Review: Studio Lighting 101 Workshop by SnapFactory

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Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Studio Lighting 101 Workshop hosted by Mark Wallace and Snapfactory in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Wallace is a fixture in the photography world, well known for his approachable and engaging instructional videos on’s Digital Photography One on One series, Pocket Wizard tutorials, and more.

The one day workshop started promptly at 10:00 in the morning, and ended just as promptly at 6:00 in the evening (per Mark, “If I didn’t have a hard stop at the end of the day we’d just keep going until midnight!”). The class is limited to just six attendees, to ensure that each student gets a quality, personalized experience. Students ranged from Phoenix-area residents such as myself, to individuals that flew in from other states to attend.

From 10:00 until noon (at which time a light lunch was provided), the students, Mark, and Mark’s producer/assistant Kelsey gathered around a conference table and discussed some foundational principles. The properties of light were discussed at length, accompanied by video demonstrations (some content coming from Mark and Snapfactory’s video Studio Lighting Essentials for Portrait Photography). Mark then discussed the types of equipment essential for studio photography.

The most outstanding aspect of the workshop, in my opinion, was the afternoon session. After lunch a model arrived, and everyone trooped into the studio. A vast array of lighting equipment and props were available, and Mark demonstrated the functionality of many of them. He went into detail about how to use a light meter, and demonstrated how to properly light the model using a standard three-light setup. Each student was given the opportunity to use the provided Sekonic light meters including the L-358 Light Meter and the L-758DR Light Meter. We were taught how to meter for individual light sources and average the metering for correct exposure, as well as the importance of flash sync speed and custom white balance. We were also taught how to properly handle various lights, stands, cables, and power sources. Finally, all students were provided with Pocket Wizard products (such as the PocketWizard PWP-TR 801-125 PLUS II Transceiver) to sync with the studio strobes.

Once the students were taught the fundamentals, each student was given the opportunity to direct the lighting setup however they wished, using the other students as assistants to move equipment and set up props. The “lead” student instructed the model (a wonderfully professional, friendly and PATIENT young woman named Brenda) according to their vision for the photo shoot, including poses, outfits, and sets, which lasted for about forty minutes for each student. After the lead student completed his or her shoot, the other students were given the opportunity to use that setup to take a few shots themselves. Each of the six students had the opportunity to have their own photo shoot, and six very different lighting styles were demonstrated according to the student’s preferences. Mark and Kelsey only stepped in when asked, to add their expertise and advice – throughout, Mark offered invaluable advice on how to work with and communicate with a model. The outcome of the photo shoot provided each student with a very solid start on a personal portfolio, and a very solid understanding of how to manipulate light sources to effect photographic styles.

The session completed with a brief overview about a standard digital workflow, including color balancing using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. When the class wrapped up, each student was provided with a model release signed by Brenda allowing the use of the photographs taken in the class.

The Studio Lighting 101 Workshop was, quite simply put, the most instructional, beneficial, and entertaining workshop I have ever participated in. Mark was funny, engaging, quirky, and above all an absolute professional and EXPERT in every photographic topic discussed. It was clear that every single student was reluctant to end the day, which is where the firm 6:00 pm cut-off became necessary. We WOULD have stayed much longer but for that. If you are in the Phoenix area for any reason, I would HIGHLY recommend this class to anyone wishing to gain studio education. If you can’t make the workshop, be sure to avail yourself of the Studio Lighting Essentials for Portrait Photography DVD (review forthcoming).

Mark’s next workshop is scheduled for November 21st, 2011, with additional workshops scheduled regularly. Be sure to keep checking back on their website for future dates!

All photos copyright Tiffany Joyce, taken during the Studio Lighting 101 Workshop.

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