How to learn lighting

Many photographers learn the importance of lighting after a few semi-successful shoots. I tell people that instead of
focusing on the newest camera or lens, you should opt to learn more about lighting. After all, with the right light even
a disposable camera can take a great image.

There is light to make you fat, thin, scary, happy, holy, used, and anything else that might be on your list. As you know, I am
happy with the Alien Bee lights (at least for smaller and day to day shoots) but then comes the question of “what do I photograph?”

As much as we like to think there is never a shortage of friends and family wanting pictures taken (this is your practice), it’s difficult to have timing on your side. Lighting a plant sucks. Lighting objects is not good practice. So, what’s left to light that is almost as good as a warm body?

Buy a mannequin! Find them on Craigslist or call your favorite stores that’s currently going out of business. Ask them to see you their mannequins. It should be obvious, but please get one with a head! Many stores have the headless one but if you can find one with a head, face, and detailed body that is the best option. When I needed one, I picked it up from a little consignment store in South Orange County. My sister lives near by so it wasn’t that bad of a drive. I paid $50 for it, she even has make up on her face, and they are very easy to transport (they disassemble easily). The hardest part is dragging their nude bodies to your apartment or studio. Yes for a couple minutes, you look like a pervert but isn’t that the price we pay for good lighting skills?

One more note: I don’t care what anyone says about “that’s not proper lighting”. If you feel you like the light and it’s an unconventional way of achieving your light, just keep it! Don’t pay attention to the critics. If you like it, keep it. Simple.

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2 thoughts on “How to learn lighting

  1. In school, they showed us a model head and that is what we started to learn on. Then, we did each lighting scenario on other students. We photographed each other until we knew what we were doing.

    Of course, lighting a plant is hard…but I’ve found some great ways to do it with long exposure. 🙂

  2. N76 says:

    they really are the best way to learn lighting. The hardest part is finding a mannequin that has a face and not something smooth and ambiguous.

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