Constant perfection – Sam Nash is a commercial photographer specialising in portraiture and fashion, whose clients include Condé Nast, Vogue, and Audi. He tells AP why the new Rotolights are a gamechanger for him.
Why use lighting?
Lighting is the most important part of what I do, the fundamental ingredient of photography. For commercial work your subject has to pop. I need to grab viewers’ attention immediately, whether it’s on a billboard or on Instagram. Available light probably won’t do that. With lighting, I can make my subject really stand out from the background and get that 3D look. I can change every aspect of the shot.
Why continuous LED lighting?
I started out using flash. It’s a nightmare to set up and you get through a lot of batteries. Then I tried the Rotolight NEO 2 because it’s so small and I’m always out on location. To have like 100,000 flashes on one battery was just crazy. Over the years I’ve learned how to perfect my work with constant lighting.
Are Rotolights powerful enough?
They aren’t as powerful as a flashgun but you don’t use them the same way. It’s a completely different technique. I just did a shoot for London Fashion Week with just one AEOS 2 on constant from a metre away, and that was midday in Shoreditch so I really don’t need any more power than that. The thing is that a lot of photographers don’t set the lighting properly. Beauty and fashion shooters will always try to get the light as close as possible to get the best quality of light. So you really don’t need the power of flash.
The advantages of LED lighting, and having so much more flexibility with the temperature – and now with the new lights, the colours too – absolutely outweighs any disadvantages. With the additional power of the new NEO 3 and AEOS 2 it has just surpassed flash in every way. We have reached the turning point now.
Do you mostly use the NEO or AEOS?
If I’m on a commercial shoot I’ll use AEOS. But if I’m out on a street shoot, or doing a test shoot, and it’s just myself, I’ll just put a couple of NEOs in my bag because they’re so small.
What were your first impressions of the new NEO 3 and AEOS 2?
I started with Rotolight as a customer, using them commercially for years. Then the firm messaged me to say it had these new lights and did I want to shoot some promo material? So I had the first prototypes. We went around London with some models and these lights that I’d never used, with no instructions. That touchscreen is so intuitive. Anybody can just pick them up and use them straight away. It was crazy the amount of shots that I could achieve with those lights.
What do you like best about them?
The 16.7 million colours. I’ve got 2,500 digital gels at my fingertips – so that’s already saved me a fortune. Rechargeable batteries that last all day. I can just stick a battery on and I don’t have to worry about carrying loads of spares. And the power – the fact that I’ve now got a constant LED light that can overpower the sun!
How do you like to use them?
The colours are mainly used for backgrounds or accent lighting. I try not to colour the subject with RGB because it’s not my style. If I’m outdoors, in the sun, I’ll use them bare. But I’ll use diffusers in the evening or indoors. The new diffuser domes make a huge difference and now with the new S Mount adaptor you can attach any S mount modifier to them.
What are your top five lighting tips?
- Get your light source as close to the subject as possible to give you that soft, beautiful light.
- Use a mix of key light and rim light to really make that subject pop from the background.
- Don’t light from straight on. Always try to have the key light dropping down, and at 45° to the face. It’ll add definition, and catchlights to make their eyes sparkle.
- Accent lighting is important – don’t just light your subject, light your scene.
- Practice. If you want to get fit you go the gym every day. It’s the same with photography.
Join Sam Nash on tour!
Join Sam on a Rotolight photowalk around your local city or take the opportunity of an intense Photography Lighting Masterclass. All of the Lighting Masterclasses are open to photographers of all abilities, from amateurs to professionals, but it’s advised to book quickly as limited places are available for the sessions.
For more details visit: Rotolight.com/samnash