The Art Of Available Light

Here at DPS, we often talk about wireless lighting, soft-boxes, strobes and the myriad of aspects to artificial lighting. As great as controlled lighting is, we often neglect the wonderful (and affordable) world of natural lighting. Problem is, once you’ve been hooked on the methodology of a “Strobist”, it’s often hard to let the light ride as the world gives it to you. To help combat this tendency, I decided to pick up an instructional DVD on using available light. Entitled The Art of Available Light, photographer Judy Host presents this DVD as a way to shoot sans any lighting equipment.

The DVD is divided into eight chapters focused primarily on lighting techniques used for portrait sessions. Her subjects of choice are babies, children and families so if that is also your style you may find this especially helpful. Her photo shoots alternate between indoor window lit settings to various outdoor conditions. In the end, Host is very resourceful when it comes to finding and using light that creates the desired emotion in her photos.

Not only does she layout the technique she uses to find and utilize natural light, she also provides some very good tips in dealing with children, and larger groups along the way. Host shows the viewer how to create an environment that is comfortable and natural for the subject. Without all the umbrellas and flashes of a typical studio setup, it is easier for the subject to relax, which adds a natural feel to your already natural light. Judy Host continues this theme with props to envelop her subjects with nature and flowing fabrics that create a soft tranquil setting.

For those with a camera, but limited gear this DVD will provide motivation and some very basic information on lighting, and give you an inside look at a typical photo shoot. I would recommend it primarily for beginners with limited exposure to the art of photography. For those on a more advanced level, they would be best served by looking into other more advanced titles as I found the lighting tips to be rather general and not very technical. Still, it’s nice to have information for all levels and I am impressed with the quality information provided for this beginner level.

Basic points covered:

    • Exact methods to create a great picture are not the focus, rather a general idea of what to look for when using natural light is offered.
    • If you can take time to play, plan and find times of day when the light works for you, then you can duplicate lighting for various shoots.
    • Natural light is the root of photography whether you use a lot of equipment or not you must have a basic grasp of how light drives your photos.

 

Pros and Cons:

Pro’s:

    • The message of the DVD is very helpful and inspiring for a new photographer.
    • Through every chapter the viewer can gain a better appreciation for natural light and the effect it has on ones photography. I definitely came away with a handful of priceless information. What are the priceless tips you ask? Buy the DVD and find out for yourself.
    • If you have been stuck in a rut of controlled lighting, this title could help move you into some new avenues and rejuvenate your style.

 

Con’s:

    • The DVD comes in a little steep at $100. This is a bit of an investment and I don’t know how many people would watch it more than two times. Not technically informative.
    • Style is a very personal thing, so if you’re not passionate about natural light, the DVD may not be applicable for you.
    • Although it was nice to feel like you were part of the crew on her photo-shoot outings, I sometimes felt the film quality could have been improved. The camera handling was shaky at times and the lighting for the cinematography was below average (perhaps because they chose to use natural lighting for the video camera as well).

Overall I found The Art of Available Light helpful on many levels, and would give it a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. I plan to review some more technical titles by Software Cinema as they have some very high industry recommendations. This DVD can be found here along with many other helpful photography DVD’s.