Shedding Light on the Gender Gap

UPDATE: I figured there would be some comments on this one. But still, I had no idea. Kinda like turning on the comment firehose.

Thanks much for all of the helpful feedback, and to those asking, I got the 94% number from multiple polls.


I am getting ready to hop on a plane to Mexico, where I will be teaching for Santa Fe Workshops next week. So if emails go unanswered, or comments are a little slow to moderate, thanks for your patience.

Interesting fact: My SFW class, whom I have already met via email, is 75% female. This is interesting only in that the readership of this site is overwhelmingly male. Ninety-four percent, last I checked.

Which brings up a question that has been bouncing around in my mind for over a year now: Why is that? Why do women comprise only 6% of the site's readership?

And further, why does lighting (in my experience, anyway) tend to be more of a guy thing?

Some thoughts, and a pathetic plea for help, inside.

XX vs. XY

I worked as a newspaper shooter for over 20 years. So as a staffer, stringer or intern, I worked with a total of roughly a hundred other photographers over that time period.

That's not a huge sample, granted. But still, I think back and realize that the male photographers I worked with were more likely to use lighting than were the female photographers. There were exceptions, of course. But in general, the trend held.

And it has certainly borne out looking at not only the readership of this site but the makeup of the previous lighting classes that I have taught. Always more males than females, and usually not even close. Sometimes there would be just one or two women in a class of 50.

I actually mentioned it during a class in Paris. And someone (who was female, for the record) answered that lighting was (ahem) "Too technical for lots of women."

Mind you, I am merely paraphrasing, and not saying that myself. Heck, if Missus Strobist even sees this post, she will beat me senseless with the business end of a weighted boom.

And I don't buy that line of thought anyway. But the fact remains that many guys tend to be more technically oriented photographers. And (in my experience) women tend to care more about the actual photo as compared to the camera model, lens, lighting ratio, etc.

Which, if you think about it, puts us guys at a big disadvantage. Because frankly, you can teach a trained monkey how to light. I even watched Patrick Smith teach himself and he went out and got a real job at an actual paper in Utah and everything.

But seeing subtle pictures, sensitivity, photographer/subject interaction -- all that stuff that I have again and again seen women excel at -- is something most people either have or they don't. Good luck teaching someone how to do that.

So in that sense I am very jealous.

And I do not know if my suppositions are correct, but I do know that only a very small percentage of this site's readers are female. So, I am asking the females, why is that the case and what can be done about it?

I mean, we could certainly just shoot a decent number of the male readers and that would bring the percentages into line. But surely there is a less messy alternative.

Interesting fact number two: There is a small-but-growing "Lady Strobists Group" on Flickr, which certainly says something about this. Although, being a guy, what it says or does not say is probably beyond me.

So, You Tell Me

Please share your thoughts. Is this just another stupid boys' club? Is lighting and being female (even a little bit) counter-intuitive in some way?

Asking the women mostly, of course. In fact, if you are a married guy you'd probably better run any prospective comment past your wife (before the fact) just to be safe.

And if you are female and feel out of place in a guy-dominated group -- as the main Strobist Flickr Group can sometimes be -- please consider joining the Lady Strobists group.

IMO, there is absolutely no reason that lighting need be gender-weighted. Assuming it even is. And please take my word for it when I say that I am not consciously trying to do anything to present lighting as a Guy Thing on this blog.

It's just another in a long list of areas where I apparently can't attract women…


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Blogger AdvRdr said...

I taught photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art + Design for seven years and nearly ever class was 75% female.

November 04, 2009 10:37 PM  
Blogger David said...


Not talking so much about the ratio of shooters, but rather the M-F ratio of shooters who tend to light (as in off-camera flash).


November 04, 2009 10:40 PM  
Blogger Tobias Chu said...

I think it just has more to do with guys and their gadgets. Speaking for myself...I love my toys and am always on the lookout for something new to play with. Not to say that women don't like gadgets as well, but I do think that this is predominantly a male thing. IMHO. =]

November 04, 2009 10:41 PM  
Blogger Alex Minkin Photography said...

the hallmark institute of photography is 60% female this year, no word on what fields theyre looking at going into yet.

November 04, 2009 10:42 PM  
Blogger MDKauffmann said...

I agree with your observation on the role of men & women while shooting. My wife & I work as a team at weddings. I learned quickly she has/had no interest in truly shooting or lighting, but she can set up a shot like a mad-woman. Our usual rhythm is that she set's 'em up, I shoot 'em down - lather, rinse, repeat. It works well for us.

November 04, 2009 10:46 PM  
Blogger AdvRdr said...

too busy watching the World Series that I forgot to finish my thought.

Of those female students, I could count on one hand the number who were interested in lighting anything. They were all about available light and capturing life as it was presented to them.

Is it a gender thing? Are men more gadget oriented and thus more likely to go to the trouble to set-up aux. lighting?

I think so.

But then again, look at the ranks of women shooters at the top of the advertising/fashion worlds. They have no problem setting up a roomful of Profoto strobes.

Could it be that women look at men and their lighting gear and shy away because they don't know how to use it, figure it's complicated, or heavy and cumbersome?

I worked on a large daily newspaper and our staff was 50/50 men/women. Several of the women wanted to shoot sports, use the long glass, take on the studio work but never asked because they figured it was the boys playground.

And they weren't invited to play.

November 04, 2009 10:47 PM  
Blogger Andre said...

I was told by my friend (a psychologist) that the female brain tends to be wired favoring color value and contrast in the visual field but is weak on spatial coordination and depth perception in comparison to the male brain, also noting that the male brain has its structural drawback too. This maybe a reason why there are different modes of approaching the subject of lighting and strobist work.
I have no idea how true that is but I know a female photographer who can call light temperature and good lighting angles like nobodies business, and she thinks its just a matter of boy like to play with toys (and blog about them.)

November 04, 2009 10:47 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

Coming from one university photog's perspective, one of my coworkers (PJ degree) is female and hates using flash unless absolutely necessary while my other male coworker comes from a commercial shooting background and can light like nobody's business. I'm a male and I see lighting as a puzzle, so it's fun - I don't know what this all means but I thought it'd be worth the input.

November 04, 2009 10:48 PM  
Blogger Tina M. Harris said...

I love the Strobist site -- and have never thought of it as a "Boy's Club." I certainly DO NOT think that you do anything to drive the girls away, David. (At least, not here on the site. I can't speak for you in your personal life!) As for what to do to balance things out a little more, I wouldn't really recommend bumping off your male readership. Clean up is just such a ... well, you know.

My friend Sarah Mattingly is the one who told me about this site, and I am so thankful that she did. If all the other women out there who are fans of Strobist would tell their friends about the site, that might help grow your female base. Come on ladies -- you know how awesome this site is, so why not tell a female friend (or three?!)

November 04, 2009 10:55 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I want to learn light sooooo badly. I think there are a # of factors. Gadets, yes
I believe female/male shots actually have different tones to it which is why I hope at next years Vegas photoshop world, I hope to see more women teachers.
As a female photog student, I envy those sport photogs, lighting setups and I'm finding it hard to know how to ask how to learn. I'm a bit overwhelmed on where to even start.
So I have no idea what I'm trying to say except I WANT to learn it soooo much.

November 04, 2009 10:55 PM  
OpenID visualperspective said...

I'm female and the latest gizmos have never appealed to me. I'm far more interested in the results; getting the photo I want shot how I want it. I get the equipment I need to create the images I intend to create. Be technical is important to me but just not in the same way. Example if I need a screw driver for something I go out to the shop pick up the one that will get the job done and go do the job. I don’t need to discuss the fine tuning of the various screw drivers and spend an hour trying to figure out which one will best drive the screw. I typically roll my eyes at all the gear discussions and the "you need the latest blah blah blah to take a photo" that takes place all over the net. I see people over complicating things and getting into huge arguments over what is the best gear. There are tons of discussions that pop up with “you're not a photographer unless you have this”. I just don’t’ have time for it, I have photos that need to be shot and that is what it’s all about. When I need something I research what I need, buy what I need and life is good, I get my shot.

November 04, 2009 10:58 PM  
Blogger Mamacita Chilena said...

"Could it be that women look at men and their lighting gear and shy away because they don't know how to use it, figure it's complicated, or heavy and cumbersome?"

Ummm hi. That was sexist AdvRdr.

I am a female and I will say this. I like pretty pictures. I will do what it takes to make a pretty picture. The numbers of speedlight at -1/3 and this and that power bore me. However, if I see a picture that looks pretty enough that I want to try it out, I will figure it out. The explanation in my brain however, will most likely not be numeric.

November 04, 2009 11:05 PM  
Blogger Alex DiFiori said...

I think a lot of the split is because of advertising. Back when roll film first came out, Kodak made adds targeting women, and a lot of women bought Kodak cameras.

I can't remember the last time I saw a woman (who wasn't a model) in a photo gear ad.

On top of that, besides Annie and Joyce, the number of publicly successful photographers vs great photographers leans heavily towards the men's crowd.

Boys like their toys.

November 04, 2009 11:13 PM  
Blogger MrLoofer said...

I don't think it's a trend that more females are beginning to use off camera flash, rather there are mire and more females taking up photography as a whole. These may be the soccer moms now looking for another outlet or income, who knows? The one thing I have noticed is all the popular photog workshops taking place across the country have predominantly female attendees, especially in the wedding sector.

November 04, 2009 11:14 PM  
Blogger Kurt Shoens said...

If men are all about the gadgets and women are all about the picture, why would women (generally) read the blog or Strobist Flickr group? The subject matter of both is highly tilted towards gear, either directly or indirectly.

I don't know if off-camera lighting is inherently "gadgety." Maybe so. It does have a heavier footprint, what with stands, umbrellas, etc compared to just photographer and subject.

I will be interested to read why this one workshop ran counter to your usual demographics.

November 04, 2009 11:16 PM  
Blogger bubbledumpster said...

i'm a 22 year old female, and i can't speak for all female photographers, but in my experience any time i have gone to a photography seminar, or class, or even a shop, i find an overwhelming number of men who seem to be more interested in amassing the nicest most fancy expensive gadgets they can.

and they tend to be extremely arrogant in their attitudes towards me as a young, less experienced female. and that really turns me off of ever wanting to put myself in situations with people like that.

November 04, 2009 11:24 PM  
Blogger carlos benjamin - said...

