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Natural Light Overview

Lesson 2 from: Build your Lighting Knowledge

Peter Hurley

Natural Light Overview

Lesson 2 from: Build your Lighting Knowledge

Peter Hurley

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Lesson Info

2. Natural Light Overview


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Natural Light Overview


Live Shoot: Maximizing Window Light


Live Shoot: Use Reflector to Enhance Natural Light


Live Shoot: Back Light Your Subject


Live Shoot: Back Lit Subject with V Flats


Live Shoot: Utilize ProBoard with Natural Light


Continuous Lighting Overview


Lesson Info

Natural Light Overview

I put this little presentation together for you, and we're just gonna go through some of my images that I've created over the years, some of my portrait works as it flows through and you'll see some of the stuff that I've been doing, coming up through this video that we're gonna play. All right guys, we're gonna talk light and that's what we're gonna do. We're gonna be talking light the next two days. I hope you're ready for it. The thing that I do is I teach a course called the Head Shot Intensive and I taught 'em all over the world. And I'm going all over the world teaching 'em and I love teaching photographers how to work with subjects to make them more comfortable in front of the camera. That's what that's all based on. The problem is I don't teach light during that course. So what happens is I teach the course over the course of three days and I notice, and some of you have taken, and you know this, I know you guys are in the audience that have taken my course. The day, when we st...

