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Understanding Light

Lesson 34 of 34

Clarifying Questions

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

34. Clarifying Questions

Lesson Info

Clarifying Questions

Can you describe who your inspirations are Yeah. and also, are there any resources, like say, online, that you would think that would be great for us to follow up behind this class? I have a lot of inspirations, Mona Kuhn is one of my big inspiration, K-U-H-N, she is a, I don't even know how you would describe her, fine art photographer, I guess, she's phenomenal, she's Brazilian, there's a guy named Andre Bichnick, I cannot pronounce his name, he is in... I don't know, maybe Amsterdam? I'm not sure, but he does a lot of nude studies, that are, to understand light, I think you should shoot nudes, that's, I do shoot nudes, but I think that that's a key element to understanding how to shape light and I'm not talking about, like, glamour shots and that kind of stuff, I'm talking about fine art nudes, that are about shape and form, that type of stuff, so he's one of those people, that does a phenomenal job and I'd actually love to take his workshop, he does one every year, but it's a...

bout 10,000 bucks, so I can't afford that. Then Ellen von Unwerth is a fashion photographer and I think she's the best, she is... she shoots women in powers of position and I sort of think that's awesome, so her work is terrific, definitely James Nachtwey is potentially my biggest inspiration of all, he's actually a war photographer. he's not a fashion photographer, but, James Nachtwey, I got to meet him once, it was so awesome, for like 2 seconds, I was like, oh, my God, it's James Nachtwey, and he's like, "Okay, thanks kid, moving on," but watch War Photographer, that is a movie, that every photographer should see a billion times and study. Bryan Peterson, he's on a AdoramaTV, is a huge inspiration to me and I'm honored, that we get to work together a little bit now, although, we've only met one time in our entire lives, but we do all these, like, remote things now, it's really cool. Let's see, who else? I mean the list goes on and on and on, but those are some of the people, that come top-of-mind to me, yeah, so start there, on my blog,, just go to, I have a thing called, Inspirations, I think that's what it's called, but you can type it in the search engine, Inspirations, and I've actually blogged about some of the things, that inspire me and most of those things are not photographers, honestly, they're travel and reading and some documentary films, they are music, they're Radiolab, I think everybody should listen to Radiolab religiously, it's the best podcast ever on the planet, All Things Considered, WireTap, I'm a big podcast listener, reading is a big deal to me, so I try to read as much as possible and then also some of those things, that the non-photography stuff is a little bit about what Spontaneous World is actually, is like what are the inspirations and how we're growing as people and what we see and what about different cultures and how do other people live their lives and sort of expanding your bubble of experience and how does that impact you, because for me, photography is my interpretation of how I see the world and if I see the world in many different ways, I can do photography in many different ways and so the more I can expand that, the better I can be at that and so, yeah, I could go on and on about that, but that's where I would start, go to my blog and read the Snapfactory stuff and then zip over to Spontaneous World and read some of that, 'cause there, one is about photography and one is just sort of about life and you can sort of see how those two things influence each other, is a phenomenal website all about studio lighting, it hasn't been updated in years, but they did a podcast for a while called LightSource, I think that's what it was called and they interviewed, I think 98 different photographers, Chase Jarvis was on there and then I was on there a couple of times, there have been a bunch of different photographers, that I'm sure you know, David Hobby I think was on there, Joe McNally, I'm sure and so those are like long form podcast interviews about inspiration and how it works and all those podcasts are still available for free, so I would check that out, man, SLR Lounge is a great place to go, there is, that list will go on and on and on, but yeah, those are some starting points, I'm sure I'm missing something that I love,, but yeah. Alright, Mark, well, I just wanna apologize to everybody online, because we've never really had a question free for all before and now-- And now it's just-- it's a little bit crazy. You should've asked while we were going. Yeah, we're not gonna be able to answer everybody's questions, I'm sorry about that, but I appreciate the... I appreciate the effort of doing a question free for all. I appreciate the effort. Okay, well, I have a question here and AJ in Chicago has been dying to ask this question, he's asked it so many times, so let's get his question answered and this is kind of a recap, he says, "Please reexplain how you measure with TTL "for the daytime roof shoot to accommodate the filter, "the nighttime version was negative three, "what was the daytime?" Okay, here's what we did, I will chart this out, I