…in the halls of Shambala?
Zack Arias would probably tell you that it depends on your modifier and it’s distance to subject.
This is going to be a ‘first impressions’ kind of appraisal. I don’t really do Reviews (capital R), because I’m not a Reviewer (capital R). I think Reviewers need a wide range of experience with a range of products in their respective fields to be able to comment in any way at all that is dependably meaningful. That’s not me. Doesn’t mean I don’t have impressions though.
So, how does the light shine, in the case of this video series?
Pretty bright, I reckon. As I implied above, I’m no great consumer of instructional videos, but from what I’ve seen and read, the quality of production on instructional videos, a product that consumers must pay for, often leaves much to be desired. At it’s worst, it can resemble a home movie, with a poorly lit and very poorly miked person in a fairly meh looking space, talking in a fairly disorganised and rambling kind of way (sometimes to a bunch of people), occasioned with freeware style transitions and bad PowerPoint style overlays, and at it’s best, a reasonably well made and consistant experience, reasonably well edited, with slick and custom looking transitions and overlays, quite well lit and miked, and with a reasonably logical flow of information.
I’d say OneLight Workshop V2 falls into the high end of the above ‘at it’s best’ category. Much of the video is in black and white, and has a slick and somewhat hip feel to it. It is, for the most part, a very good experience in terms of viewing pleasure. However, like those tiny little things in a photo that can bug you, and that many might not notice, there is the occasional thing that brings the overall production down.
For example, I find it distracting when the camera angle changes but the presenter doesn’t. One moment I’m the centre of attention, and the next, I’m suddenly shunted over to the side and he’s talking to someone else. Might seem like a small thing, but it does matter. Also, booms and even operators entering shots looks messy, as does the camera hunting for focus. Really, the camera operator should be paying enough attention to catch these things and the scene should be re-shot. Sudden volume spikes or dips are also really distracting, especially if accompanied by that echo chamber effect which is presumably the sound switching to being picked up only by the on camera microphones. Double especially irritating if this happens when listening with headphones. It’s all a bit ironic when Arias so often stresses that I (the audience), as a photographer, should strive not to be yet another shitty, mediocre photographer.***
But those minor bits aside – and they are relatively minor, despite the space I seem to have inadvertently given them – how is the quality of ‘instruction’ and ‘information’?
Pretty bloody good. Zack Arias seems to have had quite a bit of experience now giving seminars and workshops, and as is evident from what he says about his own photographic progress, he clearly thinks about how to best organise and deliver his content. That’s quite evident here too. He does well spelling things out clearly and logically, no small feat with a subject that contains so many interconnected variables.
For those like me, who have consumed all that David Hobby has written in his Strobist Lighting 101 and Lighting 102 guides and who have played with their own lighting set-ups a fair bit, the gear and exposure sections don’t contain a whole lot of new stuff, but they do ram home some key points, key points that relative lighting novices might forget on occasion. Additionally, for me anyway, as well as the occasional new nugget of information, there were also some moments of ‘ah, I get it now’-ness. For people with little or no knowledge of off camera lighting, this part of this video series would be of immense use, especially if combined with reading Mr. Hobby’s site as referenced above.
The “Shoot” sections, while not being quite as slick in production as the first two sections, are where, for me at least, the real meat lies. Well supported on the skeletal structure of the preceding sections, as it were.
It’s during the Shoot sections that we see how to apply all of the various technical considerations Arias has previously introduced. This is done with a nice balance of ‘actually doing it live for the camera’ interspersed with asides of more detail, where he pauses to explain design and purpose and to supply extra tidbits of useful and practical information.
Basically, the various shoots progress from a single subject with simple set-ups / compositions through to a single subject with more complex set ups / compositions, and finally to multiple subject sessions.
Without really overstating it, what Arias is doing here is providing novice off camera flash photographers and budding professional / portrait photographers with a workflow of how to proceed, not only in terms of with individual sessions, but also in terms of how to pace and structure their development as a photographer using off camera flash.
That’s pretty useful and therefore, pretty cool.
What would I like to see Mr. Arias do in future videos? Three things really:
1. Provide more situation specific workflows, such as what to do at a wedding and how to light some basic ‘product’ type shots. These are things budding “weekend warrior”** types might get asked to do.
2. Always look at the camera when talking (except maybe when physicaly interacting with things).
3. Learn how to pronounce bokeh – seriously, I had to rewind three times to figure that one out!
This digital download currently costs US$75. The amount and detail of content, its usefulness and the (generally) good production values make this a bargain. Snap it up – that’s what I say.
Here’s the direct link: http://dedpxl.com/product/onelight/
* I’ve also seen it called OneLight Workshop V2
** double ironic, given that Arias could well throw this right back at me, were he to ever view my photography
*** what Arias calls budding or emerging part time professional photographers in his book. Arias Z 2013. Photography Q & A. New Riders, San Francisco, p. 286