Photo Notes

December 16, 2011

New Book: Photographing Architecture!

Filed under: Architectural Lighting,Lighting Technique,My Books! — John Siskin @ 6:44 pm

I just got the advance copies of my second book: Photographing Architecture. It appears that Amazon will actually be able to ship the book before Christmas, so order now. Pretty darned exciting!! All of the pictures in the blog this week are from Photographing Architecture. Of course you can also get my first book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting.
Also as sort of a continuing gift you can download copies of most of my articles
and some do it yourself projects. I wrote most of what follows for my Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio class at BetterPhoto.com. I teach two other classes at BetterPhoto: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting and Getting Started in Commercial Photography. I hope you’ll check them out. I have been told that prices are going up next year at BetterPhoto, so you might want to sign up soon. I have opinions about the value of proprietary strobes versus various kinds of manual strobes. They are based on my experience. Reasonable people can hold other opinions. I can only hope that these opinions are based on actual experience. Lighting is more of a language than an art. At it’s most basic level manipulating light can be discussed with numbers. We might call this a machine language. I began to learn this language decades ago. It was relatively difficult to learn because it was not described in a logical manner. I try to describe the language in a relatively coherent manner in my class An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. I think that the manufacturers of cameras would rather you didn’t learn this language. First they think you don’t want to learn and second it would reduce their profits. You can purchase a manual strobe that does what the Canon or Nikon proprietary strobe does for less than half the cost of the proprietary unit. While clearly the extra electronics do add to the cost of the thing, I wouldn’t guess that the extra cost would be very high. In addition these proprietary systems keep you from buying alternative products. I should say that dedicated strobes are great for flash fill and events: areas where auto exposure is particularly useful. When you shoot a wedding your goal is good and fast; when you shoot almost anything else your goal should be great photos. Also when proprietary strobes are used with larger light modifiers they could make a good quality of light. Since one of the best features of these lights is portability people often won’t carry large light modifiers. You can use manual lights with dSLR camera, from Nikon Canon and other companies. When you want to set up a shot with either dedicated strobes or manual strobes you need to be able to see what you’re doing. The idea that you can use the same settings on your lights and positions for the lights all the time, will greatly limit the kind of images you can make. This means that you need to pay attention when you design the light for a shot. It also means that, whenever humanly possible, you will want to do your set-ups tethered to a laptop computer or a tablet. Remember we want to take great photos, and so we need to see what we are doing. I shot a lot of film, and people often ask how I did that with just a meter. The answer is I didn’t. I used Polaroid for every shot I made: thousands of dollars worth of Polaroid in a year. I usually disconnect the camera from the laptop after I have perfected the set-up, it makes it easier and quicker to shoot. When you’re looking at an image, on your laptop, that you made with dedicated strobes you’ll want to examine the how much light you get from each light, the direction of each light, the quality of the light and the way the strobe light interacts with the ambient light. If you need to change the power of one or more of the off camera lights you’ll be able to do that from the camera. You can also adjust the balance between strobe and ambient light. The other things will probably require you to walk to the strobe units. If you need to change the power of a manual strobe you’ll probably need to walk to the strobe and adjust the power or the position. The biggest problem with automation is that people assume that the right amount of light is also the right light. Quantity of light is easy, but the quality of light: how hard or soft and color, require some practice to get right. One more thing, I use a lot of lights. I regularly go out on a shoot with eight lights. Not only do the manual lights I use cost less they use cheaper slaves. It isn’t that I didn’t spend as much on lights as other people, it is that I got more lights. I’m happy with the tools I have. I hope everyone has a great season of celebration! And a wonderful picturesque New Year for us all! Thanks, John
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