Tag Archives: Lighting

Lighting Essentials Workshop Review

Don Giannatti Lighting Essentials Workshop Review


I attended Don Giannatti’s Lighting Essentials San Francisco Workshop on August 23 & 24th, 2008 and I thought it was pretty good. For $299, we got a two day workshop that included a brief overview of studio lighting, extensive strobe lighting overviews, and a chance to shoot with a good amount of different models at different locations. This was not my first workshop nor do I consider myself a beginner photographer. I would say I am a intermediate photographer since I can comprehend most of the photography concepts. I have gone to several model mixers, and had several of my own model shoots where I do my own lighting so it was not my first time working with models. There was also a makeup artist for the first day which can always help make the models look even better.

I enjoyed the workshop and it was good for all levels from beginner to intermediate photographers because there is always something new to learn in photography. The workshop was intended to be strictly a lighting workshop that focused on lighting and that was exactly the reason why I took the class. Don Giannatti is a professional photographer who has over 40 years of experience and has some good expertise on shooting specifically with strobes. Using strobes or external flashes along with reflectors can be great because it does not require you to bring around big studio lights and battery packs.

Day one of the workshop started at the Holiday Inn in South San Francisco as Don went over a little bit about lighting and his background. The class had about 20 students,  which was 5 over his normal workshops but due to a computer issue, he was not able to close the attendance signup. This wasn’t a huge issue except for the one or two photographer who always goes off with a model and shoots instead of listening and letting the teacher drive the class which was quite annoying. Photographers were asked to bring their own studio lights for the first day and we had some pretty good lighting setups. We spent some time doing some studio light testing at 4-5 different stations using softboxes, umbrellas, and reflectors. This helped us see the differences between the types of lighting as well as the placement of the lighting and reflectors. The studio lighting was all setup with Pocket Wizards and half the photographers had their own while the other half had to ask people who were willing to let others borrow them without hesitation.

After lunch, we went outside the hotel for some outdoor shooting in the hotel parking lot area using strobes and wireless triggers. For the studio setups, we had used mainly Pocket Wizards, but outside, the other half of the class used Cactus V2 triggers. This was not a huge problem but did cause some minor confusion as you had to basically be in your group using one or the other or wait and ask someone to borrow their triggers. Strobes were not an issue as everyone had at least one strobe whether it be a Nikon, Canon, or SunPak external flash. The great thing about using strobes, is that by attaching a Pocket Wizard, Cactus V2, or any other wireless system, you can basically use the flashes all together and not have any issues. At 5pm the class was suppose to end but one model stayed around and we did some more shooting in the hotel lobby area and outside as well. We took advantage of the natural lighting and Don showed us how we can use reflectors with natural lighting to light the model.

german tourists

The next day we met at Union Square in downtown San Francisco. The location is great for shooting, but not exactly the best spot for a workshop on a nice sunny Sunday. We had a lack of models on a Sunday morning not surprisingly but did manage to find some tourists to model for us. We even managed to find a girl who just arrived in the United States from Europe for school and ended up modeling for us the whole day. We used strobes and reflectors at different spots to try out the different methods of lighting the model. We then moved to a alleyway and the organization of the workshop began to fall apart. More models finally showed up and photographers started shooting with them on the side and started wandering off and shooting like crazy like they were practicing to be Paparazzi. The goal of a workshop is to let the teacher drive the class and teach the students. The models were mainly used as the tool and subject but some photographers acted like they have never seen a hot young chick so they go shooting like crazy and forget that this is a workshop. After lunch, we walked over to the Yerba Buena Gardens and broke off into groups to do some lighting exercises. That did not turn out so good because photographers basically started doing their own thing and took models with them as well to do their own thing. People started wandering all over the place and basically it was just like the survival of the fittest in trying to learn as much as you can in finding out where Don was and seeing what he was showing and teaching. My group ended up not knowing where everyone was and I ended up wandering around with two of the models trying to find the rest of the group.

Overall, I think the workshop was worthwhile. The first day was great and the second day was a little disorganized. I knew some of the lighting ideas taught in the class but Don emphasized the idea of knowing how to find out the proper exposure of the subject and how to set your strobes accordingly. I actually never used that way of lighting my models and basically just used the basic shoot and adjust method as opposed to using a light meter. It definitely can be useful to find the right exposure using a light meter and then adjusting your strobe to that exposure and firing it at the right distance. All my shots that you see here have some post processing applied to them. That was not a focus of this workshop so all of my post processing work here is from my own skills.

You can see more of my shots here.