June 08, 2012
Learning About the Magic of Lighting with Rick Friedman
If you have never done a photo workshop, and are remotely interested in photography, then you should figure out what you want or need to learn and set aside some time for a few workshops and classes. Why do one if you're not a pro or planning to be one?
Easy...workshops give you access to the best photographers in the world (aka the instructors) and people who are the most passionate about photography you'll likely run across (aka the attendees).
Rick Friedman is a well known photographer based in Boston who I met and worked with about 15 years ago. Although I've known of and respected his work for a long time, I've never done one of his workshops and the timing couldn't have been better. Rick's magic sauce? Among other things, lighting.
Lighting isn't an easy thing to master. If anything, I find the thought of dealing with flash more stressful than actually dealing with it. While mastering the art of lighting takes time and understanding it can be complex, once you dive in, you realize that you can get up to speed fairly quickly with the basics and Rick is an excellent instructor to get you there.
He did a series of workshops on the west coast recently: San Francisco, Los Angeles and the San Diego area.
While Rick is primarily a Nikon shooter, we had plenty of equipment and toys that worked on both Nikons and Canons and as most people know, I'm a huge Canon fan and am never far from my trusty Canon 7D.
His workshops are designed for wedding photographers, portrait photographers, photojournalists and serious amateurs who want to improve their knowledge of lighting. He started with a single light and a single piece of advice: "Look for the element you can't control and set your exposure for that unknown element," which btw, is often the sky. Read the ambian light first and proceed from there.
The strobe gets set to TTL because if you shoot on shutter priority, then you'll always be shooting wide open. You want to use a strobe to fill in the shadows on someone's face even if there's a lot of light. You can see this again and again with so many failed portrait shots we've all done in our lives.
We then moved onto Infrared remote controls which apparently don't work as well in bright sunlight and pocket wizards, which gives you a lot more flexibility. If money isn't an issue, go for the Pocket Wizards TT5s, because they can be used as both a transmitter and a receiver. (here's the one for Canon and here's the one for Nikon).
We tested out different light modifiers, using grip equipment, adding colors to images using Rogue's photographic gels and something they also make called a Rogue Grid Set. Frankly, next to the Rogue Flashbenders (they come in small and large sizes), I thought the Grid set was the coolest thing I used all day.
The Grid set also reduces light or rather diffuses it. It features stacking honeycomb grids that provide 16 degree, 25 degree, and 45 degree spot lighting control.
This means that photographers can choose among three different size grid spots using this small, lightweight system. Love love love it.
Since I didn't have much time with the product during the seminar, what I'm most eager to try in more depth is the use of the color gels inside the grid and testing them out in both indoor and outdoor settings (notice the purple one inside the grid in the photo -- more after I have had a chance to try it out).
Remember that I travel a lot, so bags need to get packed and moved frequently from place to place, so it's important for me that my equipment is flexible, small and lightweight. It also has to solve a problem I have often when I shoot.
Bringing along a flash isn't a high priority at the best of times, since I often end up with additional glare, shiny foreheads and harsh effects on people's faces. Flashbenders diffuse the harshness in a similar way that photo softboxes do however they're smaller in size and faster to set up. (this is key for me). And, while I may have the time to set up a reflector (California Sunbounce model is a decent one), more often than not, I won't have time to fuss. That said, I do have a reflector (the Calumet model), since they're useful to have on hand for a studio shoot and when you have more time.
If you have the space, the money and the time to fuss, then you'd probably want a Dynalite in your collection, but know that it takes a little training to use them effectively and they're over $1K to purchase. If you're going to do more studio shooting on a regular basis however, then I'd encourage you to check them out. (we got some pretty fabulous results using one in the Calumet studio, which is where the workshop was held).
Of course if you're Rick, you're used to carrying things around and sometimes in this business, a reflector just becomes a natural extension of you from time-to-time.
Matte Black Cinefoil is essentially nothing more than a matte black aluminum material that virtually soaks up light. It is ideal for masking light leaks and/or eliminating unwanted reflections and can also be molded to form barndoors, flags and other configurations.
You can of course overdue it with the colored gels but a girl has gotta play until she figures out exactly what kind of effect she ultimately wants to end up with...
I love Sepia, antique black and white and every variation in between, but if you're going to go dreamy and soft, you may as well add a tint of color.
Photo walk anyone? Our days were perfect.
Below is our team photo, the one we created on the fly after a little imagination and modification. Since we were in San Francisco's Mission district, adding a l'il graffiti backdrop seemed like the right thing to do which means that we required a lot less time to get the lighting perfect than the "Vermont" class who chose the inside of a New England barn for their shot.
If it doesn't look like we're having fun, then look again!
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