Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learnin' Something- The Joe McNally One Light Seminar

Since I began to take photography seriously in the past several years, one of the things I need improvement on is studio lighting. Outside I can pose the model in relation to the sun, lighting what I want, or I can hide them in the shade. I love natural light for the way it falls over faces and figures, clothes, and illuminating skin tones. Using a flash or studio strobes really threw me for a loop.

To further my knowledge I decided to take advantage of Joe McNally, a famous photographer for National Geographic, Time, Newsweek, and many others, coming to town for his One Light tour. photogs have always told me the best way is to start out with one light, master it, and build from there. Of course I didn't do that.

My lighting began with me mistakenly winning a bid on some inexpensive lights from ebay. I really didn't mean to buy them at all; I was just bidding for the heck of it, expecting my price to get beat. Oh well. I had 2 strobes, 2 stands, 4 umbrellas and all that. I got myself some cheap triggers and I was in business. or so I thought.

Using two lights gave my photos a magazine cover type of look, but I was often inconsistent, resulting in overblown or blurry images because of low shutter speed and misunderstanding the aperture. Luckily I took a workshop by Jasen Hudson a few years back and it solved nearly all the problems I had at the time.

But, I still had more.

I never got over this one shoot. It was my first collaboration shoot with a make up artist, hair and wardrobe. It was going to be outside and a fabulous way to start my new portfolio! What happened was that doing the hair and make up took longer than it was supposed to, and by the time they were done, it was dusk!

I used high iso and low shutter to brighten up the photos, but soon it was completely dark outside and the shoot was only half done. I was at the mercy of my on camera flash, which (unmodified by a diffuser or umbrella)  gives you bright, cold, unforgiving, unflattering light. Not surprisingly the photos came out very average and I never heard from neither the model, make up artist again. I can't bring myself to post the photos, though they might be on here already. Eh.

So, all this was in the back of my mind as I registered for this workshop. I wanted to learn how to do the same thing with external flashes as I do strobes. More importantly I wanted to learn from another photographer what "good lighting" was.

The workshop itself was packed like the Republican convention, it was huge! people everywhere. Joe McNally reminded me of one of my design teachers in that he taught a lot of information and used his personality and jokes to keep you from zoning out, or getting bored with the details. I even liked how he handled the hecklers. Who heckles a workshop??

Although the equipment he used was for Nikon, he made it easy to understand for any user.

The part I liked the most were the mini shoots in real time. That alone was worth the price of admission for me. I have this fantasy that since pro photographers shoot more than I do, they have the settings memorized and don't need think about  it. they have assistants who do everything, so every shot comes out perfect.

I was only 30% right. Pro photographers have an idea of what look they want, iso, aperture etc but getting it is tricky. It was great watching him pulls someone out of the audience, pose them, shoot, and make adjustments. We could see the results on a two huge screens. Often he and his team struggled with settings and modifiers until the look was achieved.

What was surprising to me was that in many of those shots, Joe reached a certain "look", a level of lighting exposure I normally would have stopped at, but he kept making adjustments until he was satisfied with another "look".

I'm sorry I don't have any examples; video/photography was not allowed. I did sneak a couple!

This was another important lesson for me. I practice with my own lighting but I continue to see photos with lighting styles I can't seem to replicate. I assume its because of lights/camera/lenses I don't have but Joe taught me that if you make adjustments to exposure -/+, power, you can do it. I used to change the camera settings, but this was the first time I changed the light power (for flashes.

All in all I was glad I went. I got some serious swag above, plus I joined the NAPP, got a free wedding DVD, and most important, knowledge to put in practice.

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