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edkoulak asked:
At what point do you know that you are ready to light a subject with more than one light. You preach that one should master lighting with one light source before moving on to multiple lights. Thanks

As I see it, lighting is a process that evolves over time. You have to learn how to “see” your lights. If you hand someone, who has little experience in lighting, a large softbox, a 10º grid, and a strip light and tell them to make a portrait with all three they will struggle and struggle to know what to do. Hand those three things to someone like Joe McNally and he could place those lights with his eyes closed.

You start with one. You get really comfortable with that single light. You learn what that looks like as a straight flash. Then you learn what it does in an umbrella. Then you learn what a grid does. And/Or a snoot, strip, gridded softbox, etc. You use that light over and over and over until you “see” it before it even fires.

One day you are working on an image in post production and you say, “You know what? If I had a second light I could have put that on the background to give my subject a little more separation.” When you start “seeing” where a second light could be of value then you are evolving and growing as a photographer. Then you see where a third light would go.

You’re lighting a subject standing near a white wall. One light on the subject. You want that white wall to be brighter… grab another light and light the wall.

You’re lighting a subject in a large room. The back of the room is going too dark for your tastes and there isn’t any ambient light back there to bring in. Or, if you do drag the shutter to bring in ambient light in the back of the photo, brighter ambient sources near your subject might overexpose. So you light the subject with your main light. Set your shutter to control the ambient near them and then put another light in the background to bring that exposure up to where you need it to be. 

Now you are starting to see in two lights. Then you’ll start to see in three. Then four. 

You’ll walk into a situation one day and say, “I need a large softbox right here to light the subject. I’m going to put a strip with a grid right here to add a rim light. Then I’m going to put two 20º grids on the back wall over there. I’m going to finish this off with one flash, at low power, pointing up into the ceiling to give a slight wash of light over all of it.”

There’s five lights but you won’t see them as five lights. You’ll see this as one process. One shot. There are five lights firing but they are all there to create one thing. 

You get there with experience. You do one thing over and over and over. Wax on. Wax off. Repetition and muscle memory take over and you will find yourself not thinking too much about it. You just know what to do and how to do it. Then you become a director. Now your brain is focused on directing subjects and not on the technical stuff. Lighting becomes as easy as breathing. You rough it all in and then finesse it where you need it to be.


37 Notes

  1. edkoulak said: Funny you mentioned the post processing part. I took a portrait the other Dayana’s when I was retouching it, I thought to my self that I needed a second light to complete the look. Thanks for expanding on this topic.
  2. zarias posted this