Why Light Matters


Lighting Essentials Workshop


Lesson Info

Why Light Matters

everything reflects everything reflects your green shirt reflects a little more than her black sweater blue jeans reflect probably a little more than the black tights but everything reflects so where do we see our subjects do we see the light there's a big light right up they're coming down here throwing a deep shadow on my eyes which makes me look a very mysterious don't you think big light up here you can't see the light you only see the light reflecting back to you light is photography the painting with light light on the subject so started thinking a long time ago about how I'm shooting and how my subjects would start showing me the light even things that were matt we'll show you the light and we have cem cem samples so what I want you to think in this workshop is light from the subject back every subject has a way of presenting light back to you're going to use terms like presenting light is presented back to the camera from your subject and we use different rules we got a couple ...

of rules and photography one is angle of incidence angle of reflection we're going to go through that everything reflects that's a rule we have different areas of lighting that we're going to talk about really specifically that air fairly a rules speculum highlights the shadow detail transitions thes air rules but where there are no rules is what you do with that to make your photograph and it's your photograph let's take a look at this it's up there I promise by the way when I'm doing these these presentations if any of you corporate folks air here I won't stand here and go why light matters I'm going to take for granted that gel can read so that's up there for you this's set of pool balls on the table without lighting it's not very pretty but what happens is I ve used light here to create lights and shadows I have transitions that air smooth we know that the balls around we see the shapes we know that it's would we also know that the backgrounds kind of shiny don't weigh we just intrinsically know that because from the time we're about three or four years through four years three or four days old we start to see the world we know what things are wet you don't have to go outside if you look out the window on the streets shiny it's wet right it doesn't just know one buffed it it's wet we know what things are wetter shiny we know that shiny things are smooth there's never really ever been a very shiny cactus you know we know that a cactus has thorns because we can see the detail when you see the texture we know old wood is got splinters because of the way the light reflects back to you presents back to you tells us about the subject so on this subject we have round surfaces we have different colored surfaces we have deep reds and blacks and we have whites and yet the light is presented back to us differently isn't it there's no soft box on this ball but there is on this one that's why subject matter centric matter lighting matters if I could just say it that's why subject centric lighting matters because our subjects change the light isn't different subjects different it presents back to you differently from the chalk than it does the wood we know these pew pool cues here are shiny because way actually feel them you can feel the wood in your head you could just see it light matters because we can control what our pictures and our our images do on there we go so in this particular shot is a shadow side of a warehouse not very appealing lighting wise kind of shadowy and so I just put a light to come in from the side it's a uh lightning umbrella to give the hero of the shot something to bathe in its a bathing light so we've created this area of light so you can see that she's the hero and it falls off no photo shop in this we didn't darken her burn or dodge and what have you it's pretty much the shot I think I like these up a little bit but uh way use light to isolate to set apart to take our subjects to places where they may not be in reality could we have shot this in pure shame sure in natural light is nothing wrong with natural light I used natural light all the time but we did something a little bit different with light to isolate here some seashells that I love to collect seashells that's that was my daughter so I decided one day to take a bunch of pictures of seashells I about once a week I try to do a thing I call improv where I take one thing and shoot it for an hour on them myself to an hour to see how many different shots I can get on this was shot on the actually shot on the front porch with a diffuser panel leaning upon a stand in the sun and it's very soft light and yet it reveals texture shape dimension system shells sitting on a piece of white foam core about this big it's not very pretty at all until we make the light work the way we want the light toe work and we understand how the shells well we frank grew refract the light back to us how it brings us back to the subject we have to understand our subjects and our light I think that when we we use light and form and texture in a photograph we invite people into the picture do you know I'm saying there's a dimensionality to it and trying to create dimension and a two dimensional world three dimensions two dimensional world best way I know of his toe light it so that you can feel the highlight and the shadows and you know where the light's coming from you can kind of understand the image talking about everything reflecting right how many lights in the picture too way instantly know that because we're we've been awake since we were four days old we know where light comes from we understand what light does that someone's standing in a doorway were there lit from the side we know lighting up here intrinsically we know it what happens is we tend to forget it when we get on to the set and we try to do something from lights in we think well I brought five speed lights I better use five speed lights no he's only what you need to make the shot everything reflects even this cloth hat you see this little ridge right here it's a speculator that's really every little fleck of linder what have not went but whatever the texture of the hat is is actually catching that light source and bouncing it right back to us and yet it's not a shiny hat we know it's not a shiny hat because we can see the texture of it and that's the light scraping across the side of something that has texture like an old barn wood or were these brick walls that we have here we know that the jacket is shiny because it has what I call liquid highlights the highlights are very smooth the only way to achieve that is to understand how light works and how it reflects back to you we have a uh face what is this here that's a speculator isn't it that's actually the soft box that's right back over there behind him a little bit catching this what does it do to us as viewers of the photograph isolates him puts him in the space gives him context the light from this side lights up the side of his face we're gonna come back to this shot tomorrow and talk about placing exposure but for now we we lit it and based our exposure on this side of his face and then I had to make sure that the light was broad enough toe like this jacket up because of