02 January, 2018

Lighting as remedy

Singapore Night Festival - Sigma 24-105mm, f/4 Art

In a studio you can "build" the light. You can start from black and bring in your elements until the light is exactly what you want. I don't have a studio.

I start with the ambient. I try to adjust the elements of the location (the location of the subject relative to the light and other elements) trying to avoid problems while retaining the essential elements, and only then adding what I think is needed for a well-lit shot.

It's said that lighting is everything — no light, no shot. And that's true; but like so many principles in isolation, it ignores something obvious — no subject, no use for good lighting.

In environmental portraits, it seems to me that lighting is largely remedy — I  want to start with the subject in an appropriate location, and then make the shot more than it would have been with the ambient light alone.

The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath has the injunction, "First, do no harm." Great advice for lighting. So what I can't improve, I leave alone.

At the low end of lighting is adding catchlights for the eyes. At the other (strong) end is changing the lighting significantly. For me this usually means LED lighting for minor adjustments and strobes for major.

My simplistic equation about LEDs vs Strobes, however, will probably have to change, as the strength of LEDs have increased significantly. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try the new, higher-power, strobing LEDs. Something for 2018, I suppose.

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