Andrew Appleton Lighting Masterclass Review

When I realised that the shiny new “Lighting Masterclass” from Andrew Appleton was taking on place on one of my rare days off and not too far away from me, I chucked my money in his direction and booked myself onto the course straight away.

I’d heard Andrews name mentioned many times throughout the years and billed as a course which was going to cover “absolutely everything Andrew Appleton knows about light”, I figured this could be a good photography training course to improve my own lighting skills by learning from somebody who is very well regarded in the photography industry.

The course was taking place at Biscuit Photography Studio in Leicester, however upon arriving there was nobody actually in the studio. Wandering around the building a bit I found a group of people in a conference centre in the same building and whilst there was no sign of Andrew or any signs to say I was in the right place, I decided the softboxes at the front of the room were a bit of a giveaway and sat myself at a table.

I waited a little bit and then decided coffee was much needed and helped myself to some that was on the side. My only direct interaction with Andrew throughout the entire day was him telling me to help myself to coffee… halfway through me helping myself to coffee, thanks!

Andrew started promptly at 10am, telling us that the course was split into 3 sections:

  • The Basics Of Light
  • Getting Technical
  • Practical Demonstration

After introducing himself to the room he asked everyone what cameras they were using (mostly Canon users) and then went straight into the first section of his masterclass, The Basics Of Light. Here he covered basic principles such as the exposure triangle, dynamic range, the inverse square law (which seemed to confuddle the room a bit) and a couple of other bits about colour temperatures and the importance of the size of the light source in relation to the subject.

I didn’t learn much in part one, it was all pretty simple stuff but he got through it really quickly so I wasn’t too worried and if you’re going to give a Lighting Masterclass, you can’t really do it without ensuring the room understands the importance of each of the areas he covered.

In part 2 he started by showing the group his lightmeter (not a euphemism) and spent a little time showing everyone how it worked. We then discussed the difference between Speedlights and studio lights and learnt the difference between “quench and dump”. Not something that will improve my photography, but quite interesting I guess. Andrew seemed pretty pleased that he knew more about the lights than people on the trade show stands he talks to about them, so we spent a little time discussing this too.

It was about half way through Part 2 that my will to live slowly started to escape me when he tried to explain to the room how the cameras shutter worked and why cameras have a max shutter speed when used with flash without features such as High Speed Sync being used. The room just didn’t get it regardless of what Andrew replied and he resorted to playing a 10 minute long Youtube video to explain. To be fair to Andrew he only had one slide on this subject and I don’t think he meant to spend 45 minutes on it by any means, but it was hard to sit through if I’m really honest.

The rest of part 2 we discussed triggering off camera flashes with transmitters and receivers and he held up certain lighting modifiers and told us “this is a softbox” and “this is a beauty dish”….  as my stomach started growling I knew I needed food!

At lunch I discussed with the other people who had sat on my table with me about what they thought and I think the general consensus was “it was quite a tough format to sit through” as there was no demonstration, just Andrew talking. I was surprised to learn that 2 ladies on my table were professional photographers, one of whom specialised in portraits. I looked at her work and it was beautiful, her use of flash was superb, why had she come I wondered?

As we went in to part 3 it dawned on me that it was 2pm and in the 4 hours prior, I’d only really learnt the difference between Quench and Dump lights and if I’m honest, I probably could have got by without knowing this. I crossed my fingers as we went into the practical demonstration that I’d walk away with more.

As Andrew battled with screens that would reset themselves every 2 minutes and tethering that stopped working every 3 minutes when his screensaver kicked in, we covered short lighting, broad lighting, butterfly lighting and bounce flash. Andrew openly admits to being sponsored by certain companies and so all the gear he recommends of course comes from those companies. It got a little commercial near the end when he started talking about lighting modifiers people could buy and offer codes they could use along with selling membership to his own sites.

So I felt a bit like a gameshow contestant who didn’t win the jackpot if I’m very honest. “It was a lovely day, I’ve met some really nice people….” But I do walk away empty handed.

As I was driving back I wondered why I thought it was going to be any more than it was, because it was comprehensive, but it was a beginners guide to lighting and it sells itself with the following:

“If you are an intermediate or advanced photographer who really wants to crack lighting, the APT Lighting Masterclass offers you all the tools you need.”.

Having paid my £99.00 and spent a day on my life on this course then it is my opinion that for complete newbies to lighting, this is a fantastic course. It should be named “A Beginners Guide To Lighting” and everyone who attends will be happy. But if you know a few of the basics like what a softbox is, have your head around the inverse square law and know how to trigger off camera flashes, you might want to do a bit more research into what’s covered first.

This review is just my personal opinion having attended. This is a great course on lighting for beginners and Andrew is a good speaker who teaches very well. You will of course make your own opinions!

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