Exploring Light, Discovering Style: A Lighting Tutorial
Part 1: Introduction
By Bruce Dorn | February 01, 2011
Photography is about composition. Photography is about where you stand, both physically and philosophically. It's about the magic that occurs when preparation meets opportunity. It's about being in the right place at the right time. It's about anticipating the right place and the right time.
Photography is about framing a scene as your memory frames a moment. It's about relationships and spaces and tension and harmony. It's about chance and it's about skill. It's about ideas presented in black and white and as many shades of gray as you choose to acknowledge. It's about the psychological implications of color.
Photography is about light. The way light wraps a moment, the way it paints an emotion. Light shapes our perception and defines our world. Light creates the shadows that hide what needs to be hidden. Light reveals. Light illuminates.
We start by foraging for light, guided by chance and alertness. When the planets align and we find ourselves standing ready before an unfolding scene where a perfect background frames a fascinating moment and all are bathed in nature's exquisite light, well, what more could one ask for? Nothing but the grace and technical proficiency to create excellence before this perfect and fleeting moment slides irretrievably into the past. Relish these moments - that which is sought isn't always found.
For those of us who are commissioned for our ability to consistently deliver wonder, an understanding and mastery of artificial light is a powerful and priceless tool. Mastery in any artistic endeavor can only be earned through the diligent application of Knowledge, Experimentation, and Bravery.
Knowledge provides a firm foundation in the accumulated wisdom and technique of both ancient and recent Masters. Experimentation encourages deviation from standard practice and often offers the first glimpse of that unique and desirable "something" we call style. Bravery helps us tolerate failure and embrace serendipity as we carve our own private paths towards artistic fulfillment...
While the following series of lessons will offer very specific diagrams and guidelines relating to the images herein, don't mistake these to be formulas. Formulas demand precise compliance and rigid adherence to protocols. Formulas, like rules, are to my mind the antithesis of creativity. Artists have a license to sleep late, screw around, and happily stumble into all sorts of marvelous and previously undiscovered things. And really, where would you rather plant the seeds of a lifelong passion - in a cold and sterile laboratory or a lush and fertile field?
To mash my metaphors one more time, I suggest you think of these offerings as slickly-presented illustrations of imprecisely-recalled recipes of some very yummy dishes that I somehow managed to throw together in the moment. The flavors you seek may be vastly different from the ones served here, so take the following recipes with a grain of salt.
No, wait; make that a pinch of salt and a dash of cayenne. The variations are nearly infinite; feel free to mix to taste...
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