January 2022


Initially, unnecessary complexity is one of the biggest obstacles faced by those delving into studio work. Too many lights and light sources, too many session goals, too many techniques integrated at once, etc. Simplicity is synonymous with elegance, which we must never forget! Furthermore, the quality of the tool is much less important than the caliber of the craftsperson. Heck, one of my favorite photographers, Paolo Roversi, creates photographs that feel more like surreal dreamscapes than reality, using nothing more than a flashlight! Whether your primary light source is a window, strobe, or constant of some sort, focus solely on that. Then, learn how to modify the light, make it harder or softer, moody or organic, etc. Additionally, explore what happens when the light is in front of or behind your subject and when you add positive or negative fill, further away or closer. Train your eye to see the light produced by the source and the nature of the quality of shadows. In doing so, it begins to become clear that we are limited much less by what’s available and much more by what we can imagine or envision. One light offers nearly infinite possibilities! Since a studio environment generally allows us to control all variables, it offers an ideal setting to learn how to see the light and shadows. By isolating specific light sources and extensively exploring how that source can be altered, we begin to see not only what is present within the space but what is possible within that same space. In addition, we vastly expand our visual vocabulary and ability to create through this learning process, as our language exists within the interplay of light and shadows; our stories are borne of contrast.

As you progress in your ability to effectively and consistently shape and modify one light to your liking and vision, you can begin to add in additional sources as you see fit. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if you decided to stick with one light. :) Truth be told, I rarely use more than two light sources, generally natural light and a single strobe—and my favorite, and arguably most iconic, work was created with a single light.

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