Lighting: Eye-Opening into the world of photography

In an effort to increase my value for photography and a way to make money during the winter months in Ohio, I decided to invest in a lighting system for my Nikon.  I’ve by-and-large been a natural light photographer up until this point, but thought that I needed to add lights.  Maybe just because.  I’ve shot for a newspaper and have a good camera and host of lenses, but thought I’d grab a speedlight and some softboxes for my new studio.  Wow, I had no idea I missed so much with photography  until I (re)discovered lighting.

With natural light you use what is given.  There’s a lot of creative ways to make a good picture with available light, but at the end of the day you’re still at the mercy of the lighting in your room or time of day outside.  When you add your own lighting, you control everything, which is totally awesome for the people who have the creativity and technical know-how (you expose ambient light and flash).

christian lautenschleger portrait lighting setup
Here is a simple portrait lighting setup: main light and hair light. Click on the image to see the result.

A whole, new world opened up.  Instead of thinking about how you can adjust your settings to take a particular image in particular light, you’re now only limited by imagination.  That’s it.  Lighting is a “eureka” moment that I wish I had learned about earlier.  I bought a flash years ago when I shot Canon, but I did little more than bounce it of the ceiling (the light from the flash, not the flash itself).  And I never had a way to take it off camera.

Your mindset about photography changes 100% when you can control lighting.  Photography roughly means “drawing with light”; when you can control the light, you can control the mood, setting, and meaning of the image.  Light is photography.

And something else clicked.  I can do whatever I want.  It’s weird.  It’s a seminal moment that makes you completely change the way you think about photography.  I can make any photograph I want to know because I know how I can paint with light.  If I can do this with photography – something with which I have decades of experience – what can’t I do?  It’s interesting how a seminal moment of something I’ve done for decades could have such an impression of my life in general.

In one week my mindset went from “I think I can manipulate the light enough to get acceptable images” to “yeah, I can take excellent shots — when and where do you want me?”  From being apprehensive about certain shots to being completely comfortable and even embracing shooting portraits.  It’s crazy what a little knowledge and confidence can do.  From voraciously learning about lighting, I’ve completely started to think differently about photography.  It’s a whole, new world.

This also proves you can do whatever you want to do as long as you have a little knowledge and confidence.  Your mind is your biggest strength and weakness.  How you develop your mindset determines how far you go.    Although embarrassing because of how important lighting is in photography, it’s better late than never and has already opened doors previously sealed shut.



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