I think part of the problem in the flickr group is the harsh attitudes that far too often come across in discussions. As the group has grown the ratio of nice folks who get along vs total jerks who'd rather attack than teach has skewed away from the nice.... Although as online forums go it's still pretty decent and the community will quickly rise to the defense.....

November 04, 2009 11:31 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

It's a very interesting observation and one that I had not thought about till you pointed it out. I think it is true that the respresentation of women interested in "strobing" is down comparatively speaking. Why? I am not sure.
I am a proficient artist in other media and have become increasingly more focused in the photographic medium. Light no matter where it comes from is an essential aspect of photography
Artistically and aesthetically I find light an intuitive thing. I see in my minds eye how I want everything to look in an image.
I see strobes as a part of my palette, so to me, not being able to use those tools proficiently is like trying to draw a dynamic image with only an HB and a 2B pencil- almost impossible!
I will say that I am not a natural tech person so have always found it a struggle to understand the technical aspects of anything including lighting - and I tend to think that that is a female thing (this is of course a generalisation and there are always exceptions) but inspite of this, feel that it is absolutely essential to "get" lighting and be proficient in using artificial light sources otherwise I will never be limiting myself as a photographer.
Inspite of the fact that I find it difficult I won't shy away from the learning. Maybe other females like me, find it difficult and overwhelming so don't bother? I can only speak for myself!

November 04, 2009 11:31 PM  
Blogger daniel said...

Don't know if someone already covered this because i didn't read all the comments... but, i tend to notice that gadgetry is more of a male dominated category. This isn't just confined to photography ether. We like our game systems, flat screen t.v.'s and our Swiss army knives. Us men just like new "toys". It's probably one of the reasons behind why we watch our food spin in the microwave when women usually don't. This is just a generalized observation and does not down play the skill or intelligence of one gender or the other, and should be taken with a grain of salt.

November 04, 2009 11:37 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Ah Mamacita, you've hit the nail on the head perfectly for me! I am turned off by the mathematical, numbers side of lighting. But like you, I will play around with it until it does what I want.

Part of me applauds the Lady Strobists, but the bigger part of me is kind of confused why us girls need our own group in the first place.

November 04, 2009 11:42 PM  
Blogger info said...

As a woman, I love strobist and my gadgets! But when it comes down to it, I care more about the photograph than the cool gadgets that I use to get the photograph!

I think that all the gadget talk might make it hard for anyone who isn't familiar with the tools to understand and come back to the material.

Overall I don't see anything that is turning women away, maybe just learning their lighting in a different way?

November 04, 2009 11:43 PM  
Blogger Nick Strocchia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 04, 2009 11:43 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Guys don't ask for directions - maybe this applies in 'being taught' as well.

November 05, 2009 12:05 AM  
Blogger J said...

My first day of college in my Computer Science intro course, we were asked "Why are there hardly any women here? What can we do about it?" That's a challenging question to answer. When I was first introduced to programming at a young age, I thought it was so cool, powerful, interesting and fun. But apparently that's not the typical female response. I'm not sure what the answer is. I do think that you provide knowledge in a way that open/attractive to everyone. While I don't feel like Strobist on flickr/blogger is a boys club, it did feel like my local strobist group became oriented towards male interests.

I took a One Light Workshop last year and was surprised at how much I already knew (thank you, David!!) and how many women were there. However, it's been a year and a half, and I think of those women who were there, not many of them have incorporated lighting into their line of work as a result of the workshop.

November 05, 2009 12:05 AM  
Blogger Myrna Curzon said...

As a woman just now getting into digital photography I have been amazed and grateful for the number of men willing to share their knowledge of lighting with me. I just took my first digital portrait using two Nikon SB-28s, a foam core reflector and a one of the great collapsible westcott umbrellas. Thanks to this site the shot turned out beautiful. My theory is that as digital cameras get more affordable more women will get into both photography and lighting. Men seem to always have more money for gadgets and toys than women. Or at least they seem to be able to justify spending more on gadgets and toys where women are more self-sacrificing.

November 05, 2009 12:12 AM  
Blogger matt said...

Seems like there's lots of reverse sexism here if we want to get totally PC about it.

Women care about the image, men care about the gear, blah blah blah.

I care about gear because it's about the photograph. Period. Light is the major element of photography and the fact that I have learned how to exert some control over it does in no way imply that I don't care about the "feel" of the photo. In fact I'd say the opposite is true. I care enough about the photo to put in the effort to learn to control my light, whether that be natural or strobe when natural isn't working.

IMHO, 90% of "natural light" photogs just don't want to put forth the effort to learn. Which is fine for me because their work all looks the same while mine looks unique.

November 05, 2009 12:19 AM  
OpenID tulipchainphotography said...

I think this is kind of a silly topic. A photographer is a photographer and gender shouldn't matter.

And @Nick Strocchia: that's an incredibly ignorant thing to say. I taught myself how to light but, frankly, I prefer shooting ambient/HDR. I consider "strobist knowledge" just another tool in my kit that I'll take out when the image needs it. To imply that only great photography can be made with strobes and, even more offensively, should I choose to shoot without them because I don't know how to use my gear?! That's just ignorant. You have a lot of learning about photography to do.

November 05, 2009 12:29 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

I agree with Mamacita Chilena and visualperspective. My goal is the final image, and I don't really care whether I've used the latest and greatest gadget to get it, or just the sun. I'm interested in the process only insofar as it gets me to that goal, whereas I know for many people, it's the actual process of photography that interests them, and the end result of the image is secondary. I think that the obsession over equipment can degenerate into a pissing contest, for lack of a better phrase :-) The idea that gorgeous lighting could be accomplished as effectively with strobes as opposed to big studio lights was what drew me to this blog, because it felt like a breath of fresh air. There is a focus on efficiency, creativity and ingenuity - things I like and admire, and that help me to make the image I want.

November 05, 2009 12:37 AM  
Blogger DebbyClark said...

As a female shooter, I love exploring light. My husband is a bit ahead of me on this, but this Friday we're going to a Joe McNally seminar on lighting, we have numerous videos, books, etc. on it. I don't announce my presence on every site, but I like to follow you on Twitter, and I follow a lot of photographers, I love gadgets and am a Mac geek. I was reading on TUAW today a post about women who love tech and would rather get a new Mac than jewelry. That's me. Give me my Mac and my D90 and I'm a happy camper.

November 05, 2009 12:39 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

i am only one of the 6% of your woman readership - so those of you good at math can figure out what small percentage my comment makes... i just came home from a studio lighting workshop where there are only 2 students, both of us female. i commented to my husband when i walked in the door that i prefer it this way, because i can ask the questions i want to ask, and really get in the groove of taking pictures, without all these men making me feel stupid or in some way trying to upstage me.
let me point out that i am highly technically minded - i studied engineering in college for some time before i realized that while I am capable of understanding physics, computers, motors, gadgets, etc., spending all my time talking about them bores me to tears. for so long i shied away from learning about lighting. first i thought i wasn't interested in it because its the stuff fashion and glamour photographers use, which i am not interested in pursuing as a career. but when i became aware of the limits of my photography because i don't have enough light - regardless of the type of photography i might be interested in - i realized the need to learn about it. but then I became intimidated because I went to a 'shoot-out' organized by a camera club and there were probably 70 men there and 3 or 4 women and even when it was my time to shoot, men were hovering around me either trying to shoot at the same time as me (duh! it doesn't work if you aren't synced to the strobes) or trying to peer at my LCD to see if i was doing a good job, or who knows, just trying to get to know me because i was one of a few women. but now that i have begun to see how lighting works when i have control over it, there is no going back and i am not afraid of it, not incapable of understanding it, and certainly not bored by it! instead it has opened doors to a whole new world of possibility. but you won't find me talking f-stops and modifiers and watt-seconds and brand names unless asked - i don't care - i just care enough to know how to make my vision work. strobes are just another tool to the final image. they are by no means the image itself.

strobist is not doing anything to steer women away. i love this site and recommended it to my other woman student in the lighting workshop. it has taught me so much and i haven't even gone through all the assignments yet. but some of you men might be steering us women away in general. its not about brain capability, and we aren't all soccer moms buying gear with hubby's salary... but we do get attitude from other (men) photographers, sometimes its not rude, its just well-tempered upstaging or well-meaning talking down-to, or annoying attempts at flirting(duh! i'm wearing a wedding ring)...
at strobist, i can learn anonymously and ask questions anonymously... so you're doing great. i think if other women saw lighting as a different type of paint brush vs. yet another gadget to be bought, to compete with against other photographers, they might be more interested... i'm not interested in competing, or in gathering as many toys as possible, just creating a beautiful image.
but who i am i?... just wanted to throw in my less than 6% of two cents.

November 05, 2009 12:45 AM  
Blogger arianabauer said...

I am the very rare female gadget freak. Can't help it, gear makes me drool.

November 05, 2009 12:46 AM  
OpenID restaurantouring said...

shot a wedding recently. my sister, an award-winning graduate of film and video, wanted to tag along and be a second shooter. the reception hall was like 1/8 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 3200. musta swapped AA's 12 times in just a few hours. sister absolutely refused to use flash most of the time (and preferred to use direct, on-axis flash instead of even trying to bounce it whenever she did use it). said it was distracting, unnatural, fake. come to think of it, her films were all available-light-only, too (occasionally modified/diffused).

i don't really get it, either. i think she just wanted to quietly make pictures without drawing any attention to herself. unfortunately, the vast majority of her pictures were either blurry, had too much contrast, or had a dynamic range that was too wide for the camera to capture adequately. fortunately, I made sure I got the shots I needed and was just glad she was there to help me pack up my stuff and carry some of it for me.

also, almost all of my photography buddies are women and they all seem to talk about flash with a contemptuous tone in their voice. "I like natural light better," they say. or, "I just don't like the way flash looks." Why? "I dunno. I just don't." Never could make sense of it myself, so any info from the women out there would be very interesting to me...

November 05, 2009 12:51 AM  
OpenID paulman said...

It isn't necessarily sexist to say that more female photographers will tend to shy away from the technical side of photography as compared to men. Whether that is actually true is the question, and I think it probably is.

For example, if you look at most fields of engineering, there are more men compared to women. Maybe not as high as Strobist's male readership, but depending on the field (e.g. Electrical Engineering), it can be pretty close (like 80/20). I'm guessing optics & physics would be similar stories. And this is happening even as women are outperforming men in college/university. So, I'm thinking, there must be some difference between the genders - on average - that leads to more men being interested in technical lighting.

And no, it's not sexist to suggest that there may be differences between people of different genders.

