Is a daylight studio something to consider?
Q. What exactly is a daylight studio and what is the point?
Michelle: It’s a greenhouse for growing little photos into big ones. No seriously, it is a large glassed room that allows natural light into a section of our studio. It’s window light taken to the extreme. There are several reasons you may want to use a daylight studio. You have some of the advantages of outdoor light with the convenience of a controlled environment.
Q. What kind of look does it give you?
Michelle: It’s not just one specific look. The quality of light will of course vary a lot, just as it would in any outdoor conditions. The time of day, the cloud haze, the position of the sun and so on.
Q. So what do you use it for?
Michelle: Well, I can tell you we don’t use it for high volume work like catalog product work. The light by nature is not predicable and it moves fast. You have about 20 minutes to set up and shoot (and of course get client approvals).
Q. Can you give me an example?
Michelle: I wouldn’t use it for jewelry, glass or metal objects. But if you were going to shoot certain subjects like say, cowboy boots, or a set with BBQ grill, it would be great for a hero piece. It can also be wonderful for portrait or editorial work.
Q. Does the daylight studio change your workflow in other ways?
Michelle: Yes, the approach to light is subtractive. This is very different from a traditional studio environment.
Michelle: Well, think of a traditional photo studio as a black room. In that black room the photographer adds and controls light - strobes, fills and reflective cards. They add and control until the shot is built and forms are defined from the dark.
With a daylight studio you have all the light you need. Often more than you need. Your job is to subtract, control and carve out the light to define the forms.
I often use diffusion scrims and other techniques to block or direct the daylight.
It’s kind of like the difference between painting with light and carving out light like the sculptor carves the block of marble. Michelangelo approached sculpture as releasing the subject from the marble block.
You are always chasing the light in a daylight studio. By that I mean you need to move relative to the subject. Here’s an example of the same setup and I just moved around the subject. Note major changes in shadow and highlights.
The quality of direct sunlight is also very unique and cannot be duplicated. The sun is 93 million miles away. As a result the shadows have a razor edge with no feathering.
Q. So a daylight studio is a nice option, but might not be for everyone?
Michelle: Yes, it’s a beautiful light to use. There is nothing better than God’s light.
(Cue thunder boom!)