art shooting I just get so frustrated because I feel like the most important thing, which is the foundation of everything, is the light. So you could have the best model, you can having amazing makeup, you could have a great camera system. I'm shooting a Canon 5D Mark IV. The thing's awesome. And I also shoot a 5DSR, so I'll be using both of those today. I know everybody wants to know what kind of lens is sitting on there. It's a 24 to 70. I could have that. I could have a Peter Hurley Flex Kit by Wescott, whatever. I could have the best stuff. But if I don't get the light in the right spot, or light their face so they look beautiful, I think in all my portraiture, the face, and I do take a lotta head shots, but obviously as you saw, I do a lotta portraits as well, always lighting the face first. I always light the face first. Even if I'm shooting for a fashion client, I shoot for a lot of fashion clients and they're like, I'll light it so that the face looks great, and then they'll come up to me and say, "Hey, but I need to highlight the clothes "here and there and there." And then I tweak it so that the face still looks good, but the clothes look great. Right? The foundation being this light business, and the reason why I got to thinking about this because my studio, I've been in the same studio in New York for about eight years, and I looked, and I've got north light. It's beautiful soft light. Really great. And I look north and I had a great view, and I looked up several blocks up, towards Times Square, and one day, all of a sudden, there was a parking lot and there's, workers showed up and they started building something. And I look down out of my window and I was like, "Oh my gosh, they're building a building." and that building did not move for about a year. It took them about a year to build the foundation. And then I went off on one of my trips and I came back and I, and all of a sudden, next thing I know, the building was like, boom, up like five stories. Six stories, seven stories, something like that. And then I was shooting one day and I saw 30 dudes going up to this thing and building this, I actually saw them build this thing in a day, one floor. And then the next day, it was the next floor. And I couldn't believe it. I was amazed. And it was then, I was like, that's it. Photography, light is your foundation, and then you can build on top of that. But if you have the crappy foundation, you're in trouble. And then I was like, "Wait a minute, we got a problem," because the building is right in front of my window and I used the natural light through the window, and they put this white styrofoam on the outside of the building, and I looked out the window and I was like this, I could barely see. And I was like, "This is crazy. "Look at all this bounce I'm getting. "I'm gonna have to get some blackout curtains "or something for this." I was like, "But wait a minute, "that's just the styrofoam for the side." And then I looked around, I was like, all the buildings around it were red. And I was like, "Oh, jeez. They better not make it red." And then I got lucky and they made it in 18% gray (laughs). (audience laughs) I shot this through my window and that's how much light I get back. It gets reflected off the windows and stuff, but 18% gray. Did I get lucky? (audience laughs) I couldn't, but I watched this puppy go up and my jaw dropped. I was realizing how, how fast it went. My point is this. You build your base of lighting, you can build the building fast. You can create the picture fast. I think my base of lighting's pretty good. We got a couple good looking people that we're gonna get in front of our cameras, right? I'm gonna build their shot fast, alright? That's the plan. And that's what you have to do every day when you're working with clients. You gotta build your shots fast. Your base has to be done. I walk in, the only thing that changes for me when I'm shooting, my lights are set up in my New York studio sitting there right now, ready for me. Like, I don't change anything. Nothing changes. What changes for me every day? The human being. And I go for that. So I got my base. My foundation is solid. Okay, so the thing about it is that I think that as photographers, we're not taking enough time to really get into the lighting and see it and feel it. And it's not even seeing it, it's feeling it. It's like knowing, getting a feel for light. I think it's incredible. I was in... Dubai, I got invited to do GPP there. And I met a Magnum photographer named David Alan Harvey. And he said to me, he said, "Don't shoot what it looks like, "shoot what it feels like." He's amazing. His stuff is amazing and he shoots what it feels like. And I think we need to get a feeling for light. I think you guys wanna build up your feeling for light and your sensitivity to it. And all the lighting that ever happens or we ever wanna create happens in the real world. We see it every day. We walk around. I watch people and I look at the way natural light is affecting their face or the light in their environment, whether it's natural or in a restaurant and it's lit a certain way. I'm so sensitive to the light, I go to dinner with my wife and I will move us to a different table if I don't like the lighting on it. Or I'll look at the table and I'll be like, "That hot spot is not for me. "I'm gonna sit over here." And I never used to do that. I never used to think about light. In our living room at home, we have this really bright, it's kind of, I don't know what it is. It's some renovation hardware type apparatus. And it's got no diffusion on it, and when it turns on, and my mother-in-law lives with me and she turns it on full blast and I walk in the living room and I'm like, "I can't stand it! "Turn that thing down!" I've had it I don't even know how long. My sensitivity and my awareness of light in our environment is so high that when it comes to shooting, it's the attention to detail that's really gonna get ya. So you have to develop this. And this is something that you wanna develop and you develop it over the course of your career and it never ends. At the beginning of my career, I didn't have any of it. None of it. I didn't have any, I didn't understand light. I was... trying my darndest, trying my darndest to understand light and build that base. Took a long