Nat Geo Photographer Robert Holmes Discusses Lighting and Technique with Advancing Your Photography

Advancing Your Photography, the Youtube channel providing tips and tricks from professional photographers, has released an informative video featuring veteran National Geographic photographer, Robert Holmes. In this video, Holmes goes into his philosophy and technique for lighting as well as breaking down different lighting scenarios of which he’s particularly fond. He also briefly touches on equipment considerations and how he prefers not to rely so much on equipment, but instead use his intricate knowledge of lighting to capture compelling portraits during his travels.

Holmes goes over several different lighting methods, starting with the Rembrandt lighting technique. However, instead of the Rembrandt lighting pattern popular in portrait photography, the type of lighting he’s referring to is when the light source itself is completely within the frame. The other type of lighting he uses extensively is called Vermeer lighting: a style of lighting resulting from light coming through a window (preferably north light) that is soft and flattering on the subject.

A lighting technique he often uses is shooting into the sun. This helps add a nice rim light to the subject and can also enhance the catchlights and small details in the photograph, such as smoke from a cigarette. Holmes states that he shoots throughout the day, even at midday: a time that many photographers tend to think of as bad for portraits. Due to his hectic travel schedule and duties of the assignment, Holmes says he pushes himself to find good lighting, even when there is none, regardless of time of day. He also likes the classic “golden hour” light, but he’s very fond of what he refers to as the “blue hour”, which occurs after the sun goes down. He likes to mix this bluer tone of light with artificial lighting to create an interesting mix of colors.

The video is full of many applicable lessons for the aspiring portrait photographer. As a portrait photographer myself, I’m always looking to the old masters of the artform for little gems of information. Some key takeaways from the video for me are:

  • Always look at light, study it, and think about how it will affect your photograph.
  • Be aware of light, but also be knowledgeable about how your camera will actually record it.
  • Practice and shoot under different lighting conditions to train your eye to know what those kinds of conditions will look like.
  • Spend time getting to know your subjects. Build a relationship with them first, then proceed to taking the picture.
  • Always expose for the highlights and let the shadows look after themselves.

This was a very informative video and I personally look forward to seeing more video with Robert Holmes. He’s such a wealth of information. You can see Holme’s work by visiting his website here, and similar videos to this one by visiting Advancing Your Photography’s Youtube channel here.