the whole different photograph if we did not see the texture in that jacket behold different kind of photograph we need to understand that light when I say light matters it matters where this goes have you ever seen a photographer work and not move the light I have I've seen the light set up and the model walk in front of the light if tyra starts banging away you know the difference of six inches khun change the photograph terrific ly you have to know where that light goes have a couple little was well rules that will talk about that I wanted that I want to think about where we put the light is so very important yes can you question from photo baby can can you define what spectacular light yes yes and we're going to go back into the those five areas of light right after break but I'm gonna tell you right now what a speculum is is a absolutely reflection of the light source the best way to think of it is um you guys have sun up here occasionally right so on the four five hours a year that you guys have sunlight when you're when you're driving along and is late in the day and there's a guy in front of that little shiny windows on the back of his pickup truck the sun's back here and it's hitting it and you're going oh god that's a speculum it's an absolute reflection off the light source chrome bumpers the light pops off now in photography we've always considered just that with speculate that blinding point of light will reaction in reality the light itself could be refracted back to you reflected back to you by all kinds of things that is a dampened version a matted version of of the light source hitting it comes almost white here almost white with some little texture but it's almost white are light sources air wyke speculators are unless you gel the lights white and so this is a speculates is an absolute reflection of the light source we're going to talk about those areas and the true value and the shadow and the transitions between all three and you'll realize that you know this stuff intrinsically and you just haven't put it to use mine when you once you start putting it to use you'll know every little millimeter helps that help um on let's see here on and pre visualization helps you understand what the lights normally going to do and how really you want to make the shot look now this is a picture of rio on the beach in florida and sons back over there a little bit and that's giving us this little room light um and uh I should take a moment and say you know for for nearly thirty five years I photographed women it was a terrible job but someone had to do it I was so happy to be that guy um and now I prefer real people so those of you who want to shoot girls have at it I would like to shoot riel people now so we had the lovely rio who is a competitive surf border out there and she had the tiny little competitive surfboard bikini on and I thought you know I'm just so over shoot girls in bikinis holding surfboards put the sweatsuits odd now are they the the sweaters and stuff which made her very happy because it was about thirty eight degrees on the beach that day in florida that was the morning after it had hard froze the beach at sarasota hard froze all these had frost on hadn't happened since nineteen hundreds uhm and the wind was blowing but I wanted her to look riel okay you know I'm saying ad mei mei a little bit to it so I've got a light on her face from this side toe like this side of her face up give us a little bit of light in here I've got another light this way so better that her face doesn't go shadow between the two lights and then I let the feeling of the light come back this way letting the shadow drop in here the surfboard in her gives her a nice feeling of direction of the light but I didn't want her to look overly lit um overly contrived lighting emotion in a photograph is important to me and one of my little rules of thumb is for every light you add to the photograph you take away a point of emotion until you get down to the points have you seen the like the espn guys without football players here he's got a light here right here and light here like here like you're like here you know sixteen lights it's fun it's cool to look at is there any emotion in that photograph seriously now it's like an illustration today it's like somebody could've painted it it's cool but it doesn't have any emotions so for me the more lights I add the more I take away from reality and the mohr emotion that I start to lose and I didn't want this to be in an emotionless photograph I wanted to have meaning so when I stood there on the beach and I saw this dark hole and her and the light back there it was really really a lot of you know she was basically a silhouette against that I knew I couldn't have that so I provisional eyes this one of the things I do is I can actually say that most of the time when I'm shooting I'm seeing the finished product in my head before I even set up the lights as we're putting the lights up I'm already seeing the print I've already taken it through photo shop or if I want to be really really really creative I stick it in snap seed who all nah I'm just kidding um I see it I know what it's going to be I know if it's going to be black and white when I'm shooting I know it's gonna be black and white something you'll see later in the day I generally shoot in black and white previous anybody know why go back and write right but why would I shoot in black and white because you'll never see light texture ever in a color photograph like he'll see it in black and white when you remove the context of color you see texture and light and ratios and all of these things just jumping out at you back in the day and believe me folks I struggle real hard I don't want to be that originally old photographer goes you know back in my day way had to take the film off donkey stake it off into the woods and find a cave don't be that guy I'm happy with digital I love it is good but back in the day when we shot polaroids a shot black and white polar is probably twenty black and right polaroids to every color because the black and white would give us that information so when I discovered digital that I could with the the digital make the black and white haven't come up on my ipad or when I shoot tethered which is ninety five percent of the time um I can see more information we used to have wasted shoot either shot a lot of black and white I mean a a lot of eight by ten a lot of eight by ten and eight by ten polaroid was really really expensive dummy terribly expensive so what we do we should have a role on a sheet of role should a sheet of tri x and then run it into the darkroom and develop it decked all that's about eighteen seconds in the deck doll and it's pretty much cooked and make a quick contact print that was our full polaroids in the day so my butt again black and white so I pre visualize and try to make the shot look the way I see it in my head as being the shot that has the emotion to it this is dish on and he never modeled before never done anything before he's in he's in the book but uh you got a copy of um fantastic young man uh shawn's dark skin means that I can't light him the same way to get the same effect as I would like maybe a swedish model with blond hair because a swedish model with blond hair