November 05, 2009 12:54 AM  
Blogger Trudy said...

• Some see lighting as science, some as art, some as both. For those who see it as science, that might be a detractor for some women as some women are turned off by science and mathematics. This doesn't mean that they are not capable of understanding those areas and excelling in them, but their interest in them may not have been nurtured from a young age. There are studies upon studies about how certain topics are taught to students based on gender (and even other demographic categories). Some girls enter classrooms with pre-existing stereotypes in their heads about math/science and then disinterest or even failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

• Capability and interest are two different things. Some women may simply be more interested in natural lighting and on-camera flash photography. Some may actually be intimidated by the technical components involved. Others may simply not be capable of learning it. I believe that these three points would apply to men as well.

• Some women will read the post post and feel that you are insulting them by mentioning that fewer of them are utilizing off camera lighting and view that as being called intellectually inferior. Women should not see it that way. Our society values technical skills over communication, language, and people skills. Who decides which skills are more "valuable"? Men do. You make an excellent point when you state that a trained monkey can be taught how to light. People value that skill over some of the skills that you mentioned that many women have that cannot be taught and helps their photography. Technical skills are not always superior to all other skills. But due to pre-existing values that are projected onto women, some will think less technical = stupid, and that is simply not true.

• Women may photograph genres where complex lighting may not be needed. Many women seem to photograph portraits/weddings and fast lenses and a flash (even just on-camera) might be the only tools they choose to create with. There seems to be more male photographers involved in commercial photography and fashion photography and those genres often require complex lighting set ups. Just something to consider.

• Income may also be a factor. For female photographers who have other jobs and may be weekend warriors or PT pros, they may be earning less than men and cannot afford expensive lighting equipment. A flash and lenses may be what they are working with. In the groups that I am in, many men are the ones buying the expensive cameras and lighting not the women, and I don't think that is only because women are less interested in gear. Some just cannot afford it.

I know so of many great female photographers who have never touched a strobe or even used a strobist method. I also know some who enjoy complex lighting set ups or prefer natural lighting. Good photographers do what works for them.

I look forward to learning more within many areas of photography including lighting. It's a great experience.

November 05, 2009 1:04 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

How do you know your readership is 94% male? I read this blog semiregularly and don't believe I've ever been documented. Maybe there are more female readers out there than your metrics are telling you.

November 05, 2009 1:05 AM  
Blogger Rachel Perry said...

I am a fairly new photographer in the field. While I am interested in learning about lighting, I'd much rather be able to interact fully with my clients without the use of a bunch of equipment. I know that I could get very proficient with it, but I have found that a lot of equipment can make people feel uncomfortable.

November 05, 2009 1:09 AM  
Blogger Kathy A. said...

My husband approaches lighting very differently than I do. I see it as a means to an end -- if I need more light to get the shot I want, I'll happily do it.

He sees lights as gadgets to play with, and if it happens to enhance the shot, so much the better.

When we're shooting together, he usually handles the lights and camera bag, and I handle composing the shot.

November 05, 2009 1:14 AM  
OpenID restaurantouring said...

Lots of comments popped up after I started writing my first one, so here goes:

I can't help but get the feeling that we (the commenters) are kind of missing the point of this discussion. What I mean by that is I don't think it's really about the gear or the gadgets or the technical nature of lighting or the numbers, ratios, etc. etc.

It is simply (or not) about crafting an image.

In terms of lighting, there are very subtle nuances in taking a good picture at times. Take dynamic range and contrast, for example. With natural/available light, you won't always get what you want in terms of tone and contrast. You could nail everything else -- composition, a nice expression from your model, emotion, whatever -- and potentially still have an issue with your lighting. Your highlights could be blown out, or (probably more often) your shadows are too dark. Your shadow-to-highlight transfer may be too harsh. These are problems I see with many of my photographer friends' images (who are actually all female, now that I think about it).

Is it just me? Am I the only one that perceives these details as problems? Am I to assume that my friends only care about composition and capturing a good expression -- capturing a "moment" -- without regard to better lighting, more subtle shadows and highlights, etc.? Because something about that just doesn't seem right to me.

I can understand why you would dislike lighting if you use it like how I do (I r teh n00b). But after seeing what someone like Greg Heisler can do, I could never understand not wanting to improve your lighting.

November 05, 2009 1:19 AM  
Blogger Wheeler Images said...

I think of my camera as my primary tool. It isn't until recently that I've really pushed myself to use my (long ago purchased) flash to add another creative element with my photography. And I'm struggling with this technology.

There may be an element of truth in this:
"There are countless women wedding shooters out there that label themselves as a "natural light photographer" when it should read "I-don't-want-to-put-in-the-time-to-learn-my-gear photographer."

People (not just women) get into a comfort zone, and don't have the interest or desire to push themselves through the beginning of another learning curve. Which is fine if you're shooting for yourself, but why short change your clients?

I don't care what anyone says; it's next to impossible to get a bunch of good grabs from a dimly lit room. You have to use a flash in some form or another at some point."

And sometimes the flash makes everyone look like crap. Just 'cause you've got the toy, doesn't mean the person (not just men) who owns it knows how it works.

Really not trying to pick on you Nick. :-)

Maybe it's WHAT the non-OCF women photograph, and they don't see how the additional flash adds to their preferred subject matter. A lot of my photography has been nautical. Daytime shots of boats in the distance...flash doesn't play a big role.

Would love to hear of a Strobist workshop in the Boston SB600 and I are not on full speaking terms yet.

November 05, 2009 1:26 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

David, I suspect there are a couple of issues at play.

Conflating your readership numbers with actual photographers who are interested in strobes might not be helpful to the analysis.

I suspect general photography websites will also heavily skewed to male readership disproportionately to SLR use by gender.

My guess is that as well as boys tending to like their toys more, they also like to sit on the web and read and talk about it more.

November 05, 2009 1:39 AM  
Blogger Aaron Beck said...

"Could it be that women look at men and their lighting gear and shy away because they don't know how to use it, figure it's complicated, or heavy and cumbersome?" I don't think so, because that describes me and a whole lot of other people before we stumbled across this site.

I don't buy the techi argument. Women aren't scared to light and use equipment. Uh, Greenberg? Annie?

The more important thing to ask and think about relates to this section of David's post:

"in my experience women tend to care more about the actual photo as compared to the camera model, lens, lighting ratio, etc."

A few years ago I realized that the images that I really respect, the images that I really really wish I would have made, were almost never made by men. Almost all my photography heroes are women.

So the real question is how do all the rest of us bone-heads develop the subtle and emotionally powerful side of our photography? How do we learn from the women who seem to innately make such powerful imagery with such ease? If that is what we want to do.

This male versus female strobist thing reminds me of other activities that I'm involved with in my life, kayaking and paragliding. Those activities (kayaking less so in the last few years) have similar male/female ratios as the strobist readership.

There is a huge debate going on right now in the paragliding world whether or not women should have their own competition class in the Paragliding World Cup - lots of comments and wild things being said, mostly by men....hmmm...

Here is what I think the real crux is all about as said by another reader:
"Several of the women wanted to shoot sports, use the long glass, take on the studio work but never asked because they figured it was the boys playground." I see this falling short in one way, maybe it wasn't that the women figured it was the boys playground, maybe the boys never really encouraged the girls to drop the jump-rope for 10 minutes and come play on the monkey bars for a while.

If you have a daughter or a sister or whoever, take the time to encourage and teach them what you know - whatever it is. Take them skiing, flying, and show them how to use off-camera lighting gear.

It took me 4 years to convince my sister to learn how to kayak. She ended up paddling on the US team in Europe one year, two off season in Costa Rica and two more in Chile.

Now if I could only get her in the air....

November 05, 2009 1:44 AM  
Blogger tuan said...

lets say (generalizing of course) that men are more technically oriented and women just prefer to use watever they can to get it correct. i have definitely seen this just being around the house. my mom would easily pick up anything she can to complete a task even tho its not meant for it. i myself or my dad would scour the house to find that specific item.

the problem is that men are more impatient than women imo and so being able to understand something technically lets us do things faster. if someone does something that's technically incorrect no matter if its men or women, translating that to another person who is more technical in that field can get very frustrating since the two methods are totally different. its kinda like the whole deal with designers and engineers.

ok here's a question. if men and women are different in their ways of thinking of lighting, does this mean there shots are also different. like say women would shoot a subject totally different from what men would have shot it. i wonder if there is a correlation in that theory. just off the top of my head.

November 05, 2009 1:45 AM  
Blogger chuck said...

waitaminute... are you saying that there are WOMEN who aren't in the kitchen makin sandwiches?
what is this world coming to?!

*that was a joke, ladies.. don't kill me in. =)

i'm a married schmuck & my wife likes taking photos.
she can take a pretty decent shot.. but if i try to add a light or get her to move someone or have them face a certain way, her eyes kinda glaze over like she doesn't understand the words coming outta my mouth.

i think she likes her shots for the memory it will bring later - not the technical aspects.

while i appreciate the amount of thought that went into a shot - she seems to appreciate the amount of thought she gets out of the shot.

some of her favorites are overexposed, grainy, blurry messes that were taken in our livingroom by the light of a 60 watt lamp.

November 05, 2009 1:46 AM  
Blogger hivewasp said...

About the comments of not caring about the numbers of lighting and figuring it out by trial and error. It's all fine when you have all the time in the world to get the shot.

Now; imagine someone pays you to get a few specific shots; and your time window to complete the job is very limited? Trial and error will be a nightmare.

As for the ratio of women... No idea; in my experience there are already many more male photographers; and for the most part they are total geeks ;)

All in all; flash and lighting are only more tools in the photographer's box. We don't need to "light" everything all the time; we should all be able to accept natural/available light as an option.

November 05, 2009 1:59 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

@visualperspective. You mentioned that you get online and you see a whole lot of chatter like: "you gotta buy this, you gotta have that or you are not a photographer." I don't think I have ever come across a site like that. Maybe I am a little more discerning when choosing which sites to read. You also mention that you research something you don't know when you need it for a shoot. Well, funny thing is, if there was no chatter all over the net, or sites like this, you wouldn't be able to research your problem. I guess that is why you see a lot of tech talk on photography sites.

No one can argue it. If you need a particular shot (lets say for a cover of a sports magazine), you need to know SOME tech to get the shot done. It is not just boys and their toys! To be honest, I actually find talk like that insulting. Why does "boys and their toys" have such a negative feel. It's so condescending.

