The Justin & Mary DC Lighting Intensive

There are people in the world that will have the ability to turn your world upside down and make you think differently, because, well, everything will be upside down. But then there will be those who turn your world upside down, and then right-side up again, and say to you, “Now, doesn’t everything look more beautiful?” And as the glitter and tiny styrofoam balls begin to float around in your snow globe world,  you’ll realize that it is these world shakers who are going to change the world in the best ways. Everywhere they go these people inspire. This is exactly who Justin and Mary are.

After I missed the opportunity to attend J&M’s lighting intensive in Richmond, I was thrilled to hear that they would be coming to DC. An entire evening of mastering my flash and figuring out off-camera lighting so that when I trekked off to my next reception, I would finally feel confident in lighting the room and getting consistent results. In my head, the workshop may as well have been called J&M’s Guide to Lighting a Reception.

I felt like Mary was reading a page from my diary as she told us how when she first started, she proudly told the world that she was a natural light photographer because she hated how fake flash looked. It’s a convincing statement, really, and holds up as long as you don’t peel back the pride to take a look at the crippling fear beneath it. In reality, it’s not that she (or I) was too proud to use flash, she (and I) was just too terrified to begin to learn anything about it. Flash is complicated. There are settings and cords and radios and things called slaves and light stands with confusing levers and angles and umbrellas and ratios and meters and… and… the list goes on. There are a million reasons to give yourself as to why learning flash is too complicated. You will never run out. I didn’t go into this workshop looking to stop telling myself the excuses, I just wanted to know enough about the excuses to survive, but J&M would never allow something like that. They personally wanted each of us to know only know enough about our flash to get by, but to be able to use it confidently and without hesitation, in a way that no one could ever look at our photographs and have reason to say, “Ugh… this is why I’m a natural light photographer…” And if they do, we’ll know it’s because they are just as terrified as we were.

So thanks, Justin and Mary, for selflessly sharing your knowledge, for hosting a memorable night with a roomful of wonderful photographers, and most of all, for challenging my foundation of fear.

At the end of the workshop, we had time to implement the ideas and techniques that we had just discussed for so long. As we began to tackle these set-ups, the room was full of some pretty ugly flat, fluorescent lighting, which would be cause for some lackluster portraits and detail shots in my previous life. But by using a simple one-light setup, and ON CAMERA FLASH, PEOPLE! I walked away with images that I would be incredibly proud to hand to a client. Enjoy a few of my favorites from the evening!

It seems to me that wherever photographers go, cupcakes follow. I could not be more okay with this. How drop-dead gorgeous was our model, Katie? Girl can rock some red lips. Again, these images came out of a roomful of gross, fluorescent lighting. I am sold. Look! More cupcakes! Looking pretty sitting next to a nicely lit window, yes? Nope, these were taken with on-camera flash. Once again, this image on the right was taken with on-camera flash. How’s that for a shaken snow globe? Many thanks to Liz and Ryan for being the cutest people on the planet.

Thinking about going to a J&M workshop? DO IT! I’m so thankful that I decided to make the investment and jump in to learn from the best of the best, and I couldn’t recommend them more. Check out their blog, drool over their gorgeous images, read Mary’s sweet writing and learn from Justin’s outstanding technical knowledge. You’ll have a brand new blog to stalk!

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