The following is a quote credited to George Eastman, founder of Kodak. “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
On Sunday 30 October, fellow photographer and friend, Rick Tolhurst and I held the first in a series of local lighting workshops we will be providing. We called it “Dawn of Light”. Yes, it is a catchy, almost meaningless title at first, but it actually fits if one applies a dictionary definition. The word dawn means, “the first appearance of light in the sky…figurative or the beginning of a phenomenon or period of time…” so, consequently, that title works well for those trying to help photographers enter the world of using and controlling off-camera flash for the first time.
Photographers all work with their subjects differently. Some might be portraitists, some call themselves glamour photographers, there are those that do boudoir, baby, or maternity sessions, some shoot family groups, and, of course, there are those that photograph weddings. The approach may be different, however, the one thing in common is the need to use additional lighting.
As instructors, we weren’t concerned about anyone being a beginner at lighting, or having never used a flash off-camera, because, the fact that these photographers were there showed they were ready.
The discussion and action packed day began with coffee, donuts and introductions. We had advertised, “This one-day workshop is really about one thing: using off-camera hotshoe flash with a DSLR to move your photography to the next level. The main objective for this session is using wireless, off-camera hotshoe flashes and balancing (controlling) light with ambient lighting.”
After the morning session of instruction, questions, and demonstrations, the participants grabbed their cameras, split into teams of two or three photographers and went at it. In a large room Tolhurst and I had set up three lighting stations; the first with a shoot-through umbrella and some reflectors, the second employed an umbrella/softbox brolly and another shoot-through, and for the third we had a 24” softbox and a 40” reflector type umbrella. We also placed a beauty dish on a boom stand. There were more light stands, umbrellas, softboxes and reflectors lying around ready for anyone who wanted them.
All the lighting equipment was fitted with wireless receivers, and all the learners needed to do was to take turns mounting senders on their cameras, and the large room became an animated, action packed scene. At this moment I stepped back to watch the enthusiastic photography students apply the information from the morning session into what can only be described as an exhilarating application. When this occurs my role is to act as a guide, an equipment mover, a resource for any questions, and the guy that congratulates successes. Tolhurst and I were busy interacting with the participants for the remainder of the day.
Many classes that are advertised as “workshops” actually are nothing more than long lectures with handouts. That works out easier for those putting on the session, as they present the subject, give demonstrations, answer questions and wait for acclamation. Many participants are so eager and hungry for information, or are at least enthused by what seem to be prophetic words, that they leave happy, but has learning occurred? Some even return home and try to do what was presented in the “workshop”. To me a “workshop” should be the same as those high school days when I took wood shop. I want to touch, experiment, and challenge what I just heard in the instructor’s lecture.
For this session we wanted an interactive class and that is harder, for the presenters become participants and loose the celebrity of standing in front. However, this workshop was about participants actually learning to use off-camera flash to combine ambient and electronic lighting in order to flatter subjects instead of just brightening them up.
Judging from the smiling faces of the group, and the images seen on camera LCD screens, and the follow up emails and Facebook messages I have received since Sunday, the “Dawn of Light” lighting workshop was a strong success. To make it more successful, those that attended should review their notes, find a subject, and spend some time reinforcing what they learned using off-camera flashes.