The other day, as I was browsing for some new gadgets in SSP, just as I was about to make a purchase some kid (probably a university student) comes over and asks me for some advice. The first question he asks...
(1) Excuse me sir, but will this (a small size light stand) be enough for my 580 EX II?
Always willing to help, I replied... "Yeah it should be enough, mind you though it does not hurt to buy a slightly bigger stand because there may be a chance that you will use lightshaping tools with your speedlite and it may not be strong enough to support some heavier lightshapers."
The young man then asked. "What are lightshapers?"
I replied "well depending on what you are shooting and your own preference but most common is adding a shoot through umbrella."
Then the young man asked. "What does an umbrella do?"
I then replied (starting to get slightly impatient because I needed to go to the next store to check out the new Dis from Godox). "Well there are several ways to use a shoot through umbrella. You can bounce a light and reflect the light to a subject or you can shoot through it hence the name "Shoot Through Umbrella.
The young man then continued to ask. Well why are some of them silver? and why are some of them white?
I replied. "Well silver is for a more contrasty look which in the meanwhile still gives you a more diffused effect. So it's great if you are using it on a speedlite because you don't have much power to work with or waste. White shoot through on the other hand is probably the most handy umbrella and what most beginners start with when they start using umbrellas due to the convenience/price and the ability to use the umbrella in different ways."
He then thanked me and I approached the counter to pay for the 2 new 30x90 strip banks that I just bought. Suddenly the young man appeared next to me again like Yoda and asked.
"Well I am trying to shoot something outside and from a low angle (don't ask me what it was, I didn't want to know). Firstly do I need to use a speedlite? and secondly, if I use an umbrella how should I set it up so I get the best lighting for my portrait."
Wow, what a question I thought. I might as well shoot the thing for him. Some of you prosumers or photographers reading this blog post may say "Why bother answering his questions, it's most likely he has never used a light before and the more you explain the more complicated it will be for him to get his photo.
You are probably right about this and most likely I am assuming that he did not get the photo he is aiming for. However, if you think about his questions, they are not stupid questions at all. These are the questions that make camera owners into photographers. Separating the truly passionate from the trendy camera owners. You ever see someone on a street with like old crusty Canon 400D or 350D with a stock zoom lens but yet they shoot amazing photos? I have. These photographers took similar questions and not that they found an answer but took the risk to make the mistakes and learn from them. That is photography, many experiences that give you good experience. Good photographers are people that most likely have failed a lot more than beginners (ironic eh?). But what makes a Photographer a great photographer is someone that is willing to take a number of shots after shots of "bad" photos, and practise their technique until they find (not the 'correct' method) their own style.
My last words to that young man was. Photography is not as difficult as you think. You are seeking my help today because you think I am more knowledgeable or more skilled than you, but I can answer your questions only because I have failed more than you and attempted failure more than you. Have fun with your camera and remember if the photo comes out "poorly" that it can only get better if you let yourself understand what was wrong with it. He then thanked me sincerely and left the shop. I'll probably won't recognize this guy again, but if he gets what I am saying maybe I will bump into him next time at the same shop and it will be him looking for a strip bank.