Leading an Outdoor Lighting Photography Workshop

Adding light  Bailea & Flash  Big lenses  Participants  Sarah lighting Bailea  Model in the meadow  Hide from the wind  Flash & Reflector  Low angle shot  Didya get it

I always enjoy the enlivened interaction that happens when a student of photography makes the decision to participate. During a workshop my job is to present information on the subject, and keep things going. I don’t like to be a demonstrator on stage and rarely pick up a camera during the workshops I lead. That is left to the participants.

Those are the words I used when I was discussing the first of two workshops I am leading this spring on the use of off-camera lighting. The first two-day workshop was about lighting in a studio and was held in a well-equipped photography location where I introduced how different lighting tools are used for portrait photography.

I have now finished the first of a two-session outdoor lighting workshop where the participants were surprised when faced with using many of those same lighting tools outside.

This workshop was about using light out-of-doors and I think returning participants were struck with how straight forward lighting is inside compared to outside. In the studio one synchronizes the camera’s shutterspeed to the studio flash and uses the aperture to determine the exposure of the light reflecting off a subject. However, out-of-doors a photographer is faced with additional variables and must balance the natural ambient light with an off-camera flash, and when using flash effectively it is more about creating and controlling shadows than filling them.

The weather was not willing to co-operate very much. It had rained all night and although the day brightened up some, a cold breeze from fresh snow in the mountains made us shiver when it wandered through our workshop space every now and then. Nonetheless, crappy weather or sunny days, it’s all about adding light, so in spite of the cool damp weather, the ten participating photographers and our intrepid model, Bailea, defiantly (maybe hopefully is a better word) stepped out of the warm studio and into the constantly changing light of day.

In this lighting workshop we dealt with the key aspects of outdoor portrait photography, such as understanding exposure, how photographers would learn to control depth of field, and to gain off-camera flash techniques that would transform their outdoor portraits into something special. And, as with my last workshop, there was excitement as participants got down to business and weren’t at all shy about getting shoulder to shoulder in a process of experimenting with and exploring outdoor lighting.

I had off-camera wireless flash setups in three locations, a large barn, a meadow beside a turn of the century horse buggy, and in the long grass where an old abandoned Cadillac rested. The photographers put each location to good use, and now I am looking forward to the next session. The few images I have seen so far are excellent and I am certain spending another day helping and watching each photographer’s progress is going to be a lot of fun.

Comments? I do like all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com



6 responses to “Leading an Outdoor Lighting Photography Workshop

  1. I’ve never actually attended a photography workshop of any sort. I’m wondering if I should or if I should just continue along my path of self taught righteousness. I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I have stepped outside my comfort zone so it’s definitely something to consider.


    • I like education and I am not a self taught photographer. I was a college photography teacher for years.
      I still attend workshops when I can, buy photo books and attend webinars on whatever interests me at the time.
      If you wander thru my blog posts, you’ll notice I’m not that discerning about my subjects; I like almost everything.
      Workshops allow one to interact with others that approach the same subject differently. I attended a scenic workshop in Southern Washington’s Palouse region last June and got so excited that I even bought a Full Frame camera when I got home.
      Yes, step outside your comfort zone….try something different..photography welcomes change.
      You and I have got to get together one of these days..Beware, I will pick your brain.


      • Interesting. I’m warming up to the whole notion John. On a scale of 1-10 I’d give myself somewhere between a 6-7 on my technical knowledge. My focus tends to be more on composition and the experience but I suppose I could only further compliment that as my technical knowledge increases. I guess it goes without saying. I don’t ever want to be one of these people though that’s standing there fiddling with camera controls and accessories and missing out on what’s right in front of them. You know what I mean?


  2. Although learning by yourself is nice I know that at some point a workshop will help. If you make a mistake and nobone tell the right way to do it ….. well you will continue doing the mistake


    • Having someone that is more experienced guide us into new territory is a great way to learn. We gain new perspectives into old problems.
      Although, for years my title was teacher, I prefer the term “leader”. When I lead a photography workshop on any subject, I like to think that I am building bridges. I will be discussing something and offering options and opinions…when I will see a participant clench their teeth, smile and snap their finger…They just got it!
      I like to think I helped them build a bridge between things they already knew. I allowed that person to learn.
      That is so much better than some person standing with a camera and demonstrating how “they” do things. There is no learning, just memorization.


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