If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that you need to keep records of your lighting. Well, more specifically, keep records of lighting schemes that WORK.
I've passed a lot of frames through my cameras over the years and sometimes, some of those shots just 'pop'...it's a standout...you know you NAILED the lighting. I've had a few of those in my time as a professional...sadly to say, I haven't kept record of all of them. I wish I had, but I didn't. I could have saved my future self a LOT of time and frustration in lighting setup and given myself more time to interact with my subjects and develop a connection (more on connecting with your subjects in another blog).
Sometimes you just can't - whether it's just a location shot where all the cards fell into place photographically, or you just captured a moment, an emotion - those moments can't be diagrammed, calculated and extrapolated.
Other times, you're in control, from start to finish. You craft the location, the setup, the layout and the lighting. You built the shot from the ground up.
In those moments, for those shots, do yourself a 'solid' and write it down. Keep a record of your lighting. Having the records of each setup will help you hone your craft in controlled situations. Some of your lighting setups you create will be crap...write them down anyway. You'll not only know where NOT to go next time, but you'll have record of all aspects of that image. When you eventually find yourself WANTING to use a part of the lighting scheme that didn't work - For instance, have that sliver of light that carves out a persons silhouette, the one that didn't work in that frame, but you need for this shoot, you'll remember how you did it.
You don't have to go crazy with it, but give yourself a good basic floor plan or layout that describes a bit about the setup. Start with the camera subject and background placement. Move on to where the lights sit in relation to those and finally get a good idea of the light power settings, modifiers and the camera settings. Get what you can, date it, write a bit down about the shot, keep it in a folder...
Use a sharpie, use a pencil, make a multilayer photoshop document...whatever works for you. I use all of these. I'm inconsistent about the method, but I do it. I've done it for the last few years and it's served me very well. The photos in this scheme are a good example of that. For the shoot I had today it was perfect! I set up the lights in less than 15 minutes and was able to talk to my subject while she was in makeup artist for 45 minutes prior to the start of the shoot...all because I didn't pass 25-30 frames through the camera to adjust the setup. I took two test shots...TWO. I was ready to roll. It made all the difference being prepared for this. And maybe that's just it, the Boy Scout in me coming out in my photography.
So now this blog has me thinking...is this an opportunity? Should I release a Photoshop File that you can use? Should I create a printable log/sheet? Should I have logs printed and available for others? Hmmm...I've designed a Fitness log for Julie...why not? If you're so inclined...let me know your thoughts...