Lots of blog talk lately about what differentiates a pro from an amateur. If an image has what it takes, I don’t care who took it. Could be a top photographer or my Aunt Nellie: it’s a professional image. But on the over all career level, it’s usually the light that separates the pro from the am.
Top career photographers have to consistently execute tough assignments. The best professional advertising and editorial photographers relentlessly meet challenges posed by demanding conditions and impossible deadlines. They work with the personalities of difficult clients whose jobs are riding on the success of multimillion-dollar accounts. Most of all they have to know how to create, manipulate and control or fake great light.
The single most important step you can take to push yourself further into the top pro category is to learn to control light and to recognize intuitively when NOT to shoot in natural light. Photography is painting with light. Without a strong understanding of light and the ability to manipulate, control or fake it, your images will always be hit and miss.
Whether you are just beginning to see the light or a top shooter, you’ll find
an excellent place to learn or refresh your skills at http://strobist.blogspot.com/2007/06/lighting-102-introduction.html. It’s from the blog The Strobist whose tagline says it all: LESS GEAR • MORE BRAIN • BETTER LIGHT.
I learned about Strobist from Seattle photographer, Chase Jarvis. Chase is a smart guy that is terrific to work with. He brings back the shots (and more) every time. His images always have the edge that comes from a refined creative sensibility. I recommend checking out one of his behind the scene shoots at www.chasejarvis.com. See Raw Ninja under videos to see how hard work, talent and fun add up to some incredible shots. And because Chase is pretty secure in his talent, he also gives you a chance to see 2000 shots from light tests, not so good shots as well as the six or seven winners in Frames Hasselblad also in his video section.
If there is one photographer that has earned the title of the Master of Light, it’s Gregory Heisler. I was lucky to tag along for a dinner with him years ago in Tokyo and later saw him speak at an ASMP lecture in LA. Speaking of gear: one of the things I remember was that he had some ordinary kinds of lamps in his bag of tricks. I remember a little booklight. About his equipment Heisler states on his blog: “I’ll work with any equipment that’ll get me excited, facilitate my creative process, not get in my way, and will best address the needs of the situation. It’s all about the light. Seeing it, creating, controlling it, and using it expressively.” Study his work.