Photographers, when you’re panicking about a lighting situation, I know it can be tempting to settle for “good enough!”
But you and I *both* know there’s a HUGE difference between how a photo looks on the 2″ screen on the back of your camera… vs. full-size once you’ve imported into LightRoom.
All of a sudden what passed for “good enough” on set… now falls short of what you knew you could have done, if only you’d been thinking more clearly.
I wrote this post a couple weeks ago about why we must stop using the title “natural light photographer” as a shield/excuse for why we don’t need to learn off-camera flash (OCF).
And “good enough” represents a huge temptation to keeping clinging to that natural light photographer name plate.
But when you’re willing to push past “good enough” for the sake of your clients- when you’re willing to strive for excellence– there’s an amazing reward for BOTH your clients and you!
Your clients receive a better final product. It’s the long and short of it.
And you, being able to guar.an.tee results? It means the referrals come more frequently, and your rates will continue to grow.
And clients don’t leave rave reviews for average services.
There’s a quote I love by the Greek poet, Archilocus- “We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”
Take a look at these two photos of my client Wendy, taken one year apart-
September 2021 (natural light only)
f/5.6, ISO 2500, 1/80
Our primary light in the photo above was coming from a small window, located to the left of the frame. And the light coming in from the window was reflected off the swimming pool in Wendy’s backyard, right outside her studio. We also had light coming in through the window directly behind her, and I think we also opened the tiny door at the back left of the studio.
So all of the direct light on Wendy’s person was coming in at a 90-degree angle, and then that light was bouncing around the room to fill in the shadows (picking up color casts along the way). The background is overexposed because I was attempting to expose for Wendy’s face, meaning in comparison to the rest of the frame, Wendy is underexposed.
Let me be clear- this is still a beautiful photograph! Wendy looks incredible, and I’m still proud of this frame. It was what I call the “hero shot” from my client Wendy’s first brand shoot, and I’d be pleased to have that photo on display today!
After several shoots in 2022 that required me to flex every dang OCF muscle I possess, I took another look at this photo and knew I could do better.
So when Wendy told me she was planning to use this photograph for the cover of her book, I begged her to let me re-shoot this scene while we were planning for our third brand shoot in September 2022 (see shoot 1 here and shoot 2 here!), but this time with a *kiss* of help from my Profoto + small softbox.
Here’s what we came up with:
f/4.0, ISO 1000, 1/125, plus a Profoto light with a small softbox
Do you see how much cleaner her skintones are? How much more even the light is across her face, how much truer the colors are throughout the frame because I cleaned up my light sources? Look at the paper on the back wall- I didn’t have to blow out my background in an effort to light my subject, because the assist from my softbox gave me control over highlights on Wendy’s face & person, meaning Wendy pops off the background more (perfect for her book cover!).
I didn’t *eliminate* the natural light, I just cleaned it up- I balanced OCF with the ambient light coming in from outside, but because I was able to light Wendy’s front, there are fewer dramatic shadows across her face.
Here’s a side-by-side:
This is what OCF literacy can do for you- help you take your photographs from “good enough” to “excellent.” And the good news is that it’s SUPER simple! This was a one-light set-up. It was lit with just the one flash + the ambient light in the studio!
You don’t have to overcomplicate lighting- I know it can feel intimidating to get started, but there is so much more waiting for you on the other side:
If you’re a photographer who trembles at a forecast of gray skies or rain because you’re dependent on Mother Nature to generate light for you, it’s time to rethink you’re approach.
I promise- it’s easier than you think.
And the increase in your own confidence when walking into a shoot is worth the effort, 10/10.
We’ve got a brand new course coming in just a few weeks, Lighting the Brand Session! Get on the waitlist here to make sure you don’t miss the announcement + discount during launch week!