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What about the Light? - seeing is Believing - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Norman Phillips Published 01/02/2010

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"…the weakest element in professional photography is lighting technique…"

I have presented over 260 seminars and workshops (and by the time you read this I will have added two more at the Societies' Convention) and written countless articles and nine books in which there has been a dominant theme - Lighting.

The subject has no end and there appears to be an ever-lasting need for information on lighting techniques. Despite all those programmes and writings, not only mine, but others such as Montizambert and none less than the late Monte Zucker, there is a general consensus among leading industry practitioners that the weakest element in professional photography is lighting technique and many blame this weakness on the advent of the digital camera. e using film, even if ratios and exposures are more critical.


The issue with digital is something of a red herring from a technical viewpoint. The influx of countless new 'professionals' in photography has created an overwhelming majority with no experience of film technology. Many have jumped into the discipline with the notion that if they shoot enough images one is bound to come good, and if not, there is always Photoshop. But there are two things that cannot be fixed in Photoshop, posing and lighting. I accept that we can mess around with the lighting in post capture but anyone who knows lighting technique will very quickly identify its relative failure and the great waste of time cancels out the value of even a modest improvement. So why not get it right at the time of the exposure?

One of the more interesting aspects about lighting is that no matter where we are and regardless of the light available, if we learn to 'see' light there are images to be captured everywhere. All we have to do is see it. But the practitioner who successfully captures images with available light is a rare breed, yet this kind of image-creation teaches us more about lighting than a five-light set in the studio. And often the five-light set-up in the studio is unrefined because too many have not learned to use just one light before using all five. Truth is, many times just three would have been adequate and there could have been a saving on the electric bill.


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1st Published 01/02/2010
last update 16/10/2014 21:52:40

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