time and a lot of, a lot of trial and error. You know, and my trial and error is different than your trial and error. I was working in the darkroom, I was doing my own printing. I had to pull a Polaroid and wait two minutes. I have no sympathy for you guys. (audience laughs) You got instant gratification. So I'm sitting there pulling Polaroids, waiting two minutes while my flash sync is not in line and the thing's all black and I didn't know what to do. And I'm in the middle of Central Park with a model and his brother goes up to me and he goes, "Do you know what a flash sync is?" I was like, "No, I don't know what that is." He's like, "Here." And he did something with my camera. Next thing I knew, it worked and I was like, "Oh, there we go, okay." This was my start. You guys can have pitfalls. You can stumble. And it may seem like the simplest thing. But I stumbled along the way, and then I figured it out and then I went on. And I moved and I built this awareness of light. So this sensitivity of light in the real world, this is what I want you guys to start thinking about. I want you to go around, wherever you go today, I want you to look at faces. I want you, wherever you are right now, if there's a human being in front of you, if you're out there in the web, but if you go to lunch today or you go to dinner and you're looking at people, watch the way the waitress is lit when they come up to the table. Watch the way the restaurant's lit. Watch the way the person sitting on the bus is lit. Watch the way, you know, you're walking down the street and the sun's at a certain angle and you're getting a kick off a building and there's this beautiful kicker on it. I love the human face. I don't think there's anything more interesting than it in the world. There's nothing. What's more interesting than that? For me, as a portrait photographer, there's nothing. I live in New York City; It's awesome. I walk down the street, I see every different person looking person that you could imagine. It's insane. I'm like in a kid in a candy store walking down the street. I'm like, "What would I do with that face or this face?" So I'm also noticing the light on the faces as they pass. We can change the way people, people's appearance looks dependent upon the way we light them too. We can enhance their appearance, we can enhance their jawline, we could also show the curvature of their nose if they have a, you know. We could create problems for them too, and we wanna stay away from that. So for me, looking at the way natural light behaves. I took this picture a really long time ago. I love my old work. I haven't looked at it in years. I don't look at it very much, but I was like, "I love it." I was like, "I was pretty good." (audience chuckles) I was pretty good right off the bat. I don't know how that happened, but, this is Inayat, he's a friend of mine, and this is a shoot I did in my grandmother's house where I grew up on the Jersey Shore in this town called Mantoloking. We tore it down. So before we tore it down, I did a shoot in there and I had a lot of fun with it. But I want you to see my style of my photography is trying to emulate natural light. I think all the stuff and all the modifiers and all the lights and everything, it's basically simply that. A hard light is like direct sunlight. A soft light is like a day when there's some clouds. But I like to see how these shadows are, see how soft this is into here? And how subtle it is? And then I've got a subtle kick from this window back here? Like, this softness is what I like in my work. It just, and you guys have to develop a style and see what you like in your work. You might like really harsh shadows and really dark stuff. That's not for me. I mean, not really. I like playing with it, but I probably won't do it for most of my clientele. I like this soft look to the shadows. So I'll be working with that. So one of the things that I do, now I have a light meter here, I think. I have a light meter. I don't remember the last time I used this thing. But I brought it because I'm doing a lighting class. I figured I'd bring it. (audience laughs) I might use it. Somebody's gonna ask. "What's the number that blah blah blah blah blah blah?" Guys, if you need this in your life, I'll do it for you. There's nothing wrong with using them. And I used it when I shot film all the time. When I learned, I never took a class, but I had one photographer teach me a thing or two about working in the dark room. And I went to Spain and I bought my first professional camera with him when I decided to go pro. His name's Ramiro Montoya and he's in Madrid. And he took me all over the south of Spain. I was with my girlfriend at the time. We shot a bunch of pictures. She's now my wife; It worked out. And we went back to his apartment and we developed them in the dark room. And I remember being in the south of Spain. We were on this hill of sand near, what's the tip? Tarifa, is that the tip of Spain? I don't know. You guys know. You figure it out. Down in the south of Spain somewhere. And I said to him, he was shooting a Hasselblad film, it was all film those days, And I was like, "You're not using a light meter." He goes, "I'm a human light meter." I was like, "What do you mean?" He goes, "I know my setting. "I'm a human light meter." And I was like, "Really?" He goes, "Yeah, you gotta get there. "You'll get there." And I was like, "No way. "I have no idea what's going on out here." And then over the years, I was like, "Wow." There was one day, I guess I woke up and I was like, "I'm a human light meter." And I was like, if you can consider yourself, I want you to think about the light exactly where you are. Exactly where you are, put your fist up like this in front of you, and look at the light in the brightest spot. Everybody do this at home too. And I want you to figure out what you think, give yourself an ISO aperture and shutter speed for that light. And I want you to think about it and see how close you think you could get. And if you have a camera, take a picture of it. Doesn't matter that it's in focus or whatever. It's just for exposure, alright? And I'm not saying you need to do this to be right about the light or do anything. I'm saying you need to do this because you'll find out how sensitive to light you are in that second. In that second. So guys, let's try it right now. We're in this room. Here's my fist. Here's the highlight. It's coming from this window. Give me an ISO. I'll tell you the order I always do it in. I always go ISO first. So I pick an ISO from where, let's say I'm gonna be shooting a the Profoto strobes tomorrow, right? They're pretty powerful. The ones I have are B1s and D2s. So they're 500 watt/seconds. So if I'm shooting those, I'm probably gonna go a 100 ISO. They're pretty powerful. I'm not using 1000, I have a 24. My first pack I ever bought from Profoto was an Acute2R 2400 pack and that puppy still runs. And I bought it in 2000. It's amazing. But that's like our 2400. I'm putting that thing as low as it'll go on ISO. But we're in here. We're in here, natural light. So I'm gonna pick my ISO first. Give me an ISO. What do ya got? 100 (speaking faintly) 100? 