February 2021 // The Post-Production Edition

MOTIVATED LIGHTING

I am constantly working in spaces with terrible light. Mixed color lighting. Hard overhead lighting. Flickering fluorescents. I’m sure you’ve seen them all. Photographers normally counter this with supplemental lighting, whether it be constant or flash. When I first got into flash photography, I was only concerned with how the light impacted my subject. As I worked at it more, I began to pay more attention to how my lighting affected the space I was capturing.

In this image, the lighting on the subject is “motivated” by the desk lamp (a “practical”). The reality is my light source is out of the frame and the desk lamp is barely impacting the photo.

Enter “motivated lighting,” or lighting an image to appear as if the light is naturally occurring. Whenever I include a practical light source (a desk lamp or a candle) in an image, I try to make my supplemental lighting appear motivated by those naturally occuring light sources. This means mimicking the direction, color, quality or brightness. This small change is rarely obvious to the viewer, but that’s the point. If you can improve the lighting by eliminating the negative properties and replacing them with better ones, then you have improved the photo while not drawing attention to your lighting.

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