Sometimes the best way to use a tool is not at all.

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Yesterday I lectured and taught at the WPPI Online Road Show in Atlantic City. As always it’s an honor to work with these folks, and I liked the set-up where I could talk about concepts in the morning, and then show them hands-on and let people try it for themselves in the afternoon. I was tasked with teaching techniques for working with speedlights, and we went through everything from reception shooting techniques to how strong your flashes can really be when you use them right (lighting a subject at ISO 100, f/29 at 1/8th power!)

But one of the most important lessons I taught is when to ignore me. Or specifically when to ignore the plan and the tools you’ve set out for yourself. In a lighting class, we’re going to overshoot and overlight — that’s how teaching works. But start simple and if you make a setup more complicated, know exactly why you’re doing so. Don’t use tools just because you brought them. Because even when you’re teaching a class on flash, it’s a crime to ignore a good sunbeam.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G

nikk wong - Can you at all allude to how you can light a subject at f/29 at 1/8th power? Crazy!f

Lorenzo Photography - The subtlety of that reflection is brilliant.

Dale Lempa - So true. For some reason we feel obligated to utilize all that we brought, perhaps to justify the purchases, or to impress the client.

Matt Hildebrandt - I was there in person. Seeing Ryan’s technique used to create a well-exposed subject w/ a totally dark background in bright sunlight made the trip worth it!

And yes, Ryan, after shooting this weekend, I’m going to implement the changes you suggested on my website. The critique you gave me was time very well-spent.

David - Great advice Ryan! What makes a good photographer great, in my opinion, is the ability to respond to the location, people and light in front of them and not rely on tried and tested setups. I’d still love to attend one of your workshops though!!