Let's face it, people are often born with the skill to capture and frame special moments, however, you DO need to learn some tech to pull of shots in any given situation. You cannot just pick up an SLR because you have a gift and frame / shoot / light any situation. Sure, in Auto mode you may get some good shots in perfect situations, but you need to know SOME tech to know how to assess a situation and choose the correct aperture / shutter speeds to pull off what you are thinking.

Oh, and while this boy DOES like his gadgets, whats in the frame is far more important. Don't for a second think that because we may have a means of gathering newer / more equipment, that we don't care about what is in the frame. The plethora of wonderful images, both past and now, from great photographers prove that I am sure.

November 05, 2009 2:33 AM  
Blogger M said...

Very interesting question - I've been wondering about that one too. Just been checking on some group photos of Bert Stephani's and Zack Arias' workshops. Bert's seems to be 35+% female and Zack's is 60% female.

I just had this silly thought: It's said that men have far bigger problems asking people for the way when they are lost and prefer to study maps for hours instead (I know what I am talking about). Maybe the hanging out on Strobist sites (no offence intended, I am a regular reader) might count as "reading maps" while the visiting of workshops would be "asking people for the way"?

November 05, 2009 2:42 AM  
Blogger Hilde said...

I am a female amateur photog, who's been dabbling into off-camera lighting for a while. I am also quite fond of gadgets in general (well, computers and cell phones and gaming machines - not so much screw drivers and microwaves).

But to me, it's actually a question of money. Not just the question of whether or not I can afford this or that "toy" - but also whether it would be a reasonable investment.

And often, I end up thinking "I'm not a good enough photographer to justify spending such an amount of money on XXX". Whereas others, and perhaps more men?, would think "I'll buy it. It'll make me good!".

I don't know.. I just have a feeling that to some women, me included, it feels a little too luxurious to indulge in all the "extras" required to excel in the lighting department.

(And yes, I know there are DIY options that cost a lot less, but jeez - when do we have time for that? After we've cleaned the house and played with the kids and made the dinner and put the kids to bed and ironed our husbands shirts and called the in-laws and prepared lunchboxes and soccer outfits and on and on... )

Note: I'm a lezbo. I have a wife. She cooks and cleans and irons my one shirt if she finds it necessary. But I think the above statement holds true for at least some women. And probably also some men.

November 05, 2009 2:47 AM  
Blogger Erik said...

Pretty simple, more men are control freaks. Lighting is about control.

November 05, 2009 2:48 AM  
Blogger Andrew Burrows said...

sites I follow in my rss reader: 108
sites my wife follows: 1 (and no it is not strobist)

November 05, 2009 2:52 AM  
Blogger said...

My wife and I are team shooters. (It was that or Marriage Counseling.) She isn't usually captivated by the technical aspect either. However, when I explained she could now turn a remote flash up and down like a volume control, she was ecstatic. "Twist up to get more, twist down to get less" was very exciting to her.

November 05, 2009 2:53 AM  
Blogger Savannahism said...

Okay not trying to stereotype I promise! But you can see by the % of your class versus the % of your readers, that a lot of women do you use flash.

Do you get the 96% male readers from who post comments or who follow your blog?

Okay so women are SOCIAL I feel that they tend to hang out and learn more from a forum setting, were they can interact more. On my forum it is 96% female but 90% of those females use off camera flash. A class is more social then following a blog, right?

For the men it is probably like asking for directions to attend actual classes. A man can follow a blog and learn from it with OUT having a real face to the name kind of anonymously learning. With out having to admit the fact they need help. You know "me man, Me can do it" LMAO totally J/K... well sort of.

Women tend to strive for socialization we don't just attend classes to learn but to meet other like minded people. Show off our kids, talk about Christmas card designs, talk about last nights raid.... oh sorry that just me =), haven't met very many gaming Women Photogs, Flash or not =( LOL

I think it is purely a source of information thing, I know very few women that don't use flash.

My husband is a developer he spends probably the same amount of time blog hopping as I do chatting in forums. He would love to teach Techie workshops but never talks about attending one, I'm always looking for new workshops, and meet a lot of great people (women) through all the meet ups I attend.

Food for thought =)

November 05, 2009 3:21 AM  
Blogger rodbotic said...

I think the best way to think about it. isn't that guys are more technical. Guys are definitely more interested in the technical aspect.

but girls are more emotional.

Guys want(possibly love to) to solve problems(hence we love Technical).

Girls want to talk about them. not necessarily wanting solve them.

November 05, 2009 4:17 AM  
Blogger Lesley Gracie said...

As a girl and an avid Strobist reader, I have noticed the the m-f ratio you mention, even here in Scotland at my local Flickr strobist group meets.

It may be gadget related, that guys are more 'into' them, however, I am the biggest gadget geek going!

I started off with an old SB28, now added a SB800 & SB600 to the list, not to mention the Ezyboxes, Honl kits, gels etc etc etc.

I'm studying for an HND in photography at the moment, interestingly I'd say about 70% of my year is female, however I'd say there are about 4 of us that are into OCF techniques. I have to go sit with the boys at recess and chat all things stobist with em =)

You never know, the next time you are in the UK David doing a workshop, I'll come along with more Strobist chicks for you =)


November 05, 2009 4:45 AM  
Blogger Lou said...

I was going to write a long babble about the dangers of gender stereotyping and how daft it is to apply it to the world of photography.

I stopped, because it's not what this site offers.

Here you explore a topic without bias - in fact, giving women access to information that they may find hard to get elsewhere without hitting that gender bias. As a previous commenter said, some photographic outlets are peopled by men who like to impress women with their vast technical savvy but make women feel like idiots in the process.

There's a whole host of reasons why your figures may show such a strong gender difference, but none of them are do do with capability. Maybe men are more likely to comment here or respond to your polls. Maybe men on average have a higher earning power and greater opportunity to spend spare cash on equipment (no hairdresser for a year = a decent tripod). Maybe on photography courses women are encouraged towards fields that utilise perception and emotive connections and discouraged from more technical choices (a ghost of my schooldays when girls were flatly not allowed to do woodwork but had to do cooking).

There's just too many reasons, but don't worry about it. From my point of view Strobist offers freedom from bias and encouragement to learn. Which is the whole point, really.

November 05, 2009 4:55 AM  
Blogger Richard Licence said...

It's all about the gadgets - Guys are usually more into 'gear' than girls. Lighting = gadgets. Simple as.

November 05, 2009 4:55 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Guys like their "equipment". Pardon the pun. ;)

They like to talk about equipment, read about equipment, fiddle, fix and build equipment.

Women tend to simply buy what they need, and use it. ;)

I am a female photographer who stumbled on Strobist long ago. I use many of the core ideas, but I have no interest in sitting around waiting for the next post. If I feel limited with my current setup, I might drop by here to see if there is an answer - but read it every day, even monthly or weekly? I'm just not interested in talking about lighting THAT much - lighting equipment is just an accessory to me. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about lighting equipment I use every day just as a man wouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about what ties to wear everyday.

Or, maybe you have more guys on strobist because the majority of female photographers I know have children, and likely don't have time to sit on their bums reading a blog ;)

November 05, 2009 4:58 AM  
Blogger Morgana Creely said...

Personally I think the gender balance of it's more a reflection of the web.

You guys are sitting around here wondering where all the women interested in lighting are.

Meantime the woman are out there shooting. :)

Yes is sometimes a big boys club, but most of the time it's worth the effort. Can I kindly suggest that if you stop worrying about the gender demographics and applying labels as to why it's all too hard for us poor little females, then you might realise there are a lot more of us out there than you thought. We just don't need to make a big noise about it. :)

And for what it's worth, I am way more a gadget freak than my husband, who is also a photographer. :)

November 05, 2009 5:17 AM  
Blogger f.57 said...

As the father of two young girls I now appreciate, in a way I previously couldn't, that there are innate differences between boys and girls!

I wonder if males, as the shallower gender more influnced by appearance(!), are more into the lighting of a shot perfectly/interestingly where female photographers perhaps see the inherent quality/beauty in an image without so much concern for how it is lit?

November 05, 2009 5:28 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

I am a female student photographer at Uni, and when we get taught studio lighting or flash, all the males jump in with questions and actually start to take over a little bit. In my opinion and in my experience, the men are so eager to learn about it that women kinda get pushed out of the equation a little bit. I don't think it's a bad thing, I just think more women need to wake up and smell the coffee that this stuff is actually worth learning about!!

November 05, 2009 5:33 AM  
Blogger Coach said...

As a female wedding photographer in Scotland. I have learnt more from reading strobist than I did the last 4 years at College, but I don't often comment. Maybee the girls are reading but not entering discussions?

November 05, 2009 5:55 AM  
Blogger Andrea Joki said...

Well, if you put out a training dvd (Strobist DVD) that features as a subject a young woman in a bathing suit and high heels in the middle of a park....perhaps you've answered your own question of why the site is male oriented?

Heck, the only images I ever had rejected from the Strobist flickr site were of a kid. Any of my pics with female models oddly never get bounced.

The Flickr group, Strobist website, and strobist meet ups seem to be completely about shooting women in varying states of undress.

It gets old for us women - not all of us make a living or hobby out of shooting girls in bathing suits and high heels in front of a sunset. :)

November 05, 2009 5:59 AM  
Blogger Nicolaj said...

The key here, is that many women see tech as a tool, nothing more. Like one said, when I need a screwdriver, I'll get one.
I've also noticed this applies to (many) women & computers.
Seems to me like women are much more goal oriented than men (and this is not always a bad thing). Cant speak for all men either, but I'm somewhat of a tech-nerd myself, and I have learned a LOT from just fiddling with the gear. It's just a natural drive I have, and I think a lot of men have.
Strobist lighting is somewhat technical, lets face it. So there's your answer. ;)

November 05, 2009 6:11 AM  
Blogger kcorkey said...

I think you under-estimate how many women are lurking about your site! Maybe we're just less inclined to actively participate in the comments. Most women I know seem to be genetically compelled to multi-task. And as such, never seem to feel that they can take time to participate in things that they don't NEED to do.
Eg; I think this is the first comment I've made even though I'm pretty sure that I've read every word on this site. And thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in such an amusing way! Strobist Rocks!

November 05, 2009 6:23 AM  
Blogger Sharon Greenaway said...

I love some of the gadgets that are featured, as well as the tips on better lighting etc that is on this site. I must admit to being a bit non plussed to too much technical stuff, although you do need to know that your subject will be lit how you want it/her/him to be!
I keep my lighting as simple as possible. and yes i am female. I am studying at uni and it does seem to be more of a guy thing to always strive to get the newest and best photo equipment.

