Butterfly Girl and a rant on lighting

I had a conversation recently with a potential client who wanted to see my portfolio. I showed them a number of photographs and they said "You don't use a lot of light in your photographs. I want to see your work with light". That made me pause a bit.. breathe in and reply politely. They obviously didn't know what they were talking about.

Like most photographers, I have invested heavily in light. At least I have a dozen heads. Big. Small. I use them but I think a lot of the time, photographers make light get in the way. Photography simply means "writing with light" but what most people don't get is you need to always answer the question " What am I going to write about with these lights?". If they stop to answer the question, they will notice most of the time, they are supposed to be writing about something else and not their lighting skills. A good handwriting is a good skill but as most of you know, in an exam you are supposed to answer questions not show off how well you write.

If the only way to say what you want to say is with heavy lighting, please don't cut corners. Use all the lights and modifiers you need... but when you are so concerned about light that you forget what your client really needs from you, then you've actually got it reversed. 99.9% of the time, your lights are supposed to help you tell a story. They are not the story. Somehow, I had to give my 2 pesewas worth on lighting today.

MUA: Renee Q. Boateng. Model: Claudia. Cheers.Butterfly Girl


Teddy said…
Hi Nana,

That's a very nice write up about the light needed for photography and a very nice picture to go with it too. Strong, powerful and coming out of my screen.

You're very right when you say the person may not know what he or she is talking about. Maybe it was a way for the person to try and show off small with the definition of photography. That is indeed the definition of photography, but I think also that photography has come a long way since then and there are a few more things that make up a good picture.

You can have all the ink you want in a pen, but if you scribble, it's pretty hard to read. What was your polite reply? "Do you use a lot of ink in your writing?"

Cheers mate
I think I politely said "O I didn't know you so wanted to see that kind of work. I will come and show you that later". You are so right about photography having come a long way. It really has :) So where have you been hiding?
Teddy said…
Chale, I'm around ohhh. Working on revamping my website to bring the photography to the front and the blog one level back. Got some ideas I want to implement as well.
The Client said…
I'll agree that clients can be air-heads most of the time thinking they know more than creative types but I think you got a bit defensive/snobbish there as all (supposedly)creative people do. I think it was an opportunity to delve deeper into the clients concerns and address them.

Your client mentioned your use of "light". Definition of light is "the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible". There's a difference between "light" and "lights". You say you've invested heavily on "lights" but I think you completely missed the point. "lights" ie your dozen heads do not constitute "light". They are just tools that provide the light required to make a picture.

It is how the photographer captures that light to to make a great picture is what makes the difference. There are a million ways where light could take a picture from dull and ordinary to amazing and timeless and it all depends on the photographer to see, use, manipulate and finally capture that light to make a compelling picture.

Understanding light is one of the hardest things a photographer can master imho without light there'd be no photography in the first place.
@ The Client:
Are you a client of mine or a potential one? For posting such a long reply on my blog, I will assume, you don't consider me a bad guy and so I will go ahead and say a few words to you:

I know for a fact that no one person knows it all. I don't know it all and I won't even pretend I do but to come on my blog and post a dictionary definition of light and telling me the difference between light and lights is completely insulting and unfortunate.

You must respect the fact that no two photographers work the same way. If you look at my work, it is obvious what kind of photographer I am, if I am not your kind of photographer, you just go get the right one.

I am a creative and I can be snobbish. No. Very Snobbish. I can give you names of people (clients) who think that about me but the good news is, I can give you a very very very long list of clients who don't consider me snobbish at all; and each of these happy clients are ones, who are excellent at what they do. They don't need me to try to "delve deeper" and feed their ego.

I know too many "failures" who today find themselves as clients and are in a hurry to talk down to creatives and other suppliers so they can feel good. It is always sad and unfortunate. The best clients in the world, I have learnt, are also the ones who are super good at what they do and also respect the lines.

Back in the day when I was creative director for an ad agency, you asked a photographer for his book, and if s/he's style is inappropriate, you go through the other books on your table to you find the right photographer for your job.

Most creative directors and most clients of mine are photography enthusiasts and some are exceptionally good and almost all of them love to talk about photography. Which is OK. Actually, there are people I meet with and we can talk photography for hours and I never mind but it is pathetic when all of a sudden, they start telling you what the definition of light is.

Even though I don't know who you are and how you ended up on my blog, you sound like just the kind of client I never want. And If I make the mistake of working for one, it's a mistake I'm always happy not to repeat.
The Client said…
Well I still must say that you still completely missed the point. You clearly don't speak like a "creative" photographer but like a dude with a camera with a knack for running your mouth to make a quick buck(not that its a bad thing:)-The world's big enough to accommodate ).

The advent of digital photography has evidently helped people like you more than you can admit. But whatever works for you I guess is what you'll stick with. Living in a reality distortion field is something I don't envy.

Cheers to you and Good Luck my "Pro" (DWAC) Photographer.

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