Presentation To Mid-Hudson Photo Club
by William Lulow
Earlier this fall I received a request to make a presentation to the Mid-Hudson Photo Club. I have made these presentations before and I find them important to do for photographers. It’s not just that I want to keep my name out there, but it’s more to do with the concept of paying things forward. I do workshops regularly in which I teach my particular technique of portraiture and lighting. The lighting part consists of all the classical lightings which I show students how to set up and the rest has to do with the application of techniques designed to elicit great expressions and achieve really stunning portraits. My belief is that lighting is the major element in just about all photographs. Yes, there are powerful pictures where the action in the photo is important, but without any compelling lighting, the photograph is just a representation of what’s in front of the camera. Remember, a photograph is literally a “light picture.”
This particular presentation however, was about the fine art photography I have been doing during the last few years, which in large measure, relies on specific kinds of light. Someone once asked me if I thought I was giving away my “trade secrets.” This is where the “pay it forward” idea comes in. No, I don’t feel as though I’m giving anything away. People can arrive at new concepts any way they wish. Is a musician “giving away” a secret when he shows a neophyte some licks on the guitar? I don’t think so because it all depends on how the “secrets” are used. If someone just copies a particular technique to the letter or writes the same words, that’s plagiarism! But if someone incorporates new ideas into an art form that is developing already, that’s synthesis. It creates something entirely new and different. It has been said that copying something is the most sincere form of flattery! I think that’s true. If someone likes your art, whatever it might be, enough to copy even parts of it and develop something entirely new, that’s the way art evolves. The Beatles covered their favorite musicians (Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins, etc) and yet came up with new and different versions of the same material.
Another reason I find education especially important in an art form like photography is that not enough people these days, really understand what taking pictures is all about. The invention of digital cameras has made taking pictures easy. There is no more film to develop (with the associated cost) and no more prints to make unless one wants to, and immediate results. So, since taking a digital image is so simple (the camera automates everything for you), people are losing sight of why photography is an art in the first place. Therefore, I think that part of my job is to educate people about the things that make photography special. I want to teach people about light and how to see it differently. One way to do that is to learn about the application of artificial light. It heightens one’s senses about seeing special lighting conditions as they occur in nature.
Once lighting is understood, you can begin to see the world somewhat differently. Scenes begin to speak to you in terms of their quality of light and you become a better photographer because of it. Instead of just taking pictures, your focus becomes almost riveted to certain types of lightings and your images begin to improve. That’s the goal. I’m constantly looking for light and special lighting conditions to create beautiful photographs.