By: James Cuthbert
Humber Photography Student: James Cuthbert
I have a passion for portrait photography – beauty, glamour, fashion, lifestyle, business portraits, and actor headshots. It wasn’t always that way. I started way back in the 80’s doing nature and landscape photography using both slide film and B&W film in a fully manual 35mm SLR camera. I processed the B&W film and printed my own images in my darkroom. Many years later I lost my passion for photography and decided to take a little break…..it lasted 20 years!!! Then on a trip to Maui in 2013, I purchased a few photography magazines to read on the plane. By the time the plane landed I was hooked again. When I returned, I purchased a professional grade DSLR and, once again, began doing nature and landscape photography. So yes, I missed the entire transition from film to digital. I was amazed at how things had changed (i.e. capturing images digitally and editing them on a computer using Lightroom and PS), but I still retained enough shooting knowledge to be able to quickly learn how to use a modern DSLR. I had a firm grasp on the basics of exposure, aperture and film speed (ISO), but editing RAW files in Lightroom was a huge learning curve, but still unbelievably fascinating. A few months later, a friend suggested I take his studio lighting workshop, which I did, and I loved it. Since that day, I have been almost entirely focused on doing portraits.
I love working in the studio – it provides you with a blank canvas on which you create light and shadows to achieve your photographic vision. I consider myself to be somewhat of a lighting geek and although I do have a few go to lighting setups, I am constantly experimenting with different lighting techniques and portrait styles. I’m on a never-ending quest to master light. I also enjoy doing outdoor portraits. It’s more challenging than in the studio as you must search for good quality light and non-distracting backgrounds. You must also decide when to supplement the ambient light with flash, whether or not to use the flash as fill light or as a key light, and finally how to adjust your camera settings to make the two light sources work together the way you want.
Prior to taking the Humber CE Photography Program, I had attended numerous studio lighting workshops, had read many flash/portrait photography books, and had done many studio shoots, but I was still largely self-taught. I wanted some formal training so I decided to take a CE Photography program. My reason for selecting the Humber program was its two portrait and two lighting courses – my primary area of interest. Thanks to Johan Sorensen and Agneiszka Dziemidok for their amazing lighting instructions, guidance, inspiration, and feedback.
Tip for aspiring portrait photographers – learn how to see the light and learn how to deconstruct the light. If you look at a portrait you should be able to figure out how the photographer lit the image - Key light, Fill light, Hair light, Rim light, Background Light. The image is full of clues that allow you to determine which of these lights were used, their direction, and their relative strength. The catchlights in the eyes can even tell you what type of modifier was used on the Key light, if a Fill light was used, and where both lights were placed. If you can learn how to see the light and how to deconstruct the light, you will then be able to control it and use it to create amazing portraits.