Learning Lighting From a Master

Photographer Michael Muller has been shooting the biggest names — often for the biggest movies — for more than 30 years. In this video, self-confessed lighting newbie Sawyer Hartman heads to Muller's studio to learn a few tricks of the trade.

Muller (when he's not shooting sharks) pays particular attention to how light falls onto the face, whether that's through a strobe with a modifier or with natural light, explaining how this can be manipulated to best suit his subject. Having an insight into Muller's choice and positioning of strobes is interesting, but what's particularly useful is also discovering the way he uses flags to control spill and reflections. Throwing light is easy; controlling it is something else, and as Hartman notes, one of his biggest lessons from the day is that "shadows are everything."

In among some basic lighting advice, a few other nuggets stand out, such as Muller's suggestion to buy one really good lens as opposed to a handful of average lenses. This is something I can relate to directly, having bought one of the best wide-angle zooms available (which is on my camera 90 percent of the time) and supplementing the rest of my kit with more affordable options, before upgrading when money allows.

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12 Comments

It would have been nice to hear more from Muller, but Sawyer kept talking over him in VO. I'd rather hear Muller's words than Sawyer's interpretation.

Marius Pettersen's picture

Promoting a specific light from Broncolor; didn't use the actual product in the video - that we could see.
The essence still stands though, so this is just nitpicking, but it would be better if they actually used the gear he had been shipped from Bron to test out. The Para (133) is a beast when it comes to controlling and focusing the light, but also very expensive.

Robert Nurse's picture

I've got a Siros L 800 and they are pretty nice. They make shooting on location far less of a hassle. But, yeah, it would have been nice if they had used the one in the video. Those paras cost more than the Siros, LOL!

Studio 403's picture

Great post. Inspiring. I am taking a sabbath from shooting for 3 months. A sort of pruning metaphorically speaking. Sort of went blank with ideas and concepts. I will continue to post archives work and read fstoppers, and other sites. Hope this break will help

Robert Nurse's picture

I got this same advice: take time off from shooting and to draw instead. With winter coming I just might.

Heiko Kanzler's picture

Perhaps I am the only one, but I didn't get it? Was this about the lights, Michael Muller or what?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

It's all of the above. A beginner, a pro and a brand. You can obtain the same results with the Siros or packs as long as you use the proper accessories and the only limitation is the 800ws. Really you can. Different tools for different budgets. Packs are great, batteries are great, a mix just allows for more productivity depending if you work in studio or outdoors. Probably a start up would find more use of the Siros right away.

Which brand do you mean? Broncolor or PhaseOne (and wearing the PO T)?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Title is about lighting, no cameras

They are always talking about one light but I always see 3 lights...

Ryan Stone's picture

Claims to not know how to use lighting, claims to have never shot in any sized studio. Has “professional” YouTube photography tutorial vlog. Ugh.

Cyril Charpin's picture

Broncolor flashs with Profoto remote? :)