Bert Goes All Hollywood on Us

Regular readers of this site are long familiar with Belgian photographer Bert Stephani. His easy-going manner and slightly warped sense of humor always make for fun learning in his behind-the-scenes shoot videos.

For the last several months, Bert (along with partner Peter Van Impe) have been working pretty much nonstop to produce a new lighting tutorial, "Motivational Light."

Hit the jump for a trailer, links and impressions after 3.5 hours of non-stop Bert.

When I say working nonstop, I am not kidding. Case in point, the in-the-library moment that is shown briefly at the 18-second mark in the trailer above. Anyone who knows Bert will tell you that he is not one to take himself seriously, and this video series is certainly no exception.

That is not to say that he does not deliver a large amount of info. The tutorials are very relaxed and conversational, with a lot of working-through-the-concepts for each shoot before you go out with him.

And he pretty much views the math anxiety stuff the same way I do: You need to acknowledge it, but you certainly don't wanna get bogged down by it.

To that end, he hits you with the serious concepts -- including inverse square rule -- first. But only after donning a professor's outfit, beard, wig and fake accent. That'd be Bert for ya.

It is important to note that this is not just a flash thing, but a lighting course in general. He embraces ambient light first, and how to use it to best advantage. He's essentially teaching you how to mold ambient light to do what you want it to do. Then he moves on to being able to both recreate and improve the ambient light you like, but this time using flash.

He works almost equally between speedlights and big flashes, and moves between them seamlessly -- as anyone who considers speedlights nothing more than small versions of manual big lights would.

Several things distinguish this series from the other lighting videos to date. First, he ended up shooting more than he could fit on the DVDs (and the 5GB download file limit.) So he will be putting the extra material on his site for free in the near future.

Second, in addition to 2.5 hours of lighting, he includes an hour of post-production techniques at the end -- in Lightroom. Those of you who use that program instead of Aperture or Photoshop will be happy to see someone speaking your post-production language. And for the DSLR video folks, you'll be interested to know that it was shot in HD on a Canon 5D MkII.

Is it Worth the Money

The smartass answer is, "it depends."

Motivation Light sells for $170 as a download. And for an extra $70, you get a shipped set of DVDs as a hard copy. If you just want to kill an afternoon or evening watching a movie, go see Hot Tub Time Machine instead. I mean, Bert's not that entertaining.

But if you are intimidated by lighting and want someone to help you to work through the concepts, techniques and learn to create the light you want, your dollars (or Euros) are far better spent on education than they being thrown at more gear. If you consider something like this to be a self-paced course -- and actually get out and practice what you are learning -- the value of assimilating someone else's knowledge and experience is very good bang for the buck.

In comparison, think about the cost of a typical college class, and what you walk away with in the end. The expense is significant, but its value depends largely on the work you are willing to put into it.

It's the same with an in-person seminar. And from the perspective of someone who occasionally gives seminars in various places around the world, I can vouch for the fact that there is simply no way it is feasible to get to more than just a handful of places. Teaching (and learning) via video is a very good compromise on both ends. And with video, you can view it and practice repeatedly until you get it. There's certainly something to be said for that.

More information (and how to order) at Motivational Light.

See also: Josh Brewster's review


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