Strobist Interview – David Hobby
We recently contacted the Strobist, David Hobby, to do an interview for our readers here at APS. He's an incredible photographer who runs an extremely helpful website based on lighting technique at Strobist.com. Be sure to checkout his site and take in all that it has to offer after reading this interview!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your website.
DH: I was a 20-year newspaper shooter before starting Strobist.com in 2006. Since then, Strobist has grown to be the world's largest resource on photographic lighting. In 2008, it become impossible to balance the demands of the site with a full-time job. So I left The Baltimore Sun to go freelance, which allowed me the flexibility to grow Strobist.com into what it is today.
I’m sure you’ve had many interesting assignments as a photographer, whats the most exciting action-based assignment you’ve had?
DH: I shot a lot of sports for The Sun and the other papers I have worked for, from prep football to college and pro sports of all kinds. My favorite was always college football. But I also really enjoyed shooting prep and rec sports for the pure passion that was there. The more money gets involved in a sport, the less pure it is IMO.
What kind of problems do you face when shooting movement, and how do you solve them?
DH: I did not really shoot much extreme sports stuff, so for me it was always a balance of shutter speed vs. noise. That is to say, in a marginal situation I would go aperture priority, shoot wide open and then adjust my ISO until I got an acceptable fast shutter speed. Pretty standard stuff.
How do you approach lighting when you are shooting sports and events?
DH: Lighting was for indoor events, mostly. I would cross (or corner) light hoops, and usually set up a triangle of speedlights for more static things like wrestling.
When you want to convey motion, what is your approach?
DH: Sometimes I will go with a slow shutter speed and pan, as in this shot of Seattle speedster Ichiro Suzuki:
Do you prefer small flashes? And what are some issues you face when using them as opposed to larger studio heads?
DH: With sports, generally, yeah. Issue is mostly power. So you have to use them to tweak the light rather then overpower it. It's a good technique anyway, so kinda cool that speedlights force you into that.
But if your environment is dark enough, you can totally overpower the light with speedlights as in this example:
Do you eat flashes for breakfast like Joe McNally?
DH: No, but I puke them up after lunch.
What are some exciting new techniques that you’ve recently learned and that are popular right now?
DH: To whatever lighting scheme I am using for action, I am far more likely to add some on-axis fill, for controllable detail in the shadows:
What do you do when one of your shoots is not going the way you had originally envisioned?
DH: You say that as if it rarely happens. It always happens to some degree. You adjust. That is the fun and challenge.
What is your approach to the business side of photography?
DH: I tend to think of myself less like a service provider, and more like a startup. You want to think creatively, and consider the entire vertical of your business. Be in control of the ecosystem to the greatest degree possible.
Do you use gels for special effects, and how do you decide what colors to use?
DH: Generally, just for correcting light. Sometimes for introducing families of colors. But always just by eye.
What’s the one thing you would change about flashes to make them better for sports?
DH: Nothing, really. It is up to the photog to figure out how to marry flashes and sports together in any given situation if he/she wants to use them.
Do you have one tip that you would recommend to any aspiring photographer to give them an edge?
DH: Decide what it is you truly want to shoot, and shoot exactly that as often as possible.
We would like to thank David for taking the time to share his views and opinions!