Glen Goffin Photography

Friday, July 17, 2009

63 You Can't Fake Good Lighting

First ... the "good lighting" I'm talking about is NOT the fiery orange backlighting or the flat, pasty overhead fluorescents. I want to get that clear right away. Otherwise, you'd be thinking, "This cat needs some tokens for the clue bus." I've got the tokens. I just can't find the bus.

I am an "available light" photographer. Not because I think natural light is better. Not at all. That's just another way of saying I'm too lazy to lug around a ton of lighting gear.

While on a trip sitting at the Providence airport, I noticed that my red-haired friend, Scott, was backlit by the fiery orange lights of the haute cuisine-ery behind him. (Arby's?) I thought it might be fun to exaggerate his hair color with the backlighting so I snapped off a shot. I didn't pose him ... just said, "ready?" and immediately fired off a single shot.

Later, in post processing, I realized that the relatively diffuse light from the wide array of distant ceiling lights left his face washed-out. After HIRALOAM, WB and some curves, I attempted to add drama by adding a bit of contrast. I was totally unsuccessful. Or rather, I was totally successful at making him look eerie and unnatural. The normal techniques of pushing curves, overlay mode, dodging and burning ... everything just left the image looking plastic ... contrived.

There is a good reason to lug a bunch of heavy lighting gear around ... FOR GOOD LIGHTING! ummm ... gee ...really?! Yup. You can't bake in good lighting if it wasn't there when you took the shot.

The other reason I don't carry lighting gear is because I don't know how to use it. But I can see I'm going to need to learn.

I've been following Dustin Diaz's posts on Flickr where he not only shows the final work but also the lighting diagram. He uses relatively simple setups in a wide variety of situations and posts almost daily. It's worth following for all of us novice "strobists". Then there is Strobist. A must read for the lighting master wannabe. That blog will lead you to a million more. Just follow those dancing little spots on the back of your eyelids from all the flashes.

Bye for now and peace,



beth said...

you are not alone in this at all...
I've never really thought of myself to be lazy in regards to the extra equipment...okay, maybe a little...but I am too lazy to want to learn the lighting techniques right now {I think} which stinks, as I have a ton of time on my hands !!

I think maybe this winter when my natural light turns to snow, ice and bitterly cold temps {you know what I mean} I'll set up something in the basement and start playing around with light least I won't be lugging the stuff around and I'll be in where it's warm....

for now's outside shooting only for me :)

Glen Goffin said...

Beth - I was sortof kidding about the lazy part. If I get the opportunity to setup a studio then it will be a lot easier. I'm planning to get a couple pocket wizards and a shoe flash or two and use them for outdoor highlights. Maybe soon ... ;D Thanks for the great comments. Peace, Glen

Ángel Corrochano said...

A very good picture, with a charming expression. The warm color is captivating. That objective 85 is a wonder, the defocusing of the bottom is precious

Warm greetings

Ovalis said...

Very good advices you gave us in this post, Glen.
A photo amateur like me appreciate this sincerely.
I must confess I'm particularly lazy reading tutorials on
photography techniques.
I've checked the two links you gave...
there're some interesting proposals.
I liked the bright by reflection in your friend eyes.
Cheers ☼ !

Caroline said...

LOL...I too am a "natural lighting" girl. Because I can't afford the lighting...nor want to lug the stuff around. Plus I have only been shooting for less than a year and I am still learning. I am self taught and the learning curve is HUGE! :)

Glen Goffin said...

Thanks to all for the wonderful comments!

Beth - yes, inside is so much easier. Though I'm thinking about getting just simple 580EX, a simple softbox and a couple of pocket wizards just for daytime fill flash.

Ovalis - It's kindof where I'm at in my journey ... next week it may be fine art stuff ... who knows! I'm all over the map. There is so much to learn. Thanks for the nice comments.

Caroline - Me too, pretty much a beginner. But loving it!