November 05, 2009 6:28 AM  
Blogger Micha said...

Very interesting thread. I worked in the photo lab at the University of Alaska Anchorage for several years and noticed that most of the male students were very gear oriented and would spend hours showing off and discussing their newest piece with anyone who would listen. Most of the female students were more about the end result. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part the guys played the age old game of "My (blank) is bigger than your (blank", while the gals would discuss the interaction with the subject, the composition, etc. I'll ask my female photography friends to read this post, subscribe to the blog and post to this thread. Very interesting...

November 05, 2009 6:55 AM  
Blogger Julie Edwards: Photographer said...

Maybe it's just because we don't spend hours sitting around reading stuff online? (Or if we do, we focus).

I am a pro female photographer and I am interested in getting the job done - how to meet mine and my clients goals, nothing more, nothing less.

If I see something on here that is of interest, I read it. If not; I don't.

November 05, 2009 7:16 AM  
Blogger JLykins said...

I'm pretty sure it's built in from birth. I have 3 year old twins.One boy and one girl. We didn't "push" or "stear" them in any direction as far as things they are interested in, or toys etc... My daughter is "all girl", meaning she plays with baby dolls, is into play jewelry etc... My Son is "all boy" I can't keep him away from my tools, my car, or my camera gear. They both just gravitate towards this stuff on their own. I have tried and tried to teach my daughter how to use the fischer price camera's that we bought for her and her brother and she is just totally not interested. My son is catching up to me in the photo department :). Seriously though, I'd love for my daughter to be more interested in some "guy" things so that she would be more well rounded and never have to rely on a man. Not trying to be sexist, just what I see going on in with my own children....

November 05, 2009 7:40 AM  
Blogger Tanya Shields Photography said...

Nick, respectively, I know how to use my gear.

In fact, I started using OFC pretty much exclusively. Heck, I even had a front page feature on Strobist.

When the subjects I was shooting changed, so did my lighting. It is not easy to chase 1, 2, 3 year olds around with OCF.

Now granted, with the winter coming and a new studio ready to go....I am finding my way back to this site.

Personally, I find OCF MUCH easier to "master" than the natural light was.

And no, it's not next to impossible.....and I don't care what anybody says. ;)

November 05, 2009 7:42 AM  
Blogger Philipp said...

I study photography at a german university and recently we had a workshop on how to light things with small strobes, what Pocketwizards are and all that. The audience contained about 30% women, which is about the same percentage of women there is in the photo department as a whole. Once the basic idea of lighting was clear and broken down into its various bits n pieces (as in your 101), the girls got the hang of it. So I guess spreading the word and focussing on the endless possibilities (and not the geeky part) would make it interesting for the ladies out there.

November 05, 2009 7:48 AM  
Blogger mhjerde said...

Hi David
The visual language of your blog is very masculine. The content is very friendly and helpful, so no problem there. But most women coming to this site will sense that they are entering a male domain.
You could contemplate opening up the design (slowly and over time) to a more gender neutral visual language.

November 05, 2009 7:55 AM  
Blogger Josef Moffett said...

First off, this is really general, and of course, there's going to be a bit of the "sensitive" in men, just as there's a bit of the "technical" in women. Percentages vary. (Thats to prevent a sentance of sleeping in the septic tank ;-)

However, I think that men in general are more likely to _make_ something, ie put together the photo from bits. Create in a way, but sometimes we can be a bit more brutal about it. This light goes here, that subject sits there type of thing. We have an image in our minds and we move things around to get to it.

Women tend to be the other way around. The image is there somewhere, I'm going to find it. I know he was a male, but Michaelangelo said of sculpture (as did - nother male - Henry Moore) that the finished work of art was just waiting to be uncovered from the marble block it was hidden in - that's the intuitive (women) way to the image.

Lighting makes that "finding" the image more difficult, because you may actually be hiding the real image you're looking for.

It's definitely not a value statement. There's guys out there going to be saying, yeah that's the way we make pics, how else would you do it, and women saying the same thing and each about the way they do it (and theres obviously the various mixtures of both schools).

But David, you said it a long time ago: the light shouldn't be the subject. A well lit picture should have people completely ignoring the light, because the subject is so clear and primordial to the image.

(Wifes happy - I have been given a repreive, despite even thinking of posting to something like this ;-)

November 05, 2009 8:03 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

I have been here from the very beginning. I'm 60 and it does take me longer to learn things.

You even made a comment to me on one of my questions "Debbi, you should know that by now"
A put-down from the man himself!

I still LOVE to light, and I am a gal!
and... I love gadgets!

Lady Strobist? I'm in!

November 05, 2009 8:11 AM  
Blogger Brendan said...

One word, gadgets

November 05, 2009 8:15 AM  
Blogger Matt Wynne said...

Perfect closing line. Interesting subject and well done avoiding the land mines. I have no idea why there are so few women reading this site, but in my experience, female photographers that claim not to know how to light still come out with amazing photos. Lit or not. The really good female photographers that I have worked with have an amazing ability to make the image look the way they want it to without thinking about ratios and rational processes.

I fear that last line may have come out wrong, but I don't know how else to word it. It just baffles me sometimes, but I wish I could do it.

Boston Photographer | MWynne

November 05, 2009 8:15 AM  
Blogger JoeH said...

From some of the posts above and my own observations I'd also suggest the following (sexist?) comment.

Men like to "control" things. Light not right...I can MAKE it right. Women are more willing to take what's there and work with it (they're used to working with us men, right?). AND they appreciate THAT fact, not the fact of forcing the issue into submission.


November 05, 2009 8:33 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

It might be a question of our consumerism trends. I read once that women will buy anything they don't need, and men will buy anything they think they need. Photographic lighting is probably somewhere in the middle.

November 05, 2009 8:34 AM  
Blogger snaphappee said...

As someone else said, I never even thought about the Strobist community being overwhelmingly male until you mentioned it. In my own life I find that I read the posts but always say "I'll come back to study and practice that when I have more time." I am very interested in learning about lighting and all that technical stuff, but I just don't have the time to work it all out in my head with 7 kids, a husband, and a business to run. Could "study time" be a factor for others too?

I have learned SO much from the site, the dvd's, and the Flickr group!

November 05, 2009 8:38 AM  
Blogger Kimmywizzie said...

Being a woman who is just learning to light, I can tell you that I found the whole thing a bit intimidating at first. Now that I ubderstand the gadgets to some degree, I wonder why I had such a fear. I do agree that women probably are more into the actual shot than what goes behind it than men generally. I do find that most photography forums and blogs do have a bit of arrogance to a newbie photographer and I steer clear of those. There are only a few that seem to want to actually help rather than flame and degrade a new photographer.

November 05, 2009 8:38 AM  
Blogger Marcene Perry said...

I am a mom of 3. I do have an off camera setup. But from my personal experience, it's just a lot more stuff to get out, carry around, set up, and then keep the kids from tripping over all of it. I might pull it out for an actual family photo-shoot, but other than that it sits on the shelf. Also, I'm not as good at understanding what to adjust when using off camera flash. I just play around and take what I get. I wouldn't be able to draw a diagram, and remember all the settings on anything that I lit.
On the other hand I do notice a difference between my "accidentally" well lit photos, and those that I don't light in the same setting!

November 05, 2009 8:40 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Guys are tinkerers. We've gotta be fixing something all the time.

November 05, 2009 8:57 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I think you hit the nail on the head, and some may say that it's sexist but this is coming from a female - women, in GENERAL (not all women), are "afraid" of gadgets and focus more on bonding with the people they are photographing. I know that I excel at working with people and composing photographs using natural light, and that was the basis for starting my photography business.

For me, it's also the idea that my subject is going to be uncomfortable when placed in front of a bunch of lights. My "thing" is not just natural lighting but also natural expressions and poses, it's very difficult to get a child to sit still for 5 seconds and hope that they smile (you're likely to get a "cheese" smile if you do this), and as beautiful as it is to have a traditional bridal portrait, usually my clients' favorite photos are the ones of them showing real emotion. So all of you can poo-poo at the natural light photographers, but here's a news flash - that's what people want and that's what makes money.

Of the dozens of photography blogs I follow, this is the only one that focuses on lighting equipment and's like work to me, but I know I have to learn about it to take my business to the next level, and you do a great job of educating me! :)

November 05, 2009 9:07 AM  
Blogger Si said...

I hope this doesn't come across as sexist, but you could point this light at every field of human endeavour. I think women are just playing catch-up in all walks of life. Lets face it men have only just in the last 40 years allowed them to be equal, man has been at the cutting edge for thousands of years. I think the ladies are going great guns for late starters.
I appologise for being a man, to anyone offended.

November 05, 2009 9:13 AM  
Blogger Pavel said...

Hi David. I'd be interested in translating your 101&102 into czech.I find them very usefull. Drop me some info if you like that idea.Thanks.All the best.

November 05, 2009 9:22 AM  
Blogger Tanya Shields Photography said...

Interestingly enough, 40% of the comments left so far are from women....

So maybe we are here, just lurking....until we get pissed. LOL

November 05, 2009 9:41 AM  
Blogger Shelley Cryan said...

As a female who regularly does jobs with my elinchrom monoblocs and my 4-pack of sb800s, and reverse-engineers lighting setups for fun, I'll say that the posts on this site are refreshingly gender-neutral.

As to why the readership skews so heavily male, generalizations based on anecdotes about male/female tendencies can be misleading, offensive, and useless. (Note to those who don't want to offend: if you ever wonder if a comment might be considered offensively sexist, replace "female" or "male" with any religion or race, and see if it sounds offensive then. Some of the comments to this post, for example, wouldn't fare too well.)

Perhaps this site skews male because quite a few other photography sites online are indeed boys clubs and are run as such. Perhaps, David, many of your readers found you on these type of sites, so it follows that your readership would then be skewed.

David, you meet more people interested in lighting than perhaps anyone on the planet, so for you to say most of your classes skew male seems significant. But class makeup could also logically follow from your readership skew. I'd want to see statistics on how many women take lighting classes in photo schools before I started trying to address gender skew.

Regardless, I do appreciate that the posts on this site don't seem to cater to either men or women exclusively. I'd vote to not change your approach. (Writing posts here "just for women" would be akin to the "ladies tool kits" at hardware stores -- you know the ones with the pink hammers that are supposed to make women want to build things. To risk a generalization: Women hate those.)

