I tootled up to Birmingham on Friday for a session in the Lighting Academy at The Flash Centre, Birmingham (TFC). The team at TFC had organised an ‘Introduction to Studio Lighting Course’ and as I have been using Elinchrom studio lighting for a number of years now, I thought I’d rock up and get some tips.

TFC Birmingham is a photography retail outlet with studio space attached and the staff at the Birmingham branch of TFC really do know their stuff. If you are thinking of buying new equipment or hiring for a project, I recommend that you give these guys a call. The store is really an Aladdin’s Cave of knowledge and equipment, just stacked to the gunnels and the staff are all professional photographers in their own right, always promising to sell you the right stuff, not the most expensive stuff. 

TFC Birmingham really is an Aladdin’s Cave of knowledge and equipment

A big treat for today, TFC had booked the amazing ‘October Divine‘ for our lighting session, a professional ‘Vintage’ style model of international fame. This lady knows all that there is to know about modelling, photography, editing and online digital marketing. She has more than 60k followers on Instagram , 771K fans on Facebook and regularly features in vintage publications. It was very quickly apparent that we were working with a star.

The approach for this course was excellent, using just a simple Elinchrom D-Lite RX One initially, highlighting that there really is no need to spend a fortune amassing numerous studio lights, to achieve fantastic results. 

An Elinchrom D-Lite RX One is the entry level studio light from Elinchrom and costs little more than a normal Speedlight but produces significantly more light output (up to 4x).

With a few simple modifiers and a reflector we were very quickly producing excellent quality images, with our model for the day, October, striking poses and hitting the catchlights, with little direction.
From single light set-ups, using shoot-through umbrellas, reflective umbrellas, soft boxes, reflectors, grids and snoots, we trialled lots of different effects before moving on to multi-light set ups and multiple combinations of lighting modifiers.

By the end of the session, everyone attending the session had achieved some fabulous results.

It was very apparent we were working with a star.

So the question you might be asking, is why did I attend this course?

We are after all experienced with studio lighting and modifiers. (We regularly use four Elinchrom heads, have often hired more when needed and own a number of reflectors, grids,  soft-boxes from Portalites to Rotaluxes, a couple of snoots and a number of backdrops, reflectors, and deflectors, all made by Elinchrom or Lastolite).

It’s simple, I love photography and I never want to stop learning.

TFC’s courses provide opportunities to learn, opportunities to re-affirm, to meet with fellow photographers, to pick up tips, share ideas and just have some time to reflect on your approaches.

If you ask me what I took away from the course today, I’d say, “well, if I was starting out with studio lighting, or just about to buy some gear, attending the course at TFC will get you up to speed much quicker than any online learning, magazines or blogs. You really get time to try stuff out and get advice while you are doing it, so why wouldn’t you?”

I’ve heard lots of photographers, pro and amateur, looking for silver bullets i.e. how should my camera be set, how should my lighting be set, what distance etc etc etc. 

There are no silver bullets for lighting set-ups

The answer, in my opinion, is that there are no silver bullets for any given situation. You have to find what is right for you, your client, your preferences. Using studio lighting allows you to get fantastic results, experiment and produce images that you want to create.

Every photographer will take a different approach to the same shot, depending upon what they are looking to achieve. For example one photographer will shoot a subject with a white background and achieve nice high-contrasty shots, another photographer will use the same subject, lights and white background and produce dark, contrasty, shadowy shots, all with the same lighting set up. By changing shutter speed, aperture, ISO or flash power different effects are achieved.

So there really are no silver bullets. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, take the shots, experiment and shoot again.

However, if you really want to fast-track your learning, get yourself on a course at TFC….they really are great value.

Bite the bullet…