Like everybody else, I turn up at Welshot events and Eifion has worked his magic with the lighting ready for us to start shooting. Let’s be honest, it really wouldn’t be practical for even the more knowledgeable of us to start doing our own thing with the lighting, and it lets us just concentrate on whatever else it is we’re there to learn, be it directing a model, macro or any of the other creative things Welshot comes up with. But how does a beginner like me start to learn about lighting? Well, you can buy some equipment and hope for the best, but most of us worry about making costly mistakes with the wrong things that we’ll never use. Fortunately for me, help was at hand with the Welshot Photographic Lighting Academy Weekend.
Saturday at the Welshot Photographic Lighting Academy Weekend
It was a deliberately small group, giving everybody a chance to try everything, so the four delegates soon got to know one another and the first morning was spent discussing the different types of lighting and modifiers available.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to commit it all to memory as Eifion had prepared some notes for us, and there was plenty of space to jot down any extra information. (Vital stuff like where to get it and what price we could expect to pay!) Time then for a quick first attempt with a single studio light and Eifion in an unfamiliar role as our model, before play stopped for lunch.
In the afternoon we were joined by Kate who modelled beautifully (and very patiently) for us while we tried various lighting effects.
We learnt so much, not just about positioning lights to get all those looks you’ve heard of like Rembrandt and Butterfly, but also things like how to darken the background or use reflectors to soften shadows. In between, we posed for each other and experimented with some “cheap and cheerful” continuous LED lights to see what we could do with them. Aargh!!! I’m really not comfortable on the other end of the camera. We rounded off a busy day by trying out some coloured gels to transform the grey backdrop behind Kate in her very elegant evening dress. Well, almost – we had one small extra task. Lee is sporting a new look and was keen to show it off, so our final shots for the day were of Lee in a new outfit specially created for her by Paula Cain of The Chester Costume House.
Sunday at the Welshot Photographic Lighting Academy Weekend
The second day brought a different model in the shape of Karrianne, and she kept us all on our toes by constantly transforming her appearance. Even Lee was slightly confused by the number of models we seemed to have in the room. We started with a whole new experience – taking to the streets of Chester with Off Camera Flash.
Again, we learnt a lot from this, starting with no flash at all and then gradually increasing the power in subsequent shots to see the different effects – as well as changing our shutter speeds to get a dramatically different look from the background. A change of location and more of the same, this time learning to get the desired result from the extreme contrast of dark and light in the rows.
Back at the studio, we were able to put into practice what we’d been learning and try out different types of lighting in combination with different modifiers, such as soft boxes, shoot-through umbrellas, reflectors and beauty dishes – as well as having a go with one and two Off Camera Flash lights in place of studio lights. Interestingly, I think we all came to different conclusions about what equipment we need, depending very much on the genre of photography that most interested each of us. Portability was also an important factor, as well as how much space we’re realistically likely to have to set up our lighting. That in itself was a valuable lesson and I’m sure will save us from buying the wrong type of lighting for our needs. We also learnt the pros and cons of TTL and light meters, and that more expensive isn’t necessarily better. More importantly, whatever we ultimately choose, we’ll also know how to use it.
I can’t say I’m now an expert, but I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and came away armed with the information to help me make the right choice of equipment for my needs, as well as the confidence to have a go and keep practising my new-found skills. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Most definitely!