Soft, shadowless light has become the general direction that a lot of portrait photographers take, attaching fast lenses to their cameras, opening up the aperture as wide as their lenses will go, in order to blur everything behind the subject and I have been just as guilty of this technique myself.
I recently I watched Damien Lovegrove’s Lumen video that makes use of Godox Equipment and in particular, hard light. What really grabbed my attention apart from his images, was the limited amount of gear he used to produce images with so much impact, which got me thinking about embracing hard light, rather than steering clear of it.
I have been using Godox equipment with various softboxes and umbrellas for location shoots for just over three years now and although I am far from being a master of lighting, I am always looking to develop new skills and ideas in relation to lighting.
This weekend I decided to experiment with the Godox kit that I have and see what I could produce using hard light instead of using the light modifiers I normally use, so kindly Fran agreed to leaving her camera in her bag, so that I could experiment with hard light on her and stand around whilst I moved a light stand from one location to the next.
Godox AD200 with 5″ reflector
For much of the Lumen video, Damien uses 2 lights and two light stands, he does use a few lighting modifiers, but for the majority of the shoots that he walks through, he is using either 5” or 7” reflectors, so his kit is minimal. Apart from uniqueness of the hard-light images Damien produces, what really appeals to me is the simplicity and the reduction of the amount equipment he uses. Lighting modifier’s all have to be packed and carried to locations, so the idea of creating more edgy images with limited kit, is really appealing for numerous reasons. I also thought that learning to make use of hard light will also enable me to offer something different from my current equine work.
I am used to scouting out interesting backgrounds for horse portraits where I can make use of a shallow depth of field, but I decided to set myself a challenge, not to blur out backgrounds, so from the outset I would doing something different.
Damien takes no longer than 10 minuets for the placement of his lights to create dramatic location portraits, which is down to a combination of his experience, knowledge and skills, but also his creativeness as a very talented photographer. However, it took me a little longer, “but hey, we all have to start somewhere in terms of learning”.
I think the first thing I experienced and learned is that the placement of your lighting with hard light is more critical than when I have used larger modifier’s and made use softer light.
As I was not intending to blur the backgrounds, I thought I would try using different focal lengths and apertures to my normal 135mm to 200mm at f/2 to f/2.8, so the next thing I started noticing were textures and shadows, which I had up until experimenting with hard light overlooked.
There are numerous resources on the web that talk about soft and hard light, but when you start exploring and playing with soft and hard light, you start noticing many differences that you may have overlooked or even be aware of. By exploring and embracing the differences of hard and soft light, it is enabling me to further develop a better understanding of light and how it can be applied to create different types and styles of images. Playing with hard-light is rewarding and enjoyable no matter how many mistakes I make and I intend to keep practicing and learning.
Personally I think the Lumen video by Damien Lovegrove and his team provides more than just a look at how he creates images using hard light, it gets you to think about trying and doing things differently with light, and that’s what good education should do, inspire you to learn and try new things.
You can find out more about Damien Lovegrove and his training videos via the link below.