Smart Enough To Be Dumb


Smart Enough To Be Dumb

Way back in the 1960’s I bought a book in a secondhand bookstore in Spokane, Washington, that was made up of Kodak pamphlets. These were loose-leaf style instructional treatises that explained how to use the Kodak materials of the day to do professional work. I thought they were the official word from on high. They were actually the official word from Rochester, New York. They made a million of them dealing with any and all aspects of photography. Some were arcane and dry and some were very entertaining.

Later in the 1980’s and 1990’s I rejected all the principles that they taught – sure that I knew better. Besides, they spoke of films and processes that had been superceded – so how could they have any relevence? I foolishly gave the looseleaf binder full of pamphlets away…

Well, here we are in 2017, and I am still doing light set-ups for some shots that are straight from those  1960’s trade pamphlets…because the Kodak people knew what they were doing. They had years of experience dealing with different face shapes and skin tones and as these have not changed, neither has the technique for lighting them. We now do it with pixels and RAW files but we do it on the same basic anatomy as before….

Formulaic? Stilted? Outdated? Well ask your portrait sitters if they would like to look good to themselves, to their relatives, to indifferent viewers, to you, or to the camera club committee. If you are brave, ask it before you set up the lights. If you are foolish, ask it when you present the bill…Ask it of yourself when you do the studio accounts…

Okay. You know the answer… Now go out there. Go to the secondhand bookstores…if not in Spokane, Washington, then in Melbourne, or Perth, or Sydney. Go to Camera Electronic and ask Saul if you can buy the old Linhof Grossbild and Leica LFI books. Haunt the internet. Haunt the Workshop Camera Club Photographic Markets ( they have enough ghosts there to satisfy any taste…).

 Find those old pamphlets and books. Buy them and smuggle them home and never admit to your hipster friends that you have read them…but learn what light does and what people want and how to do it. Your studio bookings list will thank you. So will your accountant.

PS: If you fancy your knowledge newer and with more theatre go to some of the SHOOT Photography workshops.

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