Film Photography with Strobe Lighting

 

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I have been a professional photographer for a long time, this is my 17th year in business in fact, so I'm one of those photographers who I started in film, I moved to digital when I thought that's what we had to do, and then I made the decision to come back to film and I always say that coming back to film was the best decision I made, not only for myself but for my business. But, when I made that decision, I knew that I was gonna have to make some changes in the way I work and the biggest one of those being around how I use light. So, before that time I had always been a natural light photographer and honestly, I kind of prided myself on that. Natural light's beautiful, this is natural light, it's beautiful. And, I feel like being able to see it and understand it and work with it is sort of one of those magical things that we can do as photographers. Not everybody can see that. But, the truth is I would tell myself and tell everybody else that I was a natural light photographer by cho...

ice, like I'm just a natural light photographer which was really code for I don't know how to use lighting and honestly it scares me (laughs). I kind of hid behind shooting with natural light. And, when I made the decision that I was going to come back to film, I knew that had to change. Because the problem with natural light is that it isn't always there, right? And I live and work in Seattle, Washington, so I really know this, like it gets dark here. We have days in the winter where the street lights don't turn off, ya know, all day. Or it'll get dark, it's totally dark by four o'clock in the afternoon, so when you're a photographer and you're relying on natural light to do your work, and to run your business, that becomes a tricky game and when you're a film photographer and you're relying on natural light and good weather to run your business, it's even trickier because there is just an inherent set of limitations that we have as film photographers that digital photographers don't have. For example, we are stuck at a certain ISO and it's usually kind of a low ISO if you're comparing it to shooting digitally right, like if you're shooting at 400 and it's super dark, you can't suddenly bump up to 6400, which is what I would've done with my digital. You gotta make it work, so I knew that. I also knew that coming back to film was what I wanted to do 100%. I didn't want to be a hybrid photographer. I just was so burnt out, I was so done with my digital gear, I didn't even want to pick it up. So, I knew that I was going to have to learn lighting and honestly you guys it scared me to death. I'm a self-taught photographer. I have never been to art school, I've never had any formal training and so as a self-taught photographer, studio lighting, flash and all that honestly just really intimidated me. It was stuff that I would hear other trained photographers talk about and it was like they were speaking a different language. I just had, I had no idea. And so I told myself well then it's just not for me, I'm just a natural light photographer, it's all good. But, it was a problem, like the truth is I even had a friend gift me a lighting kit, like, when she closed down her studio in the early 2000s. Gifted me an entire set, strobes, multiple strobes, soft boxes, triggers, the whole nine yards, and that lighting kit sat in the store room of my studio for years because I was so afraid of it and I didn't want to touch it, which is crazy. So, this is why I stayed away from it. I had a set of beliefs around what strobe lighting was and what artificial lighting was. I used to believe that strobes were super technical and hard to use. I believed that they would limit the movement and spontaneity in my work and that one was really a big concern of mine because like I said I work with newborns and families, I work with a lot of kids and you can't have a toddler just sit there while you, you know, do your thing, hold your reflector, or whatever, like you can't do that with a toddler so I was really afraid that strobes wouldn't allow me to have that kind of spontaneity and movement that I need to have in my work. I also really believed that strobes would look harsh and flashy, you know that flashy look that we've all seen and not pretty and soft and I like pretty and soft. I like shooting wide open. I like shooting an F2, an F2-8 and I love that, that's part of the reason why I love film, that gorgeous softness that we get with it. And I was necessarily convinced or didn't know how I would do that with using strobes. Everything that I could find that I had learned about or was reading about it seemed like people were always shooting at like F11 or F8 and I was thinking of those like Sears family portraits from the 80's where everybody's like super lit and everything's super sharp and I didn't want that. I was also really concerned that strobes wouldn't work with my vintage film cameras. By the way, if your camera was made in the 90's, that is a vintage camera (laughs) which makes me feel really old, but that's another story. Because, again everything I could find online or when I was trying to research lighting to teach myself about this was all geared towards digital cameras, digital photography so I wasn't quite sure how I could get this more modern lighting equipment to work with these cameras that I loved using, it was a big concern. So now I know that none of that is true. Strobes are actually super easy to use, you guys. You're gonna be amazed. We're going to get to the end of the day and you're going to be like that's it, that's so easy and I'm gonna be like, yup, that's it. So you can totally do this. Strobes do not limit my spontaneity or movement at all. I still work with babies, I still work with families, I still work with little kids and guess what, they still move. Nothing has changed about that and I can still do that all with my strobes. I also know that it's possible to create that beautiful, soft, natural light look using artificial lighting. I still shoot wide open. I still love shooting an F2, an F2-8 and I do it all the time, it's 100% possible. And I also know that strobes are completely compatible with every single camera I have and I have a lot of them, I have some of them here today so I'm gonna show you that. But, basically any film camera you have is gonna work with your strobes, so if that's a concern of yours don't be worried about that. The one thing that I know now that I didn't know before that came as a pleasant surprise, is that learning this, learning this whole lighting thing has really opened up my world. I feel like it has completely freed me of worry and stress because I know now that there is not a situation that I can't handle. If I'm outside shooting, awesome, I can do that, no problem. If I'm in a room and we have beautiful windows and we have beautiful light I can do that, not a problem and now I know if I'm in a room with no windows I can do that, I can create beautiful light. I can be in here, in this room, no windows and create the same look that I get in my studio using windows and that's great. So what that means is that there's no situation that I can't handle, I'm invincible (laughs). Which is why learning strobes is so great. So now almost everything I do I shoot with studio lighting, so if you follow me on Facebook if you see my work or if you follow me on Instagram, probably 99.5% of the stuff I share was shot with studio lighting and while I learned studio lighting just to get through the dark days of Seattle winters which are dark, I've actually really come to prefer it. I use it all the time, I prefer it to natural light which, gasp, I know right, said no photographer ever, but it's true, I love it. And so I use it all the time, even on bright sunny days and here's a couple reasons why. So first of all, I love the tones that I get with strobe lighting. Strobes are daylight balanced, film is daylight balanced, I feel like it's like two great tastes that go great together. They just, they love each other it's amazing (laughs). So I get these really beautiful tones. I feel like using lighting just brings out the best in my film stocks and so here's an example of two side-by-side images, same shoot, same baby, moments apart, one with natural light, one with strobes. And with the natural light image, the reason I wanted to share this is because I had plenty of light to get a decent exposure. I have huge south facing windows in my studio most of the time, during a good time of the year I can still get plenty of light to get those decent exposures, so I was fine. Baby's crawling, there's no motion blur, everything's fine. But it just feels kind of flat to me now. There was a time where I would've thought this light was just perfect and pretty. But, you can see like skin looks a little blotchy. Skin looks a little, hair looks a little flat and you'll even notice there's a slight blue tint to it and that's because natural light, or window light tends to be a little cooler, it's more like shadow light, whereas, with a strobe, then I turn the strobe on and just boosted that natural light a little bit and look how even the skin tones are, they just feel richer. You got a little shine in the hair. The bed, the walls look whiter because they're more of that daylight balanced so I just love those tones that I can get now. That's why I go for strobes even when I have enough natural light. The other thing I love about strobes and I kind of talked about this a little bit already is that it gives me control and consistency. Like I said, no matter where I am, I'm gonna have perfect light all the time. So it's like, I always say it's like my own personal window that I can put in a bag and carry with me and it's great. So I can be in a completely dark room, this was shot in a completely dark room, and it looks like my work or I can be in a room with window light and mix it and it looks like my work. I went to Chicago last month, shot in a client's home during the middle of like this crazy rainstorm, super dark, and those images look like my work. No matter where I go, I have this control and consistency and that's good for my peace of mind, like I said, but it's also good for my business, if you want to talk about it from a business point of view because I know that no matter where I am, my client's are going to get work that looks like my brand and that means they're going to be happy. So, you guys, learning lighting has absolutely changed the way I shoot film for the better. Ready for this? Aw, cute baby (laughs) and I know it's going to do that for you too so I'm so excited to be here honestly teaching this aspect of film photography is one of my favorite things in all the world so I'm so excited to be here and to do this, it's going to be awesome. So what exactly are we going to learn today. So, this class was designed specifically for film photographers, alright, and I want to teach you everything you need to know to get started, introducing, incorporating studio lighting, artificial light into your work. So we're going to talk about how to get our modern lighting equipment to work with our vintage film cameras, we're going to learn how to meter using strobes and flash for both black and white and color, and we're also going to learn how to create that beautiful, soft, natural light look that we get with, that we're used to getting with our film work but how to do it with strobes. And I'll show you how to do it mixing light so if you are in a room with windows and you're incorporating a little bit of ambient light and I'll also show you how to do it in a totally dark room, studio room. So we've got a lot to cover today. But this is what I want you to know, if you are like me, if you are all nervous about this, the good news is, you guys, you actually already know most of what you need to know to do this. And that's because light is light, okay. So if you can do it with the sun shining through the windows, you can do it with a bulb shining through a soft box, the same rules apply. So don't be worried, by the end of this class you're going to know everything you need to know, okay.