400. 400, I like 400 better. You guys like 400 better. Everybody at home is nodding their head, 400's better (chuckles). (audience laughs) Okay. Next, I look at my lens and I figure out how far open it is. This is the 24 to 70 from Canon. The L series lens, it goes to 2.8. So I have my options there. I'm usually not shooting at 2.8. So my awareness to light is based upon the aperture I'm most used to shooting. So I'm usually at 4.0 to five, six these days. One of my friends, Carmen, gave me a nickname, 6.3. Because if you watch any of my old stuff, I was always at 6.3. But I mix it up. Stuff changes. I'm gonna say between f4 and six-three. So if we're 400 ISO, let's go f4. Now we just have to match the shutter speed. Isn't that the easiest way to do it? For me, that's the way to do it. So everybody at home, try it. See what you get. See how close you get. If you're really in a disaster area, like, if it's totally black, you know what you gotta work on. Now, I use it when I'm shooting because the first shot that I usually take, I like to get it as close as possible. And I don't use a light meter and I'm always on manual, so I don't use any meters in the camera. I don't ever use this thing. So I just like to use my human light meter to get it as close as possible. And usually, since I'm good at it, I'm gonna get it within one to two stops. And I shoot only raw. I can pull in. One to two stops, I'm fine. I can do whatever I need to do in that scenario. So I think human expressions are fleeting. And you guys are gonna be in front of my camera and you're gonna do stuff that I hope you do on your own, you don't need me for. And I'm gonna capture it. And if I capture that, you're not gonna do it again the same way. Nobody's gonna do the same thing twice. It's very hard for the, I want you to try this. Try this. When the next person you're shooting, ask them to do the same thing they just did. The shot five shots ago. See if they can do it. Nobody's ever been able to do that for me. So what's gonna happen? The shots are gonna vanish. So I become this human light meter in order to do that and get it going. It's a huge thing. Your sensitivity to light will amplify and then you will become a better photographer and your base of light will be so much stronger. We're already building a base. You with me? Remember, thinking apparatus churning. You got it? I want the question popping up. I want 'em in your head. Do we have any questions so far or? No? Nobody's-- Excuse me. Got questions, I'm rolling. Here we go. So, Peter, what did you come up with in that setting? ISO 400, right off the top of your head in this room? ISO 400, shooting at 4.0. Yeah. How fast is your shutter? Oh yeah, we never, you're right, see? Good thing you stopped me. My shutter would be about one, I would go 4.0, 400, I would go... I like shooting with highlights pretty hot, so I'd go 1/60th of a second. And it's gonna be pretty. Should we try it? Sure. Challenge. There's a challenge. (audience laughs) Human light meter challenge. Now, I'm just hoping it worked. I'm hoping it works and I'm hoping we can get within those two stops that I said. So let's fire this puppy up and let's set, what do we do? We do 60... F, what'd I say? 60th, F, four, 400? Okay. Let's do it. The other thing is, guys, I'm always on a tripod. I'm like a fish out of water without a tripod. I'm a complete disaster area. I love this thing. This is a FEISOL CT-3472LV. And if you look at that, (audience laughs) oh yeah. It's five years old and it is, I abuse it and it looks brand new. It looks brand new, like, to the point where I'm like, people have asked me if they could, I'd be in Europe or something or they can't get a FEISOL. They're like, "Can you give it to me "and go back to B&H and get another one when you go home?" I'm like, "No! "You can't have mine! "You know what, this is my tripod! "Nobody touches that!" Hold on, I'm gonna attach, usually, when you shoot tethered, you have to be connected to the computer. (audience laughs) That usually is the case. So I shoot, I use tether tools, products. And I'm always tethered and then I tether into Capture One and I love it and it works for me. And it helps me with clients. It's my number one coaching tool. Alright, it looks like we're in. I set the camera up. We're at 400. Now, well, let me just see. Is that on my hand or on your face? Because my hand is closer to the window than your face. Should I shoot you there? We're still gonna be within... Come up here and stand here. Stand, yeah, you. Stand where your hand was. Stand where my hand was. I was going off my hand. Come forward a smidge. Wasn't I, we're now, not that far, don't go crazy. (audience laughs) Come forward a little bit. There you go, stay right there, stay right there. Alright, we'll just fire this up. We'll do a, let me see here. Now don't, I gotta direct you? Have you seen any of my stuff? (audience laughs) Just jam your forehead out towards the camera and put your arms down and stay there. This is just a test shot. There you go, good. (audience laughs) Three, two, one! Shabang! That's pretty good exposure, see. I like the highlights. Look at that, hey. Come on, what's your name? Pete. Pete! Alright, Pete! Pete's the man. Alright, guys, so there you go. I like that background too. I like the shot, Pete! Thanks? There you go, you got a Peter Hurley original for yourself (chuckles). (audience laughs) So, now. This monitor looks awesome because it