On this video professional photographer, Karl Taylor talks briefly about 9 mistakes that you need to avoid when using lights in a studio environment.
After over 30 years of professional work and years of teaching photography, Taylor acquired quite a bit of knowledge about what to do when it comes to lighting but also about what to avoid and what common mistakes photographers tend to do (and not just novice ones).
Here are the 9 mistakes:
- Understanding the physics of light – nobody is expecting every photographer to take a physics class but you do need to understand some basic physical/optical properties if you want to improve your work (these include things such as the inverse square law, angle of incidence, angle of reflection, color theory and more).
Bonus video: Aputure on the inverse square law
2. Fear of experimenting – there is no fit all formulas for lighting – each location, subject, gear etc. make a difference. Don’t look for easy shortcuts – try, fail, and try again – this is the only real way to learn.
3. Working with a light meter – this sounds counter-intuitive but Talor is a firm opposer to using a light meter in the digital age. He believes that you can get better and more importantly more creative results by trying (and trying again) instead of relying on what the computer in the light meter thinks is the “proper exposure”.
4. Lithing from the front – this one is a very common mistake with new photographers. Lighting your subject from the front will typically give you a very flat image. Photography is a 2D medium aiming to give a 3D perspective and thus creating depth with lighting is essential in most types of shots. Side lighting or backlighting (for product and food photography), can bring results that have more depth and look more professional.
5. Relying on shutter speed – when using strobes the shutter speed is no longer what is going to freeze your subject, the duration of the flash will.
6. Lighting from too far away – for whatever reason many photographers are hesitant to get their lights really close to their subject, however in some situations, this is exactly what it takes – see the inverse square law video above), so don’t be afraid and if you need place the light source just outside the frame (this is especially important when dealing with reflections and glossy materials).
7. Not understanding shadow depth – many photographers disregard the importance of shadows (and different qualities of shadows) when they shot, this is a shame since shadows are a very important creative tool, and understanding how they work (how soft/hard light, large/small light and the distance between the light and the subject all influence the quality of the shadows).
8. Choosing the wrong modifier – the shape of the subject, the type of light that you want for the shoot should all help you determine which lighting modifier you should consider – Tylor gives a few examples – a simple one to understand is that you won’t choose an octabox for shooting a wine bottle (a strip light is a much better choice in this case due to the shape of the bottle). You have to think creatively here – even if you don’t have the modifier that you need at hand you can always adapt a different on (use flags for example).
9. Use lack of gear as an excuse – some photographer like to make excuses (I could shoot this if only I had… a more powerful flash, a higher resolution camera, another light, a bigger softbox etc.). Yes, gear can help you work in a more convenient way but in most cases, if you only take on a problem-solving attitude there is a good chance that you will be able to take the shot even with the gear that you already have.