Kim Watson, photographer

Lighting Class for assistants @ Spring Studios

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In April last year I was asked by V and Jean @ Spring Studios to teach their in house studio assistants about lighting. I jumped at the chance to pass on some knowledge and brought in Cowboy to help out. Funnily enough we have talked for a while now about how to set up an Assistants class for College Graduates who studied Photography and wanted that first step on the ladder to becoming an assistant. This gave me and Cowboy a little taster on what it would be like to teach such a course… It was a very interesting experience.

We had 10 assistants all with varying degrees of experience. Some had never been on set before, other had assisted but not much and a few had experience, but just wanted to see some lighting techniques. There lay our first problem. What to teach to a class of people with different degrees of knowledge. I had a basic plan and wanted to teach them the basics of lighting through an existing lighting set up.

I started off with the probably the most easily recognisable and lets face it simple lighting set up the Vogue Cover Shot a la Patrick Demarchelier. Having seen first hand the Maestro at work shoot a Vogue Cover I knew this would be a good way to start the class. Here we would go over shooting against white with a clean beauty style light. We could show them how to light a white background using the industry standard trees either side with 2 heads head with Medium white brollies on each tree. Get them to balance that out so they have an even f11 across the back.

Before we got down to setting up the shoot we went through all the gear. From packs, head, stands, softboxes, Octa, Umbrellas, dishes, as many attachments as we could get our hands on and let the students get hands on experience of putting them together, dialling a pack up and down, the do’s and don’ts etc etc. These things are a given to working assistants and it just highlighted how important it is for people starting out in the industry to get their hands dirty and experience the equipment before being let loose on set.

Everyone had a chance to play with the various lighting attachments and we went about showing them how to set up the lights. I drew a quick diagram of what I wanted and then let them try and figure it out. Under the close supervision of Cowboy and myself of course. In the end they did pretty well and gave us a good looking set up. Little tweaks here and there and we were ready to do our test shoot to check exposure. Having not taught before it hit home how difficult it is to be a good teacher. To be informative and interesting and also to allow the assistants to get on with it and try and figure stuff out.

Once we had the lights set and the exposure reading done (Some of the assistants hadn’t held a light meter before) I took a test shot and showed them the reason why we always set up lights and do the test before the talent is on set. I realised I had to break everything down and teach step by step how a photoshoot works. It sounds easy but it is actually something you take for granted because you have done it so many times it’s second nature. But to people who don’t know it’s rather daunting. Take yourself back if you can to the first day you were ever on set…

Anyway everyone seemed to enjoy it and everyone had a go at taking a test shot and see how everything works. Then we had a model come in and we treated the second part of the course like a real photoshoot… just that I had 10 assistants rather than the usual or 1 or 2…LOL.

As much as I would like to have everyone play first assistant it was hard to get everyone to be hands on with the camera and to give them some experience of shooting a professional model I let everyone have 5 minutes with the model. I think everyone really enjoyed this bit and the model was a fantastic sport to do this.

As the day drew to a close we quickly went through constant light sources, HMI’s, Red head, blondes etc etc. I managed to shoot a little bit of video as well which can been scene here:

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