isn't going to show me that or that or that that that that that that could be there she's just going to be pale why is that something I just said earlier why is that she's gonna reflect the light differently yes because what are these speculators there speculators what color speculators white white so if the speculator white is against a white background probably not going to see it but is the background the subject's surface and color becomes darker than the speculator tends to stand out remember of wonderful model back from back in the eighties I think name uh hey mom not not hold on huh mon not c'mon grace christian jones grace jones remember anybody remember pryce jones I think this woman had like point one percent body fat I mean if that much she's most cut woman I ever remember saying she was very very dark so how do you photograph that very dark skin remember the shots of her oiled her up shot after shot after she's all oiled up so that the oil would then change the surface of her skin and you would see highlights the only way we can make highlights on something dark is to create highlights or dimensions the only way we'll get dimension on something dark is to create highlights so we take the shawn and I used the lights and a little bit of um canning what is canning oil or um which he applied himself never touch the models also never touched guy models who've never modeled before that's a read that that's a really rule because that kid does sean was wonderful but we got this nice shine and changed the surface texture of his skin and and it made a shot and it makes a shot that's more dramatic because of those highlights and shadows then it would be without you do you make a distinction when find photographic minority skin between using a silver reflector and a white reflector yes absolutely can you speak to battle a silver reflector or a silver umbrella look is my major a speculum light source it is like a like a silver umbrella is you know a brazilian maybe a gazillion and half tiny little speculators that come off there where ah white umbrella is a diffused light coming off so whether when I take a silver umbrella and you take the sun and you get the umbrella thank you can actually see that speculum highlight right that sometimes they kind of wavy looking he turned it over to the white sizes matt does the same thing on the skin so where we have a white smooth diffused speculator we have a very sharp bright hard edge speculum because it would be really a reflection of that speculum surface and this's this young lady is actually on the cover of my new book and I cannot get a hold of her tell her she moved so she could walk into a bookstore someday and say oh my um but she's she's wearing a black shiny satiny kind of top and look how the light works so differently on her she's smooth all the way through and yet when we hit the velvet it was it was a struggle to make sure that the light would actually give me that velvet because it wanted to suck up the light so how did I solve it that's a sixty inch umbrella brought in really close so the light is wrapping all the way around her and then right below her is a little shiny card and you can see the card in the lip you can see it on the edge of the chin here under the chin is is light but that card that's down here that's what's giving me this and it's important for us do you know what the word deliberate means in photography it means that everything we do we do for reasons there's a guy who plays drums for a band called rush name's neil peart he's pretty good best run forever yeah there's that too um he's an amazing drummer and one of the things I learned from studying with neil for a long weekend is that he does everything with deliberateness there's nothing left to chance neal plays every note on those drums and if you ever heard pictures from an exhibition that's a lot of notes every one of them are deliberate well if neil can play drums with deliberateness do you think we should photograph with deliberateness everything we do we own in that picture it's our picture we own every aspect of it so important this is ah something we have in the kitchen up there and I want to do a demonstration and we use the and I know what this is it's fake fake crushed ice for doing drink shots it's actually plexiglass you put your drink in there and fill it up with this and they don't melt it's really nice but I want to show the texture and color and the shape and the dimension of all of this this is my favorite shooting surface this is an old table from a welding company that is just the top of this steel cables just been trashed and I love it you know it's got different to different patina is on both sides so using light bouncing back again to answer the question that's a speculum those white that is the soft box being reflected back to the camera that is a white card being reflected back to the camera so what we have to understand is that rule that scientific rule angle of incidence equals angle of reflection where we put things will reflect back it's really really hard to photograph things that are really shiny number of years ago I was walking by a williams sonoma store and there's the catalog paige right there on in the story they've blown it up made it big you know for point of purchase and of course you know we're photographers what we first thing we do he liked that there's this big stewpot big silver stewpot and there's just white highlight this side and a white highlight this side and right in the middle of gotta put the camera somewhere there's a dark area and in the dark area there's a four by five camera and a guy doing this holding shutter thing it's like I guess they didn't see it or they just twisters before photo shop yes there was photography before photo shop I know I know it sounds crazy doesn't it um so they didn't take him out hear the photographer got himself into the williams sonoma catalog apparently several times but I wanted to create this and I couldn't just put a light on it I had to because it's it's glossy object it's just going to reflect my dark studio I had to create what it reflects sometimes I sleep on the forms hey how do you light a car you don't like what the car reflects you like everything around the car the car will be then reflecting what you've lived if you put a car here like that white wall the car will reflect the white wall if you're going to a shot of seattle reflected back in in the hood of a corvette he went to rent the corvette would you get a black corvette or a white corvette if you get a white corvette shot didn't work the white corvettes not going to reflect back you need to have the contrast of those white lights against the dark surface for the reflection will you on a mirror is it's black backside of mirrors black to get that reflection there's a wonderful process called ten type we actually make a negative and then you put it apply it to a black background and you have this beautiful photograph I've been shooting ten types lately I love him cool no dark robe uh anyway and even even in nature we confined it is this manipulated much and photoshopped ah little twenty percent burn on the edges but essentially it's just a little dried patch of this is a very beautiful beach and uh houston down in southern houston we're at