A week in paradise teaching studio lighting & business practices

Photo above [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/60, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 35) flash used was Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Monolight w/ R2 2.4GHz using the R2 Mark II ETTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Nikon -1 EV setting with TTL]

Every year since 2006 Dennis Fahringer has invited me to teach to his School of Photography 1 students at the University of Nations in Kona, Hawaii studio lighting.

Stanley teaching “Butterfly Lighting” photo by Dorie Griggs

While I was originally asked to teach only studio lighting, I have also taught some on business practices.

I believe every successful business starts first with the customer and discovering what needs/wants they have and creating a business that meets those needs/wants. Too many photography programs only teach how to do photography and never give their students the one thing that will determine their ability to do this as a career and not a hobby–business skills.

selfie taken with the class in the photo studio

Dennis caps the class at 16 students. Normally he has a waiting list. This year we only had 4 students. This just meant this class got even more one-on-one time with their instructors.

The students were from four countries this year. Columbia, S. Korea, Canada & USA. Some years we had as many as 9 different countries represented. They fly to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and spend 3 months of doing just photography. I believe that Dennis has put together one of the best foundation courses for photography that I have ever seen.

My first day I teach how to turn on the studio flashes and how to adjust their power as well as how to make them work with your camera. Their first lighting assignment is to start with just one light and learn how to place the light in the starting place for most portraits. That is 45º to the side of the camera and then 45º above their eye level. When done correctly and the subject is looking at the camera you will get the classic lighting style of Rembrandt.

Here is a link to that first assignment they do in case you want to also try it yourself: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/08/seeing-rembrandt-lighting-and-then-creating-it/

This is Alden Engelbrecht, from South Africa. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10) © Kate Covington 2020, USA

Day two is learning how to do Butterfly Lighting.

Butterfly lighting is a portrait lighting pattern where the key light is placed above and directly centered with a subject’s face. This creates a shadow under the nose that resembles a butterfly. It’s also known as ‘Paramount lighting,’ named for classic Hollywood glamour photography.

Here is a link to that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2019/03/02/students-butterfly-lighting-examples/

Brandon Albers was doing homework until 4AM last night and this is him celebrating He is done and can go to the pool after 3 months of hard studies. © Diego Antorveza 2020, Columbia

Day Three we tackled 3:1 Ratio Lighting.

Lighting ratio in photography refers to the comparison of key light (the main source of light from which shadows fall) to the fill light (the light that fills in the shadow areas). The higher the lighting ratio, the higher the contrast of the image; the lower the ratio, the lower the contrast.

Here is a link to that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/10/lighting-setup-2-assignment-for-my-class-31-lighting-ratio/

This is Ireland Rash. She struggled when deciding whether or not to come to YWAM Kona, but knew God was calling her to it. She now confidently states that it was the best decision of her life. © Raylene Neill 2020, Canada

Mixed lighting assignment was to just use one light to improve the photo. I asked them to hand in 2 photos. One without the light and then the second showing how the light improved the photo.

Here is that assignment: https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/12/lighting-assignment-combining-studio-strobes-with-available-light/

I also asked that each photo have a caption. There are two reasons for this. First it is easier later to find the photo if you have text embedded in the metadata. Second is most clients will also benefit from having this information. We were not using the AP Style for captions, but more of a social media style for the captions. This was their first attempts for most of them in writing captions.

Myoungsuk Kim said, “This week has taught me that I can take photos not just for me, but to make photos for others.” That was one of the best things I could have heard.

You see most people want to do photography and get paid, but are usually self-centered in their photography. It is when you realize that when you make photos that others enjoy and more importantly use that they will pay you to do this and therefore make it possible to do this for a living.

“The evidence is overwhelming: The best way to get what you want is through serving others.”