First off – the best way to learn about lighting, or photography in general, is to learn from as many different people and resources as possible. Most of the photographers and teachers out there are passionately opinionated about photography – and we don’t always agree with each other. Nor should we. I teach commercial photography at Langara College in Vancouver, and we have instructors in that program who openly disagree with each other on certain topics – we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re all professionals with a lot of respect for each other, and those disagreements lead to some pretty amazing conversations that rarely involve yelling. By having one instructor advocate for what he/she believes in and another instructor respectfully offering an alternative opinion, we give students the opportunity to decide what best suits their needs and to ultimately form their own opinions. And forming deep, but adaptable opinions is critical to your success as an artist!
Obviously there are some aspects of photography and lighting that are empirical – light theory is one such area, it’s a series of scientific facts that have not changed in over 13 billion years and still show no signs of updating themselves. However the best ways to put these theories to practice is completely subjective. I will be very free with my opinions on this site but where I know my opinion differs from another photographer’s, I will do my best to show the opposing opinion in a fair and objective way beside my own – I might however not be as eloquent at advocating it as the opposing photographer.
One aspect of photographic education that really worries me is the recent development of online tutorial sites out there and that very much includes this one! Many of these sites offer superb insights and solid information in photography, lighting, post-production and creativity, and I hope you’ll feel that Blue Sky ranks amongst them. But I have heard a number of these sites state that traditional schools of photography are no longer that valuable, and I could not disagree more. I fully understand that there are in fact some schools out there that may be out of date, or will not have great equipment or may even have less than stellar instructors, I would never deny that. But there are also many superb schools out there with amazing teaching staff and fantastic facilities and I feel strongly that, as a new photographer, you should seek them out. Tutorial sites, such as Blue Sky, can be tremendously valuable resources for study and very effective supplements to school. But the reality is, there are huge advantages to working face to face with an exceptional instructor, or having access to lighting, modifiers and grip equipment that you might not be familiar with or cannot afford – not to mention being able to collaborate with a group of inspired and equally talented students.
If you are in a situation where, for whatever reason, you simply cannot go to an actual school, then myself and all the other photographers who share their knowledge will do their best to offer up their knowledge and give their advice and opinions in an effort to help you reach your artistic and technical goals. One thing is certain – you have chosen one of the most challenging and superbly fulfilling ways of expressing your artistic vision – photography has never been more accessible, more full of potential and more challenging than it is today. I have taught commercial photography for over 20 years, and it is an honour and incredible privilege to be able to share in the experience of new artists developing their unique visions.