The first lessons begin with very rudimentary lighting equipment and through demonstration and example, explain that all the more complicated lighting setups are merely derived from the basics with the addition of rather straightforward embellishments. For example, a one-light setup can be created with a simple 500-watt floodlight or a rather sophisticated electronic flash light bank. The type of light each source gives will be strikingly different, but the principles of applying each remain the same.
This is an important point to which I shall return often in this book. If you learn the principles of good lighting, they do not change no matter how complicated the setup or what kind of lighting equipment is used.
Instruction in the principles of good photographic lighting begins with a discussion of simple, continuous or "hot light." Continuous light is that which you can see all the time. It is easy to see the effects of placement, intensity, etc., because these effects are readily observable. (With strobe or electronic flash, it is almost impossible to see what the effect of the lighting will be without the use of instant film, a digital camera's LCD, or actually developing and printing the pictures).Even digital LCD's are often too small to see effects of lighting clearly.
Recently, professionals have been using laptop computers tethered to their cameras to "preview" the results of lighting setups. Otherwise, all initial examples should ideally be obtained with the use of hot light. Once the principles of applying this artificial light to your subject are understood, it will be easy to see the different effects you can achieve with strobe or a mixture of the two. And, you will be able to predict with a fair degree of accuracy, what the final picture will look like.
The purpose of mastering these lighting techniques should be to enable the photographer to pre-visualize how he or she wants the final photograph to look. When you have decided upon the kind of image you want to make, the process of using all the available tools to bring the physical world as close as possible to what you have imagined really becomes a step-by-step logical one. Granted this process is constantly modified and changed, but the initial attempt at translating what we see in our minds to a two-dimensional surface is one of finding ways to lead the viewer to see and feel what we want him to. In other words, by the use of lighting, shadow, highlights and accents, we send a message to the viewer, what we are thinking about the subject(s) we photograph.
A photograph by definition is a "light picture": of something that initially exists in the real world. Beginning photographers may have an idea that they wish to convey in a snapshot or a portrait of someone, They may also have that intangible feeling that they can create something by taking a picture and printing it a certain way. But, most beginning photographers don't have enough information about their tools to be able to translate that feeling into the two-dimensional world of photographs. Therefore, many first attempts at using artificial light fall short of the mark.
This book will give the experienced as well as the beginning photographer the necessary arsenal of techniques and tools to accomplish in portraiture what is intended. Read through each lighting setup carefully and attempt to execute the assignment given at the end of each description. You may use the "self-critique" system by checking your results against those in the appropriate appendix. Upon successful completion of these assignments you will have acquired a basic working knowledge of all the various types of lightings there are, how to apply them and when to use them. The rest is up to you. Go out, shoot lots of pictures and experiment as much as possible. But remember, the basics always come first. If in doubt, get back to the basics and re-read this book.