matches my monitor, which is awesome because I use this. This is key. So I use an X-Rite One Pro display thing. And I wanna stay calibrated. And I wanna make sure when I'm coaching, I like to be calibrated. So look at me. This looks a little cool, right? Looks a little cool? We'll warm it up a little bit. Let's warm that puppy up. Is that better? Is that better? Is that better? Could I keep going? No. No, come on, guys, everybody settle down. Alright, let's go back to the slideshow and rock and roll. Let's talk about natural light rules. Alright, so you got a human being. And you need, first of all, I need my clicker back in. So we're gonna, my other USB thing is busted. Alright, here we go. You need that. You need light. But if you're shooting natural light, and you have that, what happens? You get some harsh shadows, right? So I'd rather have it like this. That's much better for me because that's my softness. My attention to detail is soft, so I gotta, so if I am shooting in direct sunlight, you know I'm scouring the Earth for shade. I'm looking for a tree, I'm looking for an overhang, I'm looking for something. Generally, if I'm shooting (mumbles). If I'm doing a fashion thing and I wanna do some shadowing in some harsh light, I'll do it. I love this quote. I love this quote. Burn this into your brain. This is what I don't understand when I'm coaching and photographers don't get it. Like, how hard is it just to put the nose toward the source of light so that the shadows fall behind you? How difficult is that for you people? (audience laughs) That's it. I want you to remember this. Any time you're in doubt, you remember that. And it's from Walt Whitman. I think it's just fantastic. So this is where I start shooting. I wanna show you this 'cause I found these pictures. This is my apartment that I started my business and everybody asks me, "Can you start a business in an apartment?" Well, this is where I started it. Actually, I started it in my brother's apartment in the living room, which was even smaller. But then I looked for a southern facing window. So that window is southern facing. It was a studio apartment. And I was shooting people on that leather couch thing right there, that couch at the window, which I'm gonna show you the setup. We're gonna do it right now. And my wife got pregnant with twins. So she's hanging out on that bed while I'm shooting clients on that couch and I'm processing film and hanging up, this is where I built my business. I can't believe I found these pictures. I haven't seen that. I didn't know I had them. I found them, I was like, "I'm throwing 'em in here." That's the window. A lot of you guys have watched me, I have a lot of people that I'm, I'm so thankful for the people who like what I teach and like what I've been doing the last five years. Nobody's ever seen that. There's the window. That's cool. There's a lotta stuff in here that I dug up to try and find. This is the beginning of my natural light photos and my headshot work when I started at that window. So, really natural. You can see me in the catched light in the eye. You can see the window. The window has three panels and I love this work. I don't shoot anything like it now, really. I mean, my work has evolved from this work. But I really love this work. And it was based on this work. That shot is what I'm trying to emulate with the continuous light. The problem was is that I was shooting at that window and I was shooting all black and white, which is wonderful, right? Black and white looks great. I was shooting film. All of a sudden, actors in New York needed color. And I was like, "Okay, I'll go to color." Well, what I didn't realize, because I wasn't that sharp back then, is that when the sun rises, it's a little red. And then it comes up. And then it cools off at noon. It's a lot cooler. And then in the afternoon, it gets darker. And I got really frustrated with my color balance. I was a disaster area. And then I moved into a studio and I had no windows, so I had to come up with a solution and that was it. This same window, just moving your subject around. Same window, using the subject's body position to, and all I did was use V-flats. We got some V-flats back here and I'm gonna show this exact setup. So this is it. This is me shooting my daughter, though in a more recent version. But my butt's on the windowsill. I'm shooting natural light. It's the same couch that's in my studio now. I fold it down and I used to it people on it like that. But I don't really do that anymore. But this is the result of natural light. She's got good genes (chuckles). She looks like her mother. But this is more like what I do now. I develop this board, the ProBoard that's behind, this is my other daughter. And I like using reflectors underneath when I'm using natural light. Usually when I'm shooting continuous lighter strobe, I like to have the same source beneath the subject. So if I'm using Phil, it'll usually be a strobe if I'm shooting strobe or a continuous light if I'm shooting continuous light. So when I shoot natural light, I like to bounce natural light. I won't, usually won't add a strobe or continuous light to natural light. So what I do have is a silver reflector and a white reflector. One side and the other. So we're gonna try both and see what that feels like. And we're gonna do a similar setup to this. We're gonna start out with the setup that I started with, and then we're going to this. I only have, like, 25 ProBoards left in life right now and they're glossy, but if you use the code CREATIVELIVE and you're in the United States, continental U.S., you can get some of that if you want to try it. It is glossy board though. If it is direct sunlight, so we have really diffuse light here. This is beautiful. And these windows have some sort of texturized, tempered something or other on them that looks really cool. So you can't see through them. And it really diffuses the light even more. But if I had a clear window and sunlight blasting into this room, I'd want to diffuse it. When I started, I would just cover the windows with this type of operation. And we're gonna show you the difference between that, that and that. And this is the result. So I stand people up these days and I use that kind of set up.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP

