David Hobby’s stunning mistake
Just read an article about this image belonging to Strobist David Hobby.
In short, this was his test shot that eventually became the final product.
His original shot in mind, apparently, had a lot more details in the shadows. I have yet to see that shot but I reckon it would take away the grittiness and the mood created as a result. This would make the photo far less convincing as far as emotional appeal is concerned.
“But you gotta be willing to say, “That’s kinda better than what i was doing,” and just go with it.”" said David Hobby.
I am happy to say that I myself was fortunate enough to encounter a few of such scenarios. On top of that, I think such encounters help define your photography style as well.
Why do I say that?
When I started out photographing people, I struggled to find an approach that I liked. Very often, what I perceived to be nice was what the pros were doing – I merely tried my best to do imitate them. So when I saw people take really nice portraits with tons of lighting, I would try to do the same, perhaps doing one better and call it my style.
It never really worked out.
Things started to change back in early 2009 when I planned to take part in a photography competition.
I thought I had it all planned out: speedlights, speedlights and more speedlights. It was the in-thing to do after all no thanks to David himself.
So that night (I chose to do a night shoot), I started out fixing the lighting for my subject in every method possible. Hair light, fill light… you name it, I tried to do it.
It was a tiring affair as well.
The turning point came when, fed up with all the hassle of setting up the lights, I took a minute to stone and think of my next photo idea. I remember my Canon 5D2 was parked on a tripod and I was gently leaning on it with while my right hand held the camera.
My subject decided to take that minute to relax a bit. At the moment, everything seemed to come into place. The ambient lighting… the composition… everything seemed to fall in the right place and I remember pressing the shutter like I knew it was THE shot.
Granted, the subject could do with a little fill light on her face but it won me a second prize nonetheless. I set out to take photographs of my subject using strobes, only to win a prize with an ambient shot.
After that incident, I continued to photograph. Time and time again, I discovered that I liked my ambient shots much more than my lighted shots.
Take this shot for example.
Pure ambient lighting on my Canon 5D2 + 24-105mm f/4 IS.
Prior to taking this shot, the model was lighted up with a beauty dish on her top right and an insanely huge octagon softbox on-axis. It was the setup I had in mind all along but I hated the outcome. When I was ‘satisfied’ with that setup, I told the crew to switch off all the lights and decided to try something different.
I opened the sliding door to my left with the sun setting. I walked up to her and decided to photograph her using the beautiful sunlight and got this shot. Needlessly to say this was one of the chosen photos.
Soon after, I decided to ditch lights in favor of ambient lighting when photographing on-location and never looked back since.
After all these grandmother stories, my point is, sometimes ‘accidents’ like these give you the chance the understand your own style better. Don’t be afraid to venture out beyond what you already know and sometimes you will be surprised at the rewards.
My reward was the discovery of my love for lighting my subjects using ambient light.
At a time when when others were busy trying to light up their subjects, it helps that I save a lot of money on lighting equipment as well
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