this gorgeous beach and everybody's photographing the beach and I'm photographing the dried up mud patch that was by one of the cars parked because I was kind of cool but that's basically the brights part of the sun coming back into something not very shiny but shiny enough to give me a speculator in the center of it and it makes it kind of makes the shot work I think uh this is this a brand new shot I did of a uh a young lady uh briana and uh I asked her if she could float and she said just for a few seconds so um it's great when you have someone you work with somebody who really just stand here and jump like this over and over again you kind of go I got now let's just do one more oh I know it's just do one more and they do it you know it's really cool um but I this is in the shade didn't work in the shade a couple of things didn't work in this shape there was no contrast between her and the background so I had to do something so I put a light aiming back this way on the background why why did I move it so it's coming back towards may show the texture to wipe the old wooden doors toe wipe it with a little bit of light now how much brighter isn't than the ambient about two thirds of a stop that's it it's coming right in here you can see this is the ambien up here this is the strobe coming in here on a white door so not very much strobe it wasn't miami and I didn't have to take out a twenty four hundred watts second unit to this very small stroke uh pro photo three hundred cranked all the way down with a steel screen diffuser over the front actually cut the light by another stop I have neutral density filters for lights and they get really hot so to remember on this one up here just a soft box a little soft box coming right and she just jumped and looked into the box but what I wanted to do was to create dimension so I have highlight I have shadow I have transfers and transitions all through here that says that the light is soft because the transitions airsoft contrast is still there still a deep shadow transitions air soft that's important that's how we gauge whether a photograph is hard light or not remember your first influences and photography you remember the first photograph whoever saw that really well for me is when I was a kid but later in life um bring up thes second one here which is uh why does good like um later in life I uh kind of drifted away from me I was making pictures of railroads and stuff that was when I was a kid having fun doing that aunt I picked up a magazine and it had a photograph of a dancer in it it's black and white photograph was taken by a photographer named arthur elgort and when I saw that picture by arthur elgort I said I gotta do this again this is cool I never really thought of people taking pictures of people on the only pictures I ever looked at were landscapes and that type of thing um I had fallen in love with photography again by actually walking into a photo gallery and carmel uh when I was fourteen we were there on vacation and I walked in this little gallery right next to the restaurant we're having lunch and it literally took my parents about an hour and a half to get me out of there and hanging on the walls were edward weston imaging cunningham ansel adams and I had never ever imagined anyone could take a photograph like that ever was so that's where my life was I was taking pictures of rocks and stuff I saw this beautiful ballet shot by arthur old garden I thought that's pretty cool I want to do that I don't think I could have picked anyone better by the way uh arthur elgort uh you're not familiar with his work anything I'm not going to ask but if you're a fashion photographer and you don't know arthur elgort is you better look it up he's one of the master's all the one named guys how many you know arthur peter and steven they all know stephen from the famous myself uh steven meisel book of madonna patrick uh irving yeah when you when you talk about patrick and in new york everybody knows your time on patrick marshall talking about peter peter lindbergh he's the big names are their upper up and coming names absolutely wonderful up incoming names but these were the guys that you know back in the day that was where my guys and they're still shooting most of our still shooting I know steven is just wanna let you know digital post guru says creative live pete's this guy is great and we already got let's see a question from sam cox from loveland colorado who always has fabulous questions thank you sam how would one way of learning lighting b to study photos and estimate lighting diagrams for them perhaps or try to recreate them there are many many books out there I know a couple there are many many books out there that have lighting diagrams in him what you have to be very careful of our these lighting diagrams or napkin sheets because lighting diagrams should give you a point of reference square feet where those lights are placed are so important and I've seen so many books where they just saw the subject was here there's a pro photo six hundred over here what does that tell you nothing we were talking at lunch the other day or yesterday um about the old books the magazine's popular photographer every time they would run a ah photograph they put thie the film below it kodachrome twenty five one hundred twenty fifth of a second at five point six so what does that mean that means the next time you're at mount rainier you oh I remember that was kotaku twenty trust me it probably didn't work out too good it's useless if there's a grid for you to follow then I think it's great however you will never learn photography from a book not even mine even though mine would probably be closer than most now you'll never learn a target from a book you need to read the book put it down and go outside and shoot it was so much harder in the days when we had to spend money on film and processing you know so I'm not whining about it but it did go shoot it and I think actually sam's sam's question was about studying photos and then like this one say constructing deacon oh oh I'm sorry sam your holy lighting diagrams based on what you think might have been absolutely sam service understood that you start deconstructing right away and after the break when we go into subject centric lightings and we will absolutely show you how to deconstruct an image you'll know it and you'll start to see it you may not be able to tell what brand of soft box but she sure as heck will know that it's a soft box type light when you start looking at what the subject does back okay anything else quick question from greg mack is wondering if you uh use shoot through or bounce umbrella on the photo of the woman in the white woman in the black velvet blouse I used bounced sixty inch umbrella I used bounced umbrellas probably eighty per cent of the time and I'll show you why because remember I'm deliberate I don't I don't grab a light because I read about it on a form although I did buy uh a filter said but I read on kelly's for my kilby likes it all by that that's pretty cool um I like because of deliberateness I light because ofthe what thie light will do for me and when we get into what the tools do you'll start to see I guarantee you by lunch you'll understand deliberateness and why we choose the tools that we do

