The Art and Science of Lighting for Photography Part 2 by Tony McMaster

On Wednesday 26th February 2020, Dunchurch Photographic Society were provided with a follow up practical session to a presentation given in November by Tony McMaster. The evening was held at his photographic studio and built upon the previous demonstration of practical lighting for photography.

During the first half of the evening, Tony reminded the members of how different lighting levels, flash and depth of field (aperture control) influences the appearance of a photograph. Of particular interest was how Tony was able to show that the usual ambient lighting of the studio could remain on and not have a negative impact on the photograph being taken. In essence, the same results could be achieved whether the ambient lighting was on or off – such is the wonder of physics. 

Tony gave an in-depth run through of the equipment being used, including offering guidance on how to create similar results on a modest budget. He worked with setting up a portrait shot using a very patient model named Becca and demonstrated the different effects that variables such as camera height in relation to the subject can have, along with the power output of the lighting being used. 

The remainder of the first half was turned over to the members who were invited to work with Becca and practice some portraiture. Taking it in turns, Tony provided a number of flash trigger units for members to use in order to trigger the flash equipment. 

After a very organised tea break, Tony continued his presentation and talked the members through setting up a still life photograph using various bits and pieces on a make-shift table. I say ‘make-shift’ because it was made up of builder’s style trestles, with a simple bit of plywood laid on top, covered with material. 

As Tony took us through the ‘story’ of the photographic scene being set up, he explained how to use a grey background to bounce different coloured flash lighting, which later provided an amazing effect in the final photographs. He also provided a reminder to the members about how diffused lighting works, with side lighting being diffused through draftsman’s art paper.

The principle that Tony shared with us was working from ‘back to front’. By that, he was explaining that he starts this kind of work by illuminating the background first, then gradually working through towards the foreground before capturing the final photograph. 

Throughout the evening, Tony was shooting ‘tethered,’ so the outputs from his camera were being displayed on a large portable monitor. That way, the changes Tony made to the camera settings and the lighting arrangement could easily be seen by the audience.

As in the first half, once Tony had demonstrated the shot using his own camera, the floor was handed over to the DPS members who took turns practising with the arranged lighting and the still life subject. It was interesting to see members not only look for the simple ‘head on’ shot of the scene that was created, with some members opting for opportunities to find alternative angles, which resulted in very different lighting effects as a result. Such is the imagination and creativity of the DPS members! 

As Chairman of the Society, I am truly grateful to Tony McMaster for not only sharing the benefits of his expertise in delivering two fantastic presentations for us, but also for being kind enough host an evening at his studio. The opportunity to do things like this as a Club are all too rare, and so the chance to undertake some photography in a real studio is not to be taken for granted. On behalf of all of the members who were able to make it to the session, many thanks Tony – not only to you, but also your team – not least, Becca, our model for the evening.

Remember folks – make sure you understand the square inverse law!

Report compiled by David J. Bray (Chairman). 

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