Instead of changing your content, I'd recommend that you look at how your readers find you. I do think there are women out there who would be interested in who have just not found it.

I'd suggest the most helpful comments would be ones that pointed out online photo forums that aren't boys clubs, where David might advertise. That'd be more productive than hearing stories about how someone's wife/girlfriend/mother is/is not technically proficient. I respect that those who have already commented in this vein were trying to be helpful, so truly, no harm no foul. Just sayin.

November 05, 2009 9:52 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

Chick here - lotta reaction to this one!

Reading through the initial posts, I see a pattern - social.
I like going to classes because I get a lot out of the interaction (I *almost* went to San Miguel...) and, in fact, am going to a weekend class next month.
So if there was a Strobist Facebook group (is there?) you'd probably see a lot of chicks on it (we can call ourselves 'chicks' if we like, but don't you try it!).
So, consider the social factor.
I'm in IT and we split on gender lines.
I see it all the times - they guys tackle a problem in the boys clubhouse (one of the guy's offices) - no girls invited,
and the women IM each other and run the fix behind the scenes.
We're all techie people (men and women), most have DSLRs, and are split on gender lines for photography as well.
The women don't talk techie but talk opportunities - who's up for shooting covered bridges after work, or play with lighting at a wine cellar - where we can get together and have fun?
The technical side is secondary - we assume that whoever is coming knows the technical or will learn it as we play.
For us these are social/bonding moments - the cameras are along for the ride.
We are all learning - from each other (see classes, above) - and that's the fun of it.

About women and lighting in general - many times the SUBJECTS find lighting intimidating, and that gets in the way of interacting with them.
I shoot school plays (high ISO, no flash). When I shoot headshots for them, I try to find natural light by a window.
The kids are cool with the window and a reflector, but tense up when they see a lightstand and umbrella.
It takes longer to get them to settle down and relax so I can get the shot that I know is in there.
Even worse for group shots - the director needs a group shot, sees the equipment, assumes it will take a long time, and starts rushing things.
I get the best shot using two VALSs, which seem more casual, impromptu, and less fussy.
I expect it is different with professional models, but how often do you work with these?

So, it's all about the client interaction. I take my cues from them.

I understand the technical and use it when the situation permits.
Don't think that women *can't* do it, just that we *choose* not to use pro-style lighting unless the conditions are right.
Believe me, we are reading Strobist and discussing it amongst ourselves.

David, hope to see you at a class in the spring.

November 05, 2009 10:01 AM  
Blogger Charles Hueter said...

Is this just another stupid boys' club?
I've never felt that impression. Even considering Strobist's massive growth, I still view this as a personal blog written from someone's unique perspective. David is male and (thankfully!) lets his personality shape his writing. I'll take that over gender-neutral language any day. I already read enough white papers and academic articles.

Is lighting and being female (even a little bit) counter-intuitive in some way?
How to light your frame in an easy and effective way doesn't seem like a gender issue. 98% of my shots are available light but I'm happy to use flash when I think it's needed. I know several female photographers (enthusiast-amateurs, part-time professionals, and full-time professionals) who don't hesitate to grab a speedlight and a diffuser.

Generalizations do serve a limited purpose but I think boiling it down to "girls are emotional" and "guys like tech" is too simplistic for this era.

This is a website and a community. It takes a positive effort on the part of the reader to come here. I'm curious to know why, if the outcome of millions of voluntary choices results in a majority male readership, this is a "problem." The worst I can think of is that some women read this situation and decide they don't want to get involved (be it "male intimidation" or "too much gear geekery" or "it's sexism everywhere" or whatever).

I hope that isn't the case. I'm an individualist and it pains me to know potential talent and happiness is wasted.

November 05, 2009 10:12 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

Bravo, Heather!
There isn't anything intimidating about the gear - really! We (women) buy it when we don't have other priorities (kids clothes, lessons, etc.).
I like going to classes because I don't have to split my time. When I'm there I can forget about laundry, tires, bills and all the distractions of daily life. Classes are a very *efficient* use of learning time. Concentrated. Learn with others.

November 05, 2009 10:16 AM  
Blogger Tana said...

I have to second the gadget thing. Men and their gadgets, and men liking to rig stuff up. I am a female studio photographer, I don't have any interest in shooting natural light only; I like the crisp look of flash assisted photos. My needs are simple, however, one or two studio lights for studio work, and a speedlight with modifier for events.

I don't think of strobist as a boy's club, but I don't read it on a regular basis. I have what I need and I know how to use it, I don't feel the need to sit around and talking about lighting all the time. I'm just not that interested - I get the results I want and I'm done.

November 05, 2009 10:20 AM  
Blogger Krista Lee said...

Hey there! I am a female and follower of your blog... I think that most female photographers focus on babies and children and use natural light and such... Your site is geared more toward the PJ crowd I would think. Most "natural light" photog's don't obviously use much lighting (even though they should in many situations!) Just my guess as to why you have more of a male following... :)

November 05, 2009 10:21 AM  
Blogger Tana said...

I have to second the gadget thing. Men and their gadgets, and men liking to rig stuff up. I am a female studio photographer, I don't have any interest in shooting natural light only; I like the crisp look of flash assisted photos. My needs are simple, however, one or two studio lights for studio work, and a speedlight with modifier for events.

I don't think of strobist as a boy's club, but I don't read it on a regular basis. I have what I need and I know how to use it, I don't feel the need to sit around and talking about lighting all the time. I'm just not that interested - I get the results I want and I'm done.

November 05, 2009 10:21 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

J - I went into Computer Science at a women's college, where the classes were packed. Why do you suppose your classes weren't full of women? My group in IT (database administrators) is more women than men yet Network Services is totally male. General programmers are split 50/50.

It all starts in school - why aren't women in your classes?

Better yet, why aren't there MALE MODELS at photo shoots? I'd much rather shoot men than women!

David, next class, may we have some male models, please? PLEASE?

November 05, 2009 10:24 AM  
OpenID amandamcg25 said...

I think I have to agree with kcorkey and some of the others. For whatever reason, maybe we just aren't commenters. Can we have a site gender re-test? :-)

I've spent hours reading this site, but I don't think I have ever written a thing. I have always felt that if I read enough comments someone would have asked or answered my question already.

November 05, 2009 10:41 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

Wow Dave, looks like you really started something here.

I'd love to read all the comments but I'd probably loose my business, girlfriend, and apartment by the time I'm finished.

I'm a professional photographer as well and In my experience, gear definitely doesn't make the photographer. But a lot of women posters are talking about seeing a shot and getting the shot. There are literally some shots you cannot get without flash and certain manual adjustments. A portrait back lit by a sunset for example. Good luck getting the subject and sky exposed correctly without a flash and some manual tweaking.

I'm not saying women aren't capable of doing this, but the female posters here seem to be opposed to it.

One female poster also mentioned having to deal with this stuff if she had to, but it wouldn't be with numbers and math.

Which is fine, you don't have to be able to look at a scenario and say "Hmm let's drop the ambient by one and half stops and have my fill set to 1/8 power and my key 6 feet away at 1/2 power" There's not a lot of people that can look at scene and know exactly what's up.

But as David always teaches on the site, and it's the way I always shoot with off camera light. Get an ambient exposure that achieves your look, dial in your key flash and play with the power setting and your aperture until the subject looks good, then push the key up or down to adjust the shadows. 5 minutes tops.

I actually think David presents lighting pretty "bi-genderlly"... as that previous female poster said, the general trend seems to be females shying away from things that involve too much gadgetry or math. There are of course exceptions! I know plenty of men that have no interest in gadgets or math. Just sayin'.

November 05, 2009 10:42 AM  
Blogger Melissa's Cozy Tea Time Readings said...

Female reader here. Yes, in general, men are for technical and women are more 'touchy feely'. My husband is, what I lovingly refer to as a 'Tech Monkey'. The man can talk tech all day and when I can't sleep, I ask him to tell me how a super conductor works.
When I learn about lighting, I only want to know where to put the light and why. I am not interested in any factoids what-so-ever.
'Put the big rectangle here and the round flashy thingy here.'- would be just fine by me.
I do think you can teach tech but how do you teach getting a feel for a shot?
I realize lighting is important and my photos have improved tremendously since I started reading your blog (thanks btw).
Maybe some female photog interviews could show up more frequently along the topic of lighting?
One Big Beautiful Light

November 05, 2009 11:07 AM  
Blogger swanky said...

Julie Edwards hit it on the head..Get what you need, move on. A true pro. I think mostly this site is populated by non pro's, not a bad thing in anyway. Pro's use what they need to to get the job done. Commercial shoots need Flash, simple. If work is for reproduction in who knows what, Augmented lighting is crucial. Simple. Part of the job.
This has nothing to do with gender, nothing. We all have styles, some styles are created through fears. Fear of flash, fear of technical. If your a pro, you gotta know all the tools at your disposal, then decide how to use them, or not.
Gender should not play into this at all,period. There are more males on this site, so what. When there are more males you will get more photo's of beautiful women, cuz that is what we like. Sexist, maybe, but does not mean women cannot post photo's of beautiful men if that is their fancy.
I think mostly the discussion is out of hand, as it should be about getting the photograph with the tools you got..Like Joe McNally says..the best tools are what you brung..simple..gender does not play into it at all. I for one am glad women are getting more aggressive and getting into more things historically male men have subjected women far too long to a subservient levels, and finally the times have changed that we get to hear and see the womens voice inspite of the chauvinists out there. The sick part is everyone still feels that they have to be politically or socially correct. If shooting babes in skimpy suits and high heels is your passion, well go for it, why should it be judged on a gender level of shooting, as I am sure there are a few women out there that like to look at women. So, it is just time to stop looking at it all as gender related, and look at the work, period. Does the shot do the job, not what took the damned shot.

November 05, 2009 11:20 AM  
Blogger Gareth Dix said...

one word... "gadgets"

at a young age men are more likely to be drawn to gadgets as we don't really lust after bags and shoes. lol i'm so going to get abuse for that comment.

November 05, 2009 11:22 AM  
Blogger Rosanna said...

I actually hated flash for a really long time. The whole thing seems to elude me, now that I shoot weddings it has become so important to learn my flash inside out. I have no clue why most readers or photographers are male. Yes, that does piss me off being a female photographer myself. I've had the same thoughts as your post

November 05, 2009 11:27 AM  
OpenID dorota said...

