Tomasz Tomaszewski Explains Shooting in Total Darkness

Tomasz Tomaszewski is a photojournalistic photographer who often shoots for National Geographic Poland. It's quite amazing to see the depth of the images he has taken inside the harsh conditions of coal mines that feature dust, moisture, and poisonous gases. Equipped with just a Nikon D3, a few SB-900s, and a small Softbox, Tomasz has some of the most compelling images of people working on site that I have ever seen. Check out the final images here at

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I love the photos he took in this. Thanks for sharing!

They are great images, but are they photojournalism? I don't think creatively lighting a photo for journalistic purposes is appropriate. It creates photographs that do not tell the story the way it happens in real life. I think it is irresponsible to celebrate this work as photojournalistic. As non journalistic work I think it excels. They are amazing images! These images would be far better suited as an editorial piece for a commercial magazine. Tomasz Tomaszewski is indeed an amazing photographer, but I do not agree he is a photojournalist. I would love to know if National Geographic knew he lit the photos creatively. If they did know, then they are also complicit in misleading the public.

Patrick Hall's picture

This brings up an interesting point William. I know real photojournalists follow a strict creed of not altering reality aside from maybe some levels and color correction (WB correction). However, I never knew that creative lighting was not part of a photojournalist's palate. I mean if people are doing their own thing in front of a camera, does it matter if you lit it with on camera flash bouncing into the left wall or if there was a softbox there? I would think as long as it isn't scripted then it's still photojournalism. How else could you possibly take a photo in pitch black if you aren't able to bring light with you? And would indoor sports photographers who use installed lighting in the rafters not be considered photojournalists because they did not use natural light? I don't know really.

This is really cool. I love seeing how people work in complex situations like this; glad they put subtitles too

I am always surprised with the drama and power photographers can elicit with small flash. I guess David Hobbie and Joe McNally actually have something. Hmmmm.

Sorry I realize David spells his last name Hobby, I typed wrong and didn't pay any attention to spell check! LOL!

That is very revealing and in depth. I find his technical approach just as interesting as his personal approach to his subject.

Great video, stunning images, but also amusing that the whole thing boiled down to 'there wasn't enough light, so I shot it strobist.'

I have followed Tomasz for a number of years now and love his work. They way he is speaking is like this is some new technique or radical way of shooting, could be true in the photo journalistic field, but like others have stated he could have cut the time in half by just saying I shot it Strobist

@Patrick Hall IDK, I think using multiple strobes to create depth sounds like artistic license to me. Far from the basic bare or diffused flashbulbs of old. I just think that the way he spoke about it made me inclined to think of it as not photojournalism. Also he brought in more than one light source, meaning that he had multiple angles of light and multiple levels (flashpowers) of light.

This can not be compared to indoor sports photography, in an arena all of the strobes are on the same plane and are the same flash power, my problem isn't that he lit the subject, it's that he brought in an 'ecosystem' of light that was foreign to the subject and location. Let me be clear, He's an amazing photographer and a master of light, but calling this set of photos photojournalism crosses the line for me.

Thank you for posting this article, it keeps me thinking!

Very great pictures, great low lighting technique.
I hope that we will see this gallery in UK and other country.

I think lighting is ok in relation to natgeo stories because they are more about story portrayal than breaking news

However that last image of the injured man is too perfect and seems to be lit with strobes so i personally think it is staged... I don't have a problem with that if it's intentional but i didn't read that edition yet so who knows.

I could be wrong :)

just to add... really awesome shots

Philip Vukelich's picture

Somewhat pointless to the matter, but I think he was holding an SB-800 because of the extra battery holder sticking out.