When my style of photography Changed

In 1994 I was happy as a member of The Camera Club . I took photographs of models at residencies, and I was content to ballance the lighting to give soft lighting like this picture of the lovely Jade, a.k.a. Maria Sherrif
One weekend, shortly after taking this shot, I was stewarding at the club and I showed the results of the latest shoot to Tom Dougan, who was head steward at the time. He remarked that they had very flat lighting, which was what I had been trying to achieve. He suggested that I might want to try using shadows to improve the pictures and that I should learn to 'read' pictures to figure out how they were lit so that I could try to replicate results that I thought were good. The whole conversation took about half an hour or less and was no more detailed that I have given above. These were two new concepts to me at the time, and I gave the matter some thought over the next couple of weeks.
I decided that I would try to follow the advice about direction of light at the next studio session that I booked, which was with Hellen Hartley, a model that Ian Greaves was raving about as the best model he had ever shot. When I saw the results of this shoot most of the pictures went straight into the bin, and the camera nearly went with it!

I realised that I had set the lighting up with the studio lights on and couldn't see how the shadows were being cast because of the ambient lighting drowning out the modelling lights. I had also neglected to make sure that the lights cast a natural shadow (lighting from the sun is usually from above, so is room lighting - so we naturally think that shadows should be under the nose and chin). The opposite effect is much used in horror movies to give an eerie feel to the picture, so lighting from below is sometimes called 'Horror' lighting.
I realised that I had a lot to learn now, and resolved to do better at my next session, which was a residency with a popular model of the time. I had a few different lighting set-ups in this session and I did a lot better than with Hellen. One of my favourite pictures is this one.

As I was setting the lighting up the model said "are you sure you know what you're doing with these lights?". About a month later the judge at an inter-club competition (Roger Maile - the efitor of 'Creative Monochrome') gave it a 10, which maybe answers the question.

Key principles in lighting

Look at pictures and learn

Over the years the concept of reading the picture has become more and more prominent in my mind and my photography. I find myself doing it when I look at pictures from other people, be it at a club, on the web, or in fashion stores when my wife is looking for new clothes.

Additional reading

The site of the late Monte Zucher's advice on lighting