I can only speak for myself.
I liked shooting available light. It was like a challange for me - to capture light, atmosphere and do it quickly & simply.
Then I started looking for something else and I realized that is so much more in photography: pinhole, big lights, small lights, reflectors, filters, different techniques and gadgets. So I tried some of them and took what works for me.
I'm female. Never thought about gender issues in photography and lighting before. I have 3 strobes. I'm eager to learn more. Keep up the good work, David!

November 05, 2009 12:04 PM  
Blogger Flash Jorgensen said...

Interesting, it's filled with a bunch of sexist comments about reasons they believe is the answer to this phenomenon. I have my theories and reasons I, myself haven't started in the whole lighting/strobist thing. Basically, I think it comes down to the majority of women (in Utah anyway) have taken up photography as a way to do something other than stay at home all day with the kiddos. Some do it as a means to earn some extra cash and others, just as a hobby hoping only to get better so they have great pictures of their kids without having to go to a studio time and time again. So, that leads me to my theory and that is that because of how the women start, they are likely to put lighting at the end of their "wish list." They would rather have a nicer camera and nicer lens FIRST and hope one day to have the money to buy some lighting. That would be the reason I haven't gotten into it yet. There are still other things I'd rather have FIRST.

November 05, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger Flash Jorgensen said...

Interesting, it's filled with a bunch of sexist comments about reasons they believe is the answer to this phenomenon. I have my theories and reasons I, myself haven't started in the whole lighting/strobist thing. Basically, I think it comes down to the majority of women (in Utah anyway) have taken up photography as a way to do something other than stay at home all day with the kiddos. Some do it as a means to earn some extra cash and others, just as a hobby hoping only to get better so they have great pictures of their kids without having to go to a studio time and time again. So, that leads me to my theory and that is that because of how the women start, they are likely to put lighting at the end of their "wish list." They would rather have a nicer camera and nicer lens FIRST and hope one day to have the money to buy some lighting. That would be the reason I haven't gotten into it yet. There are still other things I'd rather have FIRST.

November 05, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger grigorisgirl said...

I read this page daily but have only posted a reply once I think.
Interesting that your courses are mainly female but your readers appear to be mainly men.
Could be that women like to learn stuff at courses where men tend to like to appear that they know it all already and therefore are happier commenting on sites like this.
I have only taken up photography seriously in the last eighteen months but one reason I have been put off joining local clubs is that there is still that male element of "have you seen the size of my lens?"
I have to admit that I don't understand fifty percent of what is posted here but I know if I really want to find something out then this is the place to look.

PS Maybe if you changed your layout to pink......;)

November 05, 2009 12:21 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Comment Part II

But then David, you also mention even the Strobist blog/Strobist group has low numbers of females…

It may or may not have something to do with some of the following musings -

I was often labeled a "tom boy" by the older generation and even peers when I was young because of certain activities I enjoyed, is a tell-tail sign of the expectations on my gender. I always thought "why do I need a label for doing things I simply enjoy?"

Most activities and things I loved in growing up, have definitely been 98%+ male attendance. Recording workshops, web design, guitar, skateboard park, video gaming, etc.

I have been in so many rooms where I am literally the only female present. But I never let that stop me, or even bother me because I was so into whatever I was studying or doing and didn't care what people thought of me while doing it. I just got used to being the minority gender, plus hanging out with the boys is fun!

But it does suck when they find the need to say "hey you're pretty good for a girl!" 2 in 1 compliment / DISS. Just another sign of gender roll expectation or whatever you call it.

So sometimes girls have to get over some name calling before we learn stuff. I don't think it's an excuse, but it is a bit of a barrier.

Though careers and hobbies of all sorts seem to becoming more gender neutral these days. I rarely hear the word tom boy any more and more "hey that's cool you do that". I think expectations have changed a lot, and I think the more females see females following these sorts of career paths and interested in tech stuff… then it's more on their radar. I bet female attendance in these fields will grow exponentially in coming years (hopefully).

I mean, look at the transformation the video gaming has taken over the past years. Now girls and old people can play nintendo!

That’s why I respect and appreciate blogs like this more than I can express in words. Well written by an obviously talented and knowledgeable photographer man who is secure enough to point to works of other people in order to teach… and "confesses" he is still in the learning process like everyone else. I find Strobist so generous and respectful of shooters at all levels. I love that Strobist doesn't put learning lighting into any sort of club, and gives no assumption of who the reader is from, what gender or even nationality (shifty eyed foreigners? LOL) we may be.It's nice to have no other barriers to learning other than the general vibe of "you can do it, this is cool and fun!"

When good teachers share what they know, not only do I learn but my belief in my own capacity for knowledge helps me learn more quickly and with more confidence. I think that's true of any person of either gender.

November 05, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger Rascal said...

I manage a photo lab/studio that is owned by a female. She uses flash, but mostly on camera. I started introducing her to "OCF" when I started back here in July. I let her borrow two of my Pocket Wizards and got her setup with her 580EXII, light stand and one umbrella. She was blown away how much more creative she could be with off camera flash. She is going to purchase some PW soon. She is always asking me about certain techniques on doing "OCF". She is not really "techy" when it comes to equipment and all, but she is interested on learning how to use different lighting techniques with off camera flash.

November 05, 2009 12:37 PM  
Blogger TheHolyFatman said...

AdrRdr--Could it have been that 99.99999% of "Photojournalism" lends itself to the current style that dominates the wedding photography industry? I have noticed--and yes, it's a generalization, that most of the wedding Photography industry is dominated by women. The styles are "unobtrusive" and "Photojournalistic" which doesn't leave a lot of room to carry lighting equipment. I tend to shy away from this particular style because it's, well..IMHO overused, flat and unexciting. (PS Did you teah in 99-2000? I may have been in your class)

The rest of the commenters---I was intimidated by lighting when I first approached it. I understood little and used it infrequently. I hated my classes on it, I shyed away and proclaimed myself a "natrual light photographer!" Until I realized that I really couldn't create the images I had visualized without being able to control the lighting to some extent. I needed more creative control and I needed to revisit and relearn. I did and I find myself much happier with my gear, do not find it cumbersome and carry it with me everywhere. I love studio shots--especially when I get the beautiful curves of a pregnant belly with the use of a Vivitar at 1/4 power just sitting on the floor.

I have attended many MM meets and It seems that there were many more male photographers than women at these. Chaulk it up to what you like, I have my own opions on why more men tend to shoot models, but what can you say? They all used OCF, tho.

Some of the most beautiful images I have seen were created using just natural light. There isn't anything wrong with that. Do I believe female photographers tend to shy away from the technical aspects of lighting? Maybe. I know I did at first--but I now have a whole new world open to me and can offer clients something that I believe some of my female counterparts (competetion?) simply don't. Those who agree will buy my product. It comes down to the shift in what people want in their photographs and what the use of lighting can offer. I see a lot of pros using OCF and with the use of powerful strobes like the quantums and such, it's becoming much more mobile. Like it or not, if you're a women and you want to remain on the creative edge--get on the bandwagon! I believe women will start to muscle their way into the party soon enough. I sure did. I crash Boys Parties and take their models with me. :)

Don't let the name fool you--I'm Female, through and through, an avid strobist, studio shooter, Pro Photographer who uses LIGHTING ON LOCATION! *gasp* I even shoot weddings with lighting gear--lots of it.

November 05, 2009 12:54 PM  
Blogger Alex F said...

I always thought of this as a dominant-submissive thing, something that's pretty closely tied to the gender roles in our society.

The men want to impose their reality upon the world, bring in the big guns, overpower the sun, make everything bend violently to their will.

The women want to flow with the reality, take advantage of what's already there, harmoniously.

This is a ridiculously gross oversimplification, but I think there's more than a little truth to it. I know lots of women that use lots of light, levels more complicated than what I can get away with at this stage of the game, but they're all... subtle.

November 05, 2009 1:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I'm seeing a bit of a contradiction in mamacita's post.

AdvRdr postulates "...women look at ... lighting gear and shy away because they don't know how to use it, figure it's complicated, or heavy and cumbersome?"

Mamacita's reply:
first she says,
"Ummm hi. That was sexist AdvRdr."

Then she does a 180 and says:
"I will do what it takes to make a pretty picture. The numbers of speedlight at -1/3 and this and that power bore me."

I submit that knowing what the numbers on the back of a speedlite, while not crucial to getting a good shot, certainly go a long way toward getting a good shot quickly and efficiently, and admitting that one has no interest in the skills required to learn lighting in the same post where you call someone sexist for implying the same thing seems a little... off.

Back on-topic, one thing I've noticed is that photographers with lots of gear get a lot of attention from bystanders (i happen to dislike the attention my gear brings, but meh). Is it possible that men who crave attention but don't know how to seek it decide to load up on gear, and then read blogs like strobist to figure out how to use the junk they just bought? (this on the, possibly flawed, assumption that women generally get more attention than they really want and don't necessarily need to seek it out)
At the risk of sounding incredibly sexist, is photo gear (or any kind of extravagant expense) the analog of jewelry for men (men who aren't the right demographic to sport "bling")?

November 05, 2009 1:11 PM  
Blogger KatieMac said...

Your thought that "women tend to care more about the actual photo as compared to the camera model, lens, lighting ratio, etc." may have some merit. My first question about lighting is always "Do I have to?" Lighting is a means to an end for me. I've learned the technical aspects of lighting not because I thought ratios and color temperature were all that interesting, but because I needed to create a look for a particular subject. Generalizing egregiously, a whole bunch of my male colleagues would rather design a lighting setup, then figure out what subject to put in it.

I took David Tejada's "Small Stobes, Big Results" workshop at Santa Fe and our group was about half and half men and women. I do have to say, though, the guy's gear bags could have doubled for body bags. Not so much for the women's. I haul as little gear as I can possibly get away with.

November 05, 2009 1:25 PM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

A crude and undoubtedly over-general observation, based on spending a lot of time around dancers. athletes, and executives as well as photographers:

Compared to men, women interested in doing something tend to focus more on DOING it, and less on sitting around talking about how they did it.

(This probably goes back to prehistory: The urge to sit around the fire boasting about your hunting or fighting prowess seems to be widespread culturally but not "genderally." Maybe that's why such gabfests are called "bull sessions"...)

Anyway, the applicability here is that there could be scads of women out there lighting like crazy -- but they don't bother signing up for workshops or posting on forums to talk about it. They just do it.

November 05, 2009 1:28 PM  
Blogger Myron said...

WoW I never saw so many comments, later I'll try to read a few.

In the IT program writing Women are better at the "big picture" whereas men are better at the "sub routine". [It's a Seattle rumor, not mine.]

