To tell you the truth, the first time I entered a photo studio I was nervous. It was my first studio class at college (on a two-year diploma course) and the thought of trying to create perfect light scenarios in such a clinical environment was daunting. My teacher talked about the mathematics of photography and would set up several lights, telling us how we would measure the distances and how this would apply to apertures etc. I was worried about how this would work for me as I have never been good at mathematics and the thought of having to apply it made me doubt my ability to be a good photographer. Every time I applied what I had learned during college I was disappointed with my results.I felt that I missed a connection with studio lighting and my current photographic style which at the time was quite conceptual and more fine-art based.
No one told me that every artist finds their own technique.
No one taught me that the most simple light setups were often the most effective.
For me, that was visually seeing light and understanding how it applied to my style, so how did I conquer it? First of all, I hid from it, the first introduction scared me enough for me to want to prove to everyone that natural light was better (and in my opinion, still is, which is why I like to replicate natural light in the studio, there’s nothing better than natural diffused daylight).
When I opened my business at 17 I realized that I was going to have to open my mind a little, especially when I started getting commercial clients. It’s better to have a extensive knowledge of a variety of topics, than to have none at all, even if it doesn’t apply to every shoot. I conquered my fear of studio light through constant experimentation. I saw the photo studio as a new playground. I started to apply what I knew about natural light - trying different angles, diffusion light and bouncing light to get a more natural look. When I started to bring it back to basics I realized I was able to develop my style as a photographer in the studio. When broncolor asked me to a be a part of their GenNEXT series, I jumped at the idea because it gave me the opportunity to push that experimentation that one step further and to have equipment at my disposal to be able to create continuously.
I find that the biggest mistake a lot of new photographers make (and I did this too) is to start with 5-6 different lights and/or light with harsh light sources. All of this makes an image look over-done and you can tell that the photographer is so focused on the technical aspect that they lose what they are trying to achieve with their overall concept. I also notice that there’s a lack of connection with their subject. It’s often the connection and the effort you put into the production of the concept that makes an image strong, not just the light. Light is important but shouldn’t always be the primary focus of the photographer on the day. Today’s trend in photography is to be minimal and more raw, and that’s not just the styling - it’s the lighting too. So many photo editors and creative directors today want to see simple light and the general mood/connection being the strength in the photo (unless of course, you are working on a large advertising brief where every product needs to be lit and the idea is perfection).
All of this brings me back to why I enjoy teaching lighting at workshops. Over the past 6 years of hosting these workshops I’ve met so many photographers who like myself (when I started) are totally confused by studio lighting and it overwhelms them. What I try to achieve with my workshops is to open the curtain to the fashion industry and give a simplified overview of lighting, posing, retouching, business etc. I want to simplify the methods people have let overwhelm them and help them visually see light and for them to understand how and why it works and CAN work for them. On my latest workshops in NYC at Colony Studios (link) I shared 4 different techniques using broncolor lighting & a few simple accessories to get the most out of the set ups. There was 2 classes back to back, a total of 35 students who all had different backgrounds. It was amazing to meet so many people from different cities and countries with so much variety in their portfolios.
Each student had the opportunity to shoot after watching me demo the set up first - talking through each light set up, then the posing the model. The goal was to simplify the set up and help them understand how I see what works and what doesn’t. Not everything works immediately and I show that on set - I set these shoots up exactly as I would do on a shoot with my team for a client. Nothing is different. If I take 20 mins to set up a shot because the light doesn’t work straight away, you get to see that. Sometimes you turn up to set and you get the PERFECT light on the first round of test shots, sometimes it takes you 30 - 45 mins, sometimes longer. I don’t start until I’m satisfied with what I see.
The results you see are a series of images shot with very similar set ups; just changing one thing each time - whether the level of diffusion (shooting through a scrim) to make the light super soft, adding a leg light for fill on a long dress (and to get more detail where the light falls off), using v-flats for bounce or to stop bounce and make a more dramatic shadow (using the black side of a v-flat), feathering the light and also changing the distance between subject and background. You can see from the results that my choice of light is soft (because of my style and the theme of the shoot) and that by changing a few things in the lighting recipe you can choose to go high or low key.
When it comes to choosing a light set up - I almost always use one key and one fill. For portraits and full length fashion editorial sometimes just one key which is a large diffused source such as the broncolor 150 Octabox. For subtle fill I usually ‘box’ my model in with v-flats or add another light on a low power, with a smaller diffused accessory such as the 75 (3ft) Octabox. With one simple set up and very limited equipment you can get stunning results by making the most out of what you have.
1 x broncolor Senso A4 Kit with 2 Litos heads
2 x Siros S
broncolor 150 Octa
broncolor 75 Octa
broncolor Softbox 60x100
BTS Images - Ksenia Lambert
Model - Olga @ APM Models
Styling - Mimi Kim
Hair - Yuki
Make Up - Misuzu