Use Hard Light

            This week I watched an interview with Gregory Heisler, environmental portrait photographer who is known for his creative lighting.  During the interview he made an interesting comment, almost nowhere in real life do we see light that looks like a soft box. 

            He’s right. 

            For the past decade we interior photographers have been afraid of what photography is all about, light and shadow.  We have been taught that any lights placed within a scene should be for fill, and any shadows should only come from the ambient light sources.  Reasons for this vary. 

            Some say adding lights changes the lighting dynamics of the interior.  This is nonsense! The lighting dynamics of any interior with windows, which is virtually every interior, will change as the sun moves throughout the day.  It will also change throughout the year; winter provides a different kind of light then summer.  It will even change depending on the weather. 

            Others will say shadows provide a distraction.  However, all light sources make shadows, even soft window light.  Shadows add depth and create space; without light and shadow you will end up with a flat image that looks more like a rendering. 

            Last, many will say it is easier and faster to just do everything in computer.  Well, here, you are dependent on the light present.  Sometimes you will be lucky and have amazing light.  However, most of the time, the light will be just ordinary, and, even if you are very good at "HDRing" it, you will end up with an ordinary image, albeit with a full tonal range. 

            So, embrace your inner photographer and don’t be afraid to fool around with light and shadow.  It will only help you grow as a photographer.  In case you’re wondering how I have been approaching this, here is a slideshow of my lighting progression on the image above.