My guess is that if you ask a roomful of professional photographers how many books about lighting they have read, it would be a bunch. After all, lighting can make or break a photo, and it’s one of the main things that distinguishes a great photographer from someone who is just learning. Everyone with a camera can get lucky sometimes and think, “WOW! That’s a great shot!” But do they really know why it was great, and how they got it to look that way? It takes planning, not chance, to create a fantastic image.
Neil Van Niekerk’s new book, Direction & Quality of Light, was recently released and is an amazing guide for professional photographers, as well as those who are just entering the world of photography. I am a portrait and event photographer, and one of the biggest challenges is to not only quickly “read” the light in a situation, but also know what my options are to get the best lighting. Natural light only? One light? Two or more lights? Flash unit, strobe, or video light? On-camera bounced flash? Off-camera flash? Manual or TTL? Add a gel? Softbox, umbrella, or neither? No wonder it’s confusing!
Not to worry… Neil takes you through not only what to consider in various scenarios, but also WHY. For me, that was the best part of his book. He explains his entire thought process, which is the piece that is so often left out of instructional books. We’ve all seen bad light and wondered how to overcome it and get a good end result, and this book will give you the tools to do it – by showing you examples with images and instruction. Neil shows you what does NOT work and why – first. And then what actually does work, and why it’s so much better.
If you’re a real photo geek and want numbers to crunch, there is plenty to chew on in this book. If you’re not, and just want to take the next steps toward improving your photos, you will pick up lots of tips. For instance, something so easy as this little tidbit: “You can change the direction of the light by changing your own position.” Simple? Yes. Instead of always standing directly in front of the subject, do we sometimes forget to move around the subject? Yes we do, and the light is immediately different. Good reminder, and a great piece of advice that anyone can use.
I have had the pleasure of working with Neil, and have observed how he thinks through lighting and composition. He is not only an exceptional photographer, but he is genuine and honest, and has a real passion for helping other photographers learn. While I was reading this book, there were so many moments of “I never thought to try it that way,” or “I had a situation just like that recently, and now I know how I can improve the shot for next time.” Better yet, is when I now say, “I see that reception hall, and I can either throw a video light on the subject for a bit of drama, or I can add an off-camera flash to create some directional light, or I can bounce my flash off that side wall… Let’s see – which one will not only work the best, but will also give me what I REALLY want for this photo?” Score!
This book is a winner, folks! To order it from Amazon, click on the photo at the top. Also, be sure to check out Neil's website, and in particular, the Tangents blog, which is a great resource for photographers.
When I had a chance to take photos in this beautiful natural light setting, I knew Rebecca would be great to work with! She is gorgeous and fun, and we were lucky enough to shoot on the only sunny day in the midst of a cloudy, rainy week. Love her soulful eyes and creamy skin. Super job, Rebecca!
What young boy has not imagined driving a vehicle, long before he is old enough to drive it legally? So I decided to combine the themes of boys and toys into one shoot. The toys for this shoot included an old pickup truck, a motorcycle, quad, and (wait for it...) a backhoe! You may wonder where I found all these -- right in my backyard, literally. :-) Paul had a good time exploring, and I just followed him with my camera. Reminded me of when my boys were young, with never-ending curiosity. Before we know it, Paul really will be driving a vehicle - but for now, it was a fun time to imagine it.... Thanks, Paul!It was at this point that Paul asked if he could jump off the side of the truck. My answer: "SURE!" He jumped too quick for me to get the shot, but trust me - he was lookin' good! ... :-)
This portrait session was especially fun because my subject is a photographer! In fact, Cheryl and I are not only friends, but we have worked our cameras side by side at several events and weddings. So we have that extra bond -- friends and colleagues. What a treat to have her in the studio, where we spent time laughing, decided on outfits and jewelry (she basically brought half her closet, which was great!), and ended up with some really nice photos for her to enjoy. Cheryl is a natural at posing, and her personality comes through beautifully - love her free spirit!Don't you love this hat? I wanted to keep it..... :-)
And those shoes! -- A perfect complement to her butterfly tattoo!
Victoria has a real interest in photography, and a few days ago, she came to the studio to observe and assist with a session I had planned. Only 12 years old, she already has a keen eye for photos, and we had a great time photographing RoseMarie, a model friend of mine from our local CLICK group. Victoria jumped right in there with her own camera, and proved to have a magic touch in tossing a white piece of fabric over RoseMarie's head for one of the shots! It's so inspiring to see young people who want to develop their skills. Way to go, Victoria!
Victoria did a great job taking on a seasoned model!
Victoria tossed the fabric with precision (and a little bit of luck!) for this shot...