will chart it out. Do we have an eraser? I'll just use my fingers, I'll just use my fingers, so what I did was this, we had very specific parameters, that we had to work within, right, so we knew our studio strobe had, we had a sync speed barrier of 200th of a second, we knew that, we can't go any faster than and we knew that we wanted to shoot at F2.8, we knew that, so these were the parameters, that we needed to shoot in, we knew that the outside light was overexposed at 200, so our shutter speed should have been, I think it was 500 or 1000th of a second, right, that's what we needed it to be, so what I did with my camera, here's my camera, I had my own Neutral Density filter on the edge there, here's the sun coming in, here's the Lex standing there freezing, so what happened is I looked at all the buildings, that were behind Lex, so here's all the little buildings back there and I pointed my camera at these buildings and inside my camera, there was a little meter reading, little dots, one said zero, which is inaccurate and then these dots go like this, then there's another little dot, that sort of floats around back and forth and so when that is, when it's exposed correctly, when our background is exposed correctly, this little dot should line up to the middle and so what was happening is, when I looked through the lens, that little dot was way over here, saying the ambient light is overexposed by three stops, something like that, in fact it was flashing, saying it's more than three stops, so what I did was I rotated this Neutral Density filter and as I rotated it, this kept going this way and I just kept rotating it, until it lined up, when it lined up, that meant that we had darkened the scene enough, that it would work with 2.8 and and so what I did is I knew that I had darkened it at least three stops, but on the side of my Neutral Density filter, there's these little marks on there to sort of show from beginning to end and I knew that it was about a little less than halfway and a little less than halfway would be four stops and I knew based on my meter, that we'd adjusted about four stops, so I went to my light meter, that we were gonna use and I said to the light meter, hey, adjust by four stops and then I metered the light from my flash, so here's my flash, I metered that light and adjusted it, until it said 2. and I knew that even though this was actually brighter than 2.8, it needed to be brighter, because it still had to pass through this Neutral Density filter, that was gonna take the light, that was up here, four stops more and it would lower it to match this ambient light. When I wanted to underexpose this, I just kept turning this Neutral Density filter and it just kept going down and down and down, until it was three stops underexposed and then we just did a compensation for this to say you know what, now this is, whatever it was, eight stops overexposed or nine stops, I think it was eight stops and then we did the same calculation and that worked and I think actually when we did this calculation, we were using the B and the camera made the adjustment for us, we didn't even have to do it, it just did it, which is sort of cool. Thank you for doing that. Sure. I hope, does that clarify? 'cause, yes, okay. I think that's good. I got a question from Wendy, regarding the group photography from yesterday, how would you correct for the falloff you had on the edges, would you add more lights or if you didn't have a wall to bounce off of, or how would you meter the two, considering the cross-light effect? Yeah, so we did have light falloff on the edges, let me see if I can find that, just so we can show... it was in here somewhere, yeah, John can look for it, so the answer to that is the... modifier we had was a parabolic, or almost parabolic umbrella and so remember that saying, we want all the light to go straight forward pretty much and this umbrella was almost parabolic, so it was, the light spread wasn't very far, so what was happening is, the majority of the light was falling toward the center of our crowd and we're having light fall off to the side, so-- This is a white umbrella. Yeah, so if we had a white umbrella, you can see that the majority of light is falling right here on the center and we're having falloff over here and over here, so the secret to that would be instead of having light fall off, having our parabolic umbrella, that has light being very directional is to use a shallower, white umbrella, where the light was more diffused and going everywhere and not have it bounce around and so a different light modifier is what we would need for that, yeah. Great. Alright and one thing that we haven't touched on, Swanny would like to know about the ring flash and what's its best usage? The ring flash, we didn't bring the ring flash intentionally, because a, it's so expensive to buy one, so we're talking 3000 dollars for a ring flash, a studio lighting ring flash, that's good, I know that there are a few that are less expensive than that, so don't beat me up online for that, but the ones that I'm using are about that much, the other thing that, the reason I didn't bring it is it's a very highly specialized tool and so what it does is you put this, it's an actual studio strobe in a ring and you mount it to your camera and it fits around your camera and