If you asked me which among all the skills in photography takes the
longest to acquire, I would say it’s the ability to find and utilize where the good light is in any scene.
It doesn’t come very easily because in order to develop a knack for finding the ‘good light,’ you have to learn to manipulate what’s already there in the scene.
Sometimes it’s very obvious, other times very subtle.
It’s only through using your own lights on location a lot, whether it’s a tiny speed light, a large studio strobe or even just a reflector, that you can begin to recognize the potential areas you can set up when you arrive for successful portrait photography.
For those too lazy to learn to use your own lighting, take note.
There is a wonderful unintended consequence of learning to light.
You will develop an awareness of light and start paying attention to light’s subtleties and before long, you start to recognize when the quality of light suits your purposes and your landscapes and event photography will see a vast improvement.
I kid you not.
Then before you know it, when you’re shooting fun stuff for yourself, you become a lighting snob, you only go out with your camera in the early morning hours or the late evening.
I use some sort of supplemental lighting in most of my work.
How elaborate and how much just depends on the situation and the scene I find before me.
It may be that the color temperature looks cold or blue and I just want to warm the skin tones of my subject or else I want to add some ‘pop’ or contrast.
The key is to light it in such a way that the viewer doesn’t even realize I’ve used lighting.
I want to make it so subtle that the viewer doesn’t even ask how was this lit.
I suppose in my mind, if the lay person noticed the lighting, then I would say I may have failed: the lighting was so distracting, it took the attention away from my subject.