To get the best portrait straight out of camera you need to control your light. Family and Newborn Photographer, Sandra Coan, walks through how easy it is to use lights with your film camera for the most control over how your image ultimately looks. In this course, Sandra will talk about how to approach your photo shoot by thinking about not only your subject but also the film and the light you want to create.

You’ll learn:

  • How to sync the flash with your film camera
  • How to meter for your subject and the light you’re adding to the image
  • How to choose the best film based off what you’d like the final image to look like

Throughout history, photographers have been using flash with film cameras. In this course, Sandra will cover everything to give you the knowledge to start taking portraits with your camera and strobes.

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • Out of all the classes I own on Creative Live, Strobe Lighting with Sandra is my FAVORITE! She is an incredibly kind and gifted teacher. She explains everything on a simple level and then gradually build to more complex issues. I am 100% happy with this course. Thank you Sandra!!
  • Sandra Coan is a lighting genius! I loved watching her high-energy and super informative class. I learned way more about studio lighting than I ever thought was possible. I'd definitely recommend this class to literally any person in photography, not just studio photographers. Thanks Sandra!!
  • Do you own a film camera? Then you NEED this class. I knew I *kind of* wanted to try shooting with a strobe, so I bought this class as some encouragement. But honestly, I half expected to do the class and not actually buy the strobe (because strobes are scary!). But as soon as I finished this class I IMMEDIATELY bought a strobe, umbrella modifier, a backdrop, and seamless paper (in Storm Grey because I basically want to be Sandra.) I felt so empowered to shoot with strobes and film and suddenly what had seemed terrifying now seemed doable. My very first test roll turned out great after following Sandra's easy tips. Now that we're in the winter months, I can shoot indoors with my film camera and strobe! Thank you, Sandra, for so generously sharing your knowledge with us and for being such a great teacher! And to anyone even remotely considering this class, DO IT. There's no way you'll regret it.