Photography is an immensely technical discipline which can take many years if not decades to master to a competent or professional level – a source of great frustration to the many newcomers and amateurs who have invested in a nice camera only to learn that their shiny new box will yield nothing but junk unless the owner puts in the time to study the various components of their craft. And that learning curve never stops, no matter how long you’ve been in the business. For that very reason most of the ambitious and progressive professional photographers I know will grab every opportunity to work with those they admire. In fact every year I set aside time and funds for training in the latest lighting techniques, and this above all else will motivate, inspire, and reward. I’m a full-time portrait photographer and I very rarely set foot in a studio because I tend to prefer the variety and challenges of working on location. One of those challenges can involve having to work quickly whilst lighting your subject – and lighting is always going to be the most important ingredient of a well crafted image be it ambient light, artificial light, or a balance of both. For me this would involve simple speed lights or occasionally a continuous light source if the ambient light allows for this. Many of the most striking and creatively lit portraits and product shots are also the simplest, often involving just one or two lights. Some professional photographers prefer elaborate lighting rigs but without exception my favourite photographers are masters of simplicity and at times improvisation. One such photographer is acclaimed fashion photographer Jean Luc Brouard and I couldn’t believe my luck when a rare opportunity arose a couple of weeks ago to spend an evening shooting alongside him in Brighton at Create Studios.
Many photographers groan at the thought of spending time alongside a well-known photographer where lighting is the main topic – often things can become overcomplicated with a heavy reliance on rules which may not be appropriate, or worse, a platform for the lead photographer to demonstrate their style in a way which may alienate or intimidate the student. I’m delighted to say that nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Jean-Luc. In the hours we shot in the studio and on the dark rain soaked streets of Brighton we explored quick and dramatic lighting set-ups which were intuitive and fun.
A key component of the finished result is of course processing – my natural light family portrait shoots and social photography in general will rarely feature gritty production and if anything will be softened a little. But male subjects in an urban environment often benefit from some local contrast enhancement which will complement the hard light sources and bring a ruggedness to the features. Our subject was Conor, a welcome change from the usual stream of female models who tend to appear in the vast majority of fashion inspired shoots.