Gear List
7 Peter Hurley Discount Codes

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Setting for Peter Hurley Westcott Flex Kit

Ratings and Reviews

Hannah Walker

I truly enjoyed this amazing lighting class. Peter Hurley shows you how he achieves his signature look using all forms of light shaping tools from natural light, to speelites and high end strobes. Seeing first hand how the placement of the subject to the light source and your lightning set up is so important to avoiding the hazards of flat light and haze. He teaches you his unique methods and secrets on how to make eyes pop and get the best color contrast without harsh shadows. You will leave this class energized to hone your own creative vision with light and shadows using the methods taught by Peter. It was a privilege to learn from a master like Peter Hurley. Thank you Creative Live for another amazing class!

pete hopkins

Peter Hurley is the real deal. Not only does he know and share a ton of really practical knowledge of studio lighting for headshots and fashion, but he cuts through the crap and tells it like it is. He is very encouraging and serious at the same time. He had our attention from Day 1. and never lost it. *Bonus Gold - You've got to check out his Hurely-isms. They are priceless! Aside from the new bag of industry tools to work from, Peter gave me a real, sober perspective on what it takes to be PROFESSIONAL fashion photographer! And CreativeLive provided the perfect setting as well. The whole CL staff were warm and inviting and the food was great! I highly recommend CL and P. Hurley to anyone who wants to learn from the best of the best! I can't wait to start shooting with my new skill set. Sign up for CreativeLive! Take advantage of all that they have to offer! Build a foundation, own your light, and Shebang!!! You'll be at the top of your game in no time!

Student Work