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Studio Lighting and Portraiture DVDs Deliver Great Foundation Skills

By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP

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A fun and educational package recently arrived in my mailbox for review—a pair of instructional DVDs by Don Chick, M.Photog.,Cr., CPP, from his The Confident Photographer instructional series:

• Studio Lighting (with a 4x6 soft box)
• Studio Portraiture (Basic – Intermediate)

Being familiar with Chick’s lighting and teaching styles, I was looking forward to watching these DVDs, and I think you will be, too. While there is some crossover content, I didn’t find it to be too overdone, and considered it more like a review, or introduction, before the meat of the lesson. I think it will be rare that someone will plan to watch both back to back, as I did.  It’s more likely that you’ll refer to one or the other at a given point, and in that situation, the brief review will be helpful.

The Studio Lighting DVD covered white balancing methods, lens selection (distortion), and two basic light setups. In contrast, the Studio Portraiture DVD focused on the different light setups that Chick relies on— three-light and six-light setups, and the use of accent lighting. In the second DVD, Chick also discusses how he creates his signature character study portraits (lighting, clothing, accessories, etc).

On both DVDs, Chick talks you through the lighting setup, explains why he does things a specific way, and then lets you watch him interact with his subject as he creates a series of images. Final images are also shown throughout the DVD, where appropriate. While not a new concept to me, I appreciated that Chick took the time to show the effects of his lights by using each unit’s modeling lamp. This is a particularly useful teaching tool for those who are new to studio lighting.

Some of the techniques that Chick teaches are basic building blocks of studio photography, such as broad vs. short light, but he also includes more advanced techniques. I enjoyed seeing how he uses a handheld reflector to add a little something extra to the lighting setup, and appreciated his discussion of gobos and when they can be effectively used for a studio portrait (your clients with thinning hair or bald spots will thank you).

As Chick’s website mentions, the best thing about these DVDs is that you get to take Don home with you— and keep him there. Unlike when you attend a workshop, where you have to frantically take notes or pull back captures on your DSLR, with these training DVDs, you can watch Don repeat the lesson to you as many times as you need, and you can pause the training whenever work calls.

I enjoyed Chick’s teaching method and appreciated the format in which the lessons were presented. These DVDs would have been invaluable to me when I was just starting out as a photographer. Learning the craft and art of studio lighting is so much easier when you have a mentor to watch, and Don Chick’s DVDs make that mentor experience accessible to anyone, no matter where they live.

The Studio Lighting and Studio Portraiture DVDs each retail for $149. Shipping and handling is free within the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit donchick.com.

Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP, has a portrait studio in Dexter, Michigan (BPhotoArt.com); she shares tips and ideas for photographers at LearnWithBetsy.com.