, country clubs, & Hotel ballrooms. They are probably much less common at the courthouse weddings, backyard affairs, 2nd & 3rd weddings, and those weddings with less than 100 guests.....and anyone that is targeting that market may do very well in deed not offering the portable studio. Then again, if it's available ale- carte and some clients are willing to spend some extra money on it, then it might be a worthwhile add-on.
  25. Perhaps it's less of a black and white application rather than exaggerated extremes one way or the other.
    While I have taken strobes with me to solve certain problems or client requests, I've never taken a back-drop to a wedding and probably never will. Just not my cup of tea.
    Personally, it doesn't offend my artistic sensibilities, nor does it take away from my main drive to candidly capture the "real" wedding, if a client asks me to shoot their entire family in a group shot since the participants are from all over the country (even the world) and gather like this only a couple of times in a lifetime. Strobes make that an easy task if the venue is poorly lit ... which it almost always is. Why wouldn't I use them? It takes ten minutes and eliminates almost all post work fixing bad ambient lighting.
    Never took all the lighting gear Neil outlined to a wedding either ... and I have an entire Profoto system in my commercial studio that I could employ. For the occasional wedding application, one "wedding" roller bag with everything set to go for ease and speed. If the schedule is THAT hectic, I hire an assistant. It's a no brainer.
    Lighting doesn't have to be a main driver, or a style altering event. It's there if you need it or want it. Other wise leave it in the trunk.
  26. dave s., cool pic! and thanks for the link.
  27. I think it's a must have skill if you want to be well rounded and able to shot for any kind of client in any kind of place. But if you specialize in just one form of photography, for instance documentary available light weddings, you can do without it.
    Easy way to ease into it is to shoot some off camera flash. Just get a cheap umbrella and a small stand with an umbrella adapter. If you shoot Nikon you can trigger off camera flash without any additional items using CLS. For other brands you may need to add something to get it to work. Radio triggers are best either way.
    Monolights and bigger stuff works exactly like the smaller stuff. It's just more light and usually more options of shaping it.
  28. Sorry this is late, but as I said above, and as several people have said as well--studying studio lighting, and in particular, studio lighting for people photography, can benefit you even if you don't use studio lights at a wedding.
    In the left image, below, there are two things I did that I knew from studying studio lighting, that helped make this image. The first thing was to tell the girls where to stand, and the second thing was to tell the bride to turn toward the window at the right time. Now, it wasn't totally undirected, but after I told them where to stand, I did not interfere, save for telling the bride to turn her face at the right time. When you study lighting for people (normally as part of studio lighting) you know that you light the 'mask' of the face.
    The second image on the right is an example of knowing where to bounce one's flash to bring out the texture of the frosting on the sides of the cake--again, something you learn when you study studio lighting.
  29. The real "name of the game " here is "seeing the light"!
    Whether you use ambient or flash/strobe is irrelevant. Direction of light and quality of light is the skill most desired in a photographer's arsenal of talent. A two dimensional image that has three dimensional qualities through lighting is a talent that is most desirable in a photographer.
    Any skill that improves your knowledge of "lighting" is beneficial.
    In the long run, direction of light, and the quality of that light, whether hard or soft, and the purpose for that light, is the goal to achieve, rather than what kind of light is better than the other for the purpose intended.
    Learn how to see the light , then choose the type of lighting to achieve the end result. Or, how to achieve the end result with the lighting available.
    The true pro will make due with what is at hand. BUT, direction and quality of light is paramount in obtaining the image that is envisioned.
    Dismissing education in any form of lighting is foolhardy. Claiming any one type of lighting as sufficient is naive and lacks vision. Learn as much as you can about all types of lighting to be the best photographer you can be.
  30. One of the things that I had a photographer tell me was to look at photo's that had been published in a magazine and look at how it had been lit, and then figure out how it had been done. This helped me quite abit in learning how to invision how someone else had taken this wonderful photograph. I would then try and copy the lighting technique and make it my own.
  31. Nice photos Nadine!
  32. Light is the most important thing in photography. Far more than camera, or any attachment.
    Good light is good light it doesn't matter how you get it. Knowledge of using one light, the sun is useful in a studio, and knowing studio light is useful standing in the middle of a field using nothing but maybe a reflector or on camera flash. Learn everything you can about lighting. It is the biggest difference between a pro and a hobbyist with a great camera.
  33. thanks for the additional responses! and i agree, nice shots nadine!
  34. Nadine, wonderful images. Lets see, brides body turned away from the light and face back to it revealing texture of gown and feminine shape for bride. Face lit with loop lighting to give flattering shape to face from the direction of the light. Camera positon from short side. Good lighting ratio achieved from distance from window and specular highlights eliminated. High contrast of face with rest of image to pull eye there. (Maybe helped with some dodge/burn?) I wonder if someone who didnt understand the concepts would have pulled it all together. Not consistently anyway. If you dont study lighting, you wont know what you dont know. David is right, seeing the light is critical and making it in studio will help recognizing it on location and maximize your use of it whether you elect to pull your the big guns or just use speedlights or a reflector or straight window light. I believe the early painting masters started their training making the paint. They started with an understanding of the medium in which they worked. We work in light.
  35. Thanks everyone. The image of the bride is actually one of those 'serendipity on purpose' shots. The image is very close to SOTC. I didn't even touch the white balance, so no dodging or burning--that is why there is a bit too much magenta in the image.
  36. Good photographers see light where it falls and can use it always. Where I studied photography no one was allowed to learn studio lighting until they had first mastered natural light. Too many people think the studio part is more important than the light part. They are usually easy to find because they spend all there time thinking about equipment so there pictures are empty and say nothing. Unfortunately many people also stay in the old days working in their old ways, and sometimes make no interesting pictures at all. Learning is always important but more so is the source of teacher. I guess there are not many wedding couples who care how anyone makes a picture as long as it is good. The result is the thing to care for.
  37. Andres, I think the "saying something" is separate from "seeing light", although they are related in photography, of course. There are always going to be photographers who 'say something' extremely well and photographers who don't. Studio training, IMHO, is not the reason for either.
  38. I think it is interesting to read so many different thoughts on the subject of lighting.
    In some ways, some of it feels daunting and even intimidating. The need to learn this and study that with an undercurrent of formalized academia. Heck, I admit it, I don't know some of the terms bandied about. This isn't to say that the basic physics of light can be ignored ... after all we do have to get it into the camera in enough quantity to make a picture happen.
    Yet, if you look at it from the inside out .... with a focus on the subject ... be it a simple ball, a car, a face or a Bride doing a waltz ... and reverse engineer your purpose, then light is much easier to understand no matter what the source. Much of that understanding is intuitive and even obvious. You most likely already have the insights but haven't drawn on that insight enough.
    Light is how we celebrate the subject ... the roundness of the ball, the styling of the car, the features of a face, or the shimmering movement of a waltz.
    The notion isn't just seeing the light, it is seeing the subject in the light. The subject, or better put "our vision of the subject," dictates what we want the to light to do.
    With this in mind we can make a flat representation of a ball look round, we can reveal facial features or hide them, we can make the same person look evil or angelic.
    Start there and it will fall into place with a little patience and practice. It's not really all that hard ... light is all around us ... watch how it defines things, reveals things, or how the lack of it obscures things. But most of all, look at the "things."
    The most fundamental difference between natural light and studio light is that with the former the light is fixed and the subject must move into it or be placed in it, where the latter allows you to move the light around the subject at will.

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