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  • Nick Carroll

Don't be afraid of the light

I was afraid of using artificial light for my photographs for many years. It looked complicated and God's great light in the sky should be enough for anyone, even at night. And then I got a job assisting a master photographer.

For two years we lit every conceivable surface known to man: Glass; metal; textiles; skin; cooked food; water; hair and so on. This guy was one busy still life photographer and I owe much of my knowledge and skill to him.

Most situations call for very simple lighting - one, maybe two lights, with a bit of fill in the form of reflective white material to lift the shadows a bit. My lighting kit comprises a 3 flash heads and a couple of soft boxes. If you want a high rise building lit, I will rent film set lighting for the job.

If there is one lighting rule, it may be this: Make sure that source of the light doesn't reflect in the camera lens. It causes diffraction and your photograph will most likely have unsightly flare. Its a bit like driving into the sun and you need to shield the flare from your eyes by flipping down the visor.

To identify flare, stand next to the light source and see if the point of it reflects in the glass of the lens. If not, you are good to go.

So when my wife brought the King Proteas home, I "borrowed" one and snuck into the garage to photograph it. When photographing still life images, a continuous light source is best so you can actually "see" what the final result is going to look like.

I set up a soft box and strapped a domestic LED light to the inside.

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