We were shooting in a bar/restaurant last Friday and one of the things we wanted to get out of the shoot was casual, candid images of people at the bar. There's a thousand ways to do that starting with the most expensive: Have a casting call, book professional models, bring assistants and light the place up. Direct. The opposite strategy is to find good looking or interesting looking people as they come through the door and offer to buy all their drinks and appetizers in exchange for signing model releases that allow us to use the images. Since single location restaurants aren't always in possession of enormous and extravagant advertising budgets we chose the second option.
Spa at the Lake.
We've all heard the hoary quote, "When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail." And this is especially true in the field of commercial photography. We're always carting around lights of various kinds and we come to feel, over time, that every scene should be lit. That no photo is complete unless it's been kissed by the pop of a strobe or massaged by some continuous illumination. But part of being a good photographer is being able to look at prevailing light and say no to extraneous light.
The shot above was lit by a wall of windows. There was no direct sun coming into the windows, only the glow from the open sky, but when color corrected it was as beautiful as any light I would have concocted; probably much better.
Spa at the Lake detail.
My second example of unassisted available light is this pitcher of water with cucumbers, above. When I realized that I could circle around the pitcher and shoot it contre-jour the image just opened up to me in a fun way. I could have tried lighting this for hours and not come up with a better shot. And it's a shot that also reminds me that not all light has to be softened or modified to work well for my photographs. This was taken in direct sun with no modifiers.
While our inner sense of marketing sometimes jumps in and tells us we ought to light in order to impress the client or to somehow elevate what we do above what can be done without the trappings of the professional it is good to clear the filters of the mind, from time to time and just recognize how beautiful the prevailing light can sometimes be. And that it is part of our profession to recognize that beautiful light when we are gifted with it...