Monday, April 20, 2009

Do trends endure the test of time?

More question than answers.

Had a conversation a few days ago that I have been thinking about. I have talked about my lighting techniques in previous posts but this is a slightly different conversation.

Its about lighting! When to use lights and the lighting technique I have used over my career. Like so many things technique can be influenced by trends and the latest gadgets moving the medium forward i.e. the strobist and the on camera speed light flash systems. Amazing work is being done using little off-camera flashes. Yes, they are tied to a system but the flexibility is totally cool.

As a photographer are you influenced by trends? Have you ever lost sight of your identity or vision due to trends? Do you hold on to your ideals, techniques and style at the risk of looking dated?

I started learning lighting techniques in my home studio through trial-and-error. I took what I learned on the road later while working as a photojournalist. In the beginning my decision to use my lighting was predicated on if I found myself in bad light and reproduction. Some photojournalist refuse to use lights because of ethics and the influence on the overall scene. I lit many of my subjects but not all for same reason. As I sit here today I'm glad I did because it prepared me for the commercial work I do today.

I chose to use strobes primarily for reproduction. Since we were printing on newsprint I needed to provide pictures with good light and proper exposures. To this day I still use the same criteria when making the decision to use lights.

I try to keep it simple. One light most of the time. I have been told I use soft light. I guess that is true. As a former photojournalist I wanted my lighting to look natural. I wanted my light to blend in and give the appearance of window light. On my web site go to the portraits section to see examples. Almost all of these pictures are studio lit on location using a one light set-up and my so called "soft light" technique.

As I continue my walk-run through this profession. I see a trend that has been around now for a while. Its the high key over lit look. I appears there maybe up to 3 to 4 lights on a single person. Two very strong back lights rim the subject on both sides with a high key main light. Looks cool but it definitely isn't blending or looking like window light. These lighting techniques are not new just reemerging due to new technologies and the portability of speed lights.

My editorial comment! It seems to me that some of these over lit photographs are more about the photographer then the subject. These are new tools for photographers to use today and they do have a wow factor. They look cool and technically are very sexy witch makes me enter into the self-doubt thought process for myself.

I see it! I can't help but to think, do I need to evolve and change my techniques to stay current. Yes, this is a trend but will it endure the test of time? This is a test for me. Do I change, or do I stay the course?

I certainly don't want to look like everyone else but I can't help to question. Since I'm a creative person in a competitive environment I'm constantly questioning. Have I settle into a grove.

Have you crossed this path in your own work yet? Just a thought! Maybe, I need new lights?

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