when you shoot, that light goes straight forward and so it gives you an even more pronounced outline on the body and this light is used mainly for fashion photography and glamor photography, that's where it's used and Saturday Night Live, so all those really cool pictures you see on Saturday Night Live, where the hosts are there and it's got that sort of dreamy look, you'll notice there's an outline, those are all shot with a ring flash and in my experience, when I am teaching a Studio Lighting class, we'll break the ring flash out toward the end of the day, 'cause if I break it out at the beginning of the day, nobody wants to shoot with anything else ever again, 'cause everything looks just amazing and so, and it's like, this is great, but it is great and it's a lot of fun, the problem is it's a look that is so stylized and so specialized, that the majority of your clients are never gonna hire you for that look, unless you're shooting fashion or glamor and so those are the two areas that use that, now I've actually modified my ring flash, so it doesn't mount exactly on my camera, it actually mounts on a little stand and you can put something on it called a soft light reflector and it behaves like a beauty dish, so sometimes when I'm going on location, where I have a power outlet and I can bring my pack and the beauty dish, I'll do that, 'cause it's smaller to bring that, than a bunch of other modifiers and I can actually use that ring fash as a normal ring flash or I can use it with the soft light reflector as a beauty dish and changing the direction of light, it can mimic a softbox bouncng off a wall, it can mimic a beauty dish with that soft light reflector, it can be a hard light just off camera with no reflector at all or it can just be a standard beauty dish, I mean, a standard ring flash, when it's actually on the camera and so you get a ton of different looks, but the reason we don't use it is it is something that is very expensive to have the one, that has the flexibility that I use, it's the Profoto Ring Flash and secondly, it's all consuming, it's like taking a hit of whatever drug, once you do it, you're like, I never wanna do anything else but the ring flash, it's awesome and people tend to get so fixated on it, they forget all the other stuff, so we intentionally didn't use it, 'cause I didn't wanna sidetrack everybody with the, oh my gosh, that's what I want, but I do have a video on my YouTube channel somewhere, if you just Google Mark Wallace ring flash, you'll see me using a ring flash doing all kinds of different things and so maybe that's a way for people to see that thing. Okay, great, well, what an incredible workshop, we are coming to a close everyone, Mark, do we have any final thoughts about understanding light and how-- Yeah, incredibly important it is for us photographers? I would say this and I think you said it on the rooftop, don't overthink it, so back to the very beginning of the workshop, when I said, hey, I used to assist for Karim Samsibasha and he told me that you have to understand light and if you don't get it, you'll never get to where you want to be as a photographer and then said nothing else, he didn't do that to be mean, I just was annoying, I think, but, so light can be understood and the language is not that difficult, we have hard light and soft light, we have lights that diffuse, we have lights that focus, we know about the effective size of light and how to use that and then we know that the direction of light changes our contrast and we know that color likes soft light that surrounds, we know that black and white likes very hard light, that is directional, we know about shape and we know about form and how that's created using the position of light, there you have it, that's it, so my suggestion to you is to go back to your homes or do this where you are at home right now, get one light, don't start with a bunch of lights, get one light, one type of modifier, usually just a normal reflector, don't start with a softbox, because the softbox sort of hides the shadows and then get a mannequin or a friend or a model and start by adjusting the position of your light, start there, just go back light, side light, front light, low light, high light, this side, that side and start understanding how the direction of light impacts your photos, start changing where you stand in relationship to your photo, or your light, to see how that changes the direction of light and then once you start understanding that, then start changing the modifiers and just go one by one by one through those different things and soon you will be at CreativeLive teaching an Understanding Light course and I'll be going, oh, I didn't think of that, that's brilliant, so just practice, take the principles, break 'em down, don't try to do all of it at once, just do one thing, once you sort of get a good feel for that, then do the next thing and forget about the rest, like that's what we did, in fact, somebody was asking, "How come we're not white balancing?" 'Cause we're gonna forget about that for now, we're just gonna focus on this thing and then do the next thing and then do the next thing and then try maybe a day of all of it at once and then go to the next thing, but yeah, it's just practice is what you should do.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.