Class Description

Learn how to light in any situation. This special 3-day workshop will introduce you to lighting by learning the basics. Don helps you start evaluating light from a subject centric approach — teaching you to identify how your light will react to your subject. Don Giannatti’s workshop is perfect for photographers working to find their vision and their own perspective. You'll learn to use this knowledge of light to create perfect photographs. This workshop is a non-stop, hands-on weekend.



I just finished watching this course, and with teary eyes can say, without reserve, this class has been fantastic! Don's last session would be great to watch in the beginning and the end because it helps to understand his thoughts on being a photographer. The rest of the class is full of great information on lighting and Don is able to explain his thoughts and his processes with ease. I hope I will always think ahead and plan how I want my final results and how I want my subject to reflect light. Learning this was one of my "aha" moments during this class. I own over 30 Creative Live photography courses and this class is one of the top classes I own. I already plan on rewatching the whole class. Well worth the investment! I feel it is not a beginner course, but a intermediate to advanced one. Don has set a high standard in lighting...a goal to reach for...a goal that is possible for each person willing to take the time to learn and practice. Thanks Don and thanks CreativeLive!

Joao Alexandre Paulo

Great class, amazing instructor. Don's able to explain it so good that he makes it all look like very simple. I just have one comment and one request for the CreativeLive staff: When Don's commenting and analysing the pictures or explaining some features of them please keep the camera shooting at what he's commenting :) It would also be great if the way how the umbrellas and soft boxes are set up were disclosed, Ex: how the strobes and lights are mounted. Overall an amazing value for the price.