Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

April 5, 2011

Teaching Light

Filed under: Lighting Technique,Photographic Education — John Siskin @ 3:04 pm

I haven’t been able to get back to the blog for a few weeks. I’m sorry about that, but I have been busy shooting and arranging other crises. Anyway, here are the shameless plugs. My book Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers is on Here is a sample chapter from the book. Of course I still hope that you will consider purchasing my fine art book B Four: pictures of beach, beauty, beings and buildings. Frankly purchases of this book mean a lot to me, and it is also a fine gift for any occasion. I lowered the price a couple of weeks ago, and that has helped.  As you know I teach for I really hope you’ll sign up my class: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. Sign ups could be better this month, so please join the class!

Now that that is over with I wanted to say something about teaching. I teach on line for, so it might be assumed that I teach photography. That is not entirely true. What I really teach is lighting, as it applies to photography. There is a significant difference:  a big part of teaching photography is explaining to students how to record an image. That might be a mountain or a flower or a child, but the idea is to capture what you see. When you actually control light you create the image for the camera to record. You are painting the image with your lights. Photography involves understanding and controlling certain aspects of your picture, for instance how distance is recorded (depth of field) and how time is recorded (how much blur you might allow with the shutter). Lighting provides another tool kit entirely: where light goes, the transition between light and dark, and the color of the light. Often people come to my class with the idea that they can set up lights in ways that will work for most subjects, but this would mean giving up the ability to customize the picture for the subject. That is to create the light for the image.

Since I teach an introductory class what I try to do is give people an opportunity to experiment with the tools. I tell them how to create a very simple, and inexpensive, play ground where they can learn how light works. Play is a critical part of learning. Digital cameras make it much easier and cheaper to learn this way, because they give you almost instant access to your images. Consequently people should be learning all aspects of photography, not just lighting, faster and better than with film. At least I hope so.

One of the questions that I get is: “Will this class teach me to light…” And you can fill in the blank, whether it is people, architecture, product, fine art and so on. My goal is to teach you to light, period. If you understand how light really works you can apply light to anything from a flower to a mountain, but you may need more light for the mountain.

I’ve attached several shots of interiors to this week’s blog. These shots required a lot of control over lighting. I have to say that I do love a challenge. I used these shots, and quite a few more in a Blurb book for a contractor I work for.

I am asking some of my students, and anyone else who would like to participate (you?) to post their thoughts about the differences between learning photography and learning how to control light. Please post something.

I really hope you’ll consider taking my class at Sign-up are almost over, but if you sign up now you won’t miss a thing. I also hope you’ll suggest my BetterPhoto class An Introduction to Photographic Lighting to other photographers you know, or perhaps you’d like to give it as a gift? Amherst media sent me the cover for my second book, you can see it here, of course you can still look at my first book at Amazon ., The better way to learn photography


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