Men get lost in the details women see the global in the creative program writing.

Is there any transferable information in that?

Maybe Women see the big picture and men get lost in the sub routine.

Lighting quickly goes from Mysterious to routine. [c.f. the image a the top--I even copied that sub routine on the Beach at Waikiki.

The fact that women interact differently with other women at weddings is not surprising at all.

Or "Honey Dew" my ideas -- my wife says this all the time and knows nothing about photography. Not surprising either.

The fact that women are different than men--that's no surprise either.

Actually the data shows that women are 3 to 1 more likely to take a professional lighting course now over men.

Your blog topic doesn't actually agree with the data.

What we do know is that men are 3 to 1 more likely to be color blind. And women see colors in the same object differently even if the man isn't color blind. Women like pastels, men go OK sure.

Although with the shifting society the gender gap has gone METRO.

anyway I'm finding out that all that stuff is really too much for one person to carry.

Maybe I should just go for a G11

November 05, 2009 1:34 PM  
OpenID nutyluv said...

Long time female reader, first time, er, uh, poster. I teach at a university and there seems to be a fifty fifty split between the sexes in the advanced photography classes. As for myself, I have always had a healthy appreciation for photography and lighting is something that has only appealed to me recently this year (after discovering and digging into your website, which I love). I am not too fussed with equipment and gadgets when it comes to my photography, but I do want to learn more about the little equipment I have so I can manipulate and produce great images. After that, I'll look into the fancier (read: really cool) gadgets and strobes.

I'm with Tina M. Harris and Pamela: I don't think this is an exclusively male "club" and have never felt the blogs were directed/written that way and; I just want to learn. Lighting does fascinate me and I'm curious how to improve the knowledge I do have. And yes, it was a male photographer that pointed me to your blog and I'll be forever grateful.

November 05, 2009 1:41 PM  
Blogger Irene Jones said...

There is so much in this topic that it's hard to know where to start. From my experience I've seen that most female photographer colleges of mine aren't college educated in photography. I'm a woman with a degree in commercial photography and gear and me have no issues. Like many who have already posted, I'm about using whatever tools are available to make the best image. I do hate the thought that women as a whole are "scared" of gear. Or even the notion that women don't think about the "math". Any women that feels this way and then blames it on a male dominated society is looking for an excuse. Just today I posted on my blog about what kind of equipment I take on location and tomorrow I'll be posting about how I love using flash. Let's stop trying to decide what the rule is and who is the exception and all go read some more good blog posts. You can visit mine if you like.

November 05, 2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Max Flatow said...

As soon as I started reading this post, I immediately thought to myself "it's certainly a gadget thing". While I'm sure this isn't the sole reason, I do believe that men are more inclined to jump on the next cool toy they see in their photo magazines. My girlfriend, who also happens to be a photographer, has a completely different aesthetic and focuses 99% of her time connected with the subjects, utilizing natural light, and simply finding the "right" moment to snap a photo, rather than spending so much time with the set-up process. That being said....everybody works differently, and I'd hate to make any false accusations and/or judgment calls...


November 05, 2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm a female who *is* interested in lighting, but even I would have to say that there's truth to a lot of what you've said. I work with a (male) partner, and where I am interested in light, he's *fanatical* about it.

I think a lot of it is because I *do* care more about the actual photo than the gear. My partner gets embroiled in lighting to the point where he'll lose sight of the other aspects of the shot, whereas I'm balancing my attention between light, composition, concept, and so on.

When I do meet other female photographers, most of them roll with natural light, and feel that they're not strong in-studio, and say they don't know lighting at all. Which, yeah, it's a limited sample, but supports the stereotype.

It's a fact that women are not often supported in technical fields, and our culture is still somewhat socialized to believe that math and science are not "feminine" things. So, if we're not being encouraged towards those pursuits, we'd probably be less likely to pursue them. It takes an unusual amount of guts to strike out on your own in a new direction.

November 05, 2009 1:53 PM  
Blogger Fundy Photographics said...

I'm a female photographer who uses off camera flash. I taught myself how to light through alot of reading plus trial and error in the studio and out on the street. I understand the mathematics of lighting, but I couldn't riddle off ratios if you asked me. I just know that if it's this type of light I need to do this or that and then I fiddle with it a bit.

I read Strobist, but I don't actively participate in the community. Maybe it's the aspect of being female in what I feel is a male dominated field. I am nervous about whether this largely male readership will understand where I'm coming from or what I'm trying to say. I don't always remember the exact model numbers and details of things and so I'd rather keep my mouth shut than say it even if I know it.

When I'm around other photographers, the men tend to ask what gear I use first. The women will ask what I enjoy shooting.

IMO - whether a shot is well composed or not, it still has to be well lit. It's part of the composition, light is integral to the photo, but there are many many different types of light. Flash is only one.

November 05, 2009 1:55 PM  
Blogger Mr Trail Safety said...

My comments are based on first-hand observations...IMO women are smarter about what their gear needs are compared to men. They also make better shooters [firearms] and martial artists than men because they're more willing to listen.

November 05, 2009 2:10 PM  
Blogger drsnmd said...

I am a male photographer. I happen to be a practising Psychiatrist as well. Its my first time commenting on the site, though have been following it for a while. My own two cents are henceforth:

Human beings are complex and hence deconstructing human behavior is not accessible to a simple reductive or deductive reasoning. There are social, cultural and very personal factors involved and thats the reason that its difficult to generallize things.

Gender differences in perceptions, preferences are there indeed. There is ample physiological and neuropsychological evidence for that. There is also some sexism involved at times when an attempt is made to interpret those findings.

Genreally speaking, one apparent trend is that females are getting better in things that used to be traditionally compatible with traditional male gender roles and are infact excelling at those things, all over the world. I guess its the matter of getting access to things and getting equal opportuities.

Its entirely possible that in few more years the readership ratio may just flip :)
I enjoyed immensely reading the comments ont this post.

November 05, 2009 2:22 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Hi David. As an addicted female "amateur" come part-time aspiring professional, I have owned a dSLR for two years, upgrading from the Canon 40D to the 5D Mark II this year.
From my perspective, (and I am university educated) the camera was daunting enough to learn how to use correctly let alone even try to think of the technical aspects of lighting. Initially I was one of those females who was going to use "natural light photography" because that sounded much easier and good enough for me. I do believe this form of lighting is used by the majority of females because they are too scared to touch off camera lighting, just like I was. I mean, all those scary mathematical terms like guide numbers, f-stops, ratios, power level....*she runs a mile*......> natural light photography....relief!
However, as time went on I realised that I was limiting my creativity and opportunities and discovered that getting the picture I wanted often required more light.
Hence, I bought my off camera "strobist" set up recently.
This was totally overwhelming initially, very technical and I wondered how on earth I'd learn how to use my system manually off camera using more than one Sppedlite.
As yet, I have not mastered it but I am teaching myself through trial and error.
I am a member of a photographic club and I do not know of any other females in our club that use off camera lighting.
Yes, I do agree that it is more of a "male" thing but mainly due to the technicalities involved. I don't think it is as much of a "gadget" thing but certainly more of a "too hard basket" thing.
Perhaps, with females generally, they cannot be bothered understanding and playing around for hours and hours on end trying to understand this subject.
I also think that it depends on the level of photography "addiction" :-)

November 05, 2009 2:40 PM  
Blogger Connie Kurtew said...

I am a female Photographer and I am so glad I found your site with the help of a friend - another female Photographer. I am eager to find out more about the LIGHT as it is what makes the photograph in one way or another. Love your website, keep it up! I think we just don't talk so much about what and how we do things as our male photographers, wait I think it's a general observation I made...

November 05, 2009 2:45 PM  
Blogger CatLady said...

Hi, I am a female and just finished a Lighting seminar in my home town, Lima (Peru) where 80 percent of the students enrolled were women. And, very important to mention, they were very sharp. But photography in general has been a masculine trade up to recently. I could notice the instructor trying so hard to bring the boys to the forefront...I am also a golfer and cannot fail to realize that "the buyers" or new gear are males. And something like this also applies to photography. Companies target them more than us. I've met great female photographers with outdated gear who would only politely participate in discussions about "new gear" with the boys. Same at the golf course!

November 05, 2009 2:46 PM  
Blogger Paulo Rodrigues said...

The problem with asking your readers this question is that they cannot speak for the women who don't read the strobist blog.

You need to find a way to reach the women who will never see your blog post.

Perhaps some of the women readers here could post the url in a women only flickr group where most of the women use available light?

November 05, 2009 2:56 PM  
Blogger michael said...

Great topic and great comments. Just a few observations that may get a few arrows shot my way. Watching the attendees at seminars over the years I've noticed that the more or resortish the seminar the more women will attend. Women have a greater appreciation or desire for comfort, conversation, and learning together. Men lean toward the technical or practical will often take classes that are more hands-on more yes technical or meat and bones. Male photographer seem to also enjoy going solo more, many are attracted to the profession for the vary reason of being able to work in solitude away from the world even if they do portraits as part of their business. Many women that seem to be drawn to the profession also seem to gravitate to family and child portraiture. These are not all encompassing stereotypes as we all know. I'm the odd guy who never watches sports, who mostly has women friends, whose a better cook and house keeper than my wife and also very technical as I love gadgets to but unlike those who memorize them like baseball player stats I only care what they can do for me. I have 3 daughters two are very technical and have chosen male dominated fields one is a girly girl who loves all things feminine all the way down to the lace and pink. All raised in the same house and very close in age. I've also noticed and heres where I get into trouble but many women involved with photography that I know do so in a leisurely way they choice it for artistic as much as occupational reasons but do o knowing that they often have a husband provider that lets them play at photography. Many of these women drop in and out of it doing kid portraits while they have kids, some stick with it and become serious others and I know many really are hobbyists who pretend to be professionals so they go to classes and conventions for the social reasons and claim passion but the truly passionate both men and women seem to be far fewer. Many of the male photographer substitute technical and precision for artistic passion or vision too. The rack up awards and do contests to be able to claim artistry when in fact they are often technicians.

Lots of generalizing here but we all know a lot of Moms who dabble in photography and go to classes because they want to learn but often are not making enough money to honestly call it a profession. Many guys do the same thing but stoically think they can study all the technical stuff or buy the next cool gadget and that will make them a professional.

I've made my living for 24 years from photography and still question if I'm a professional or not. And I can't image doing most of my work without the very talented women who have worked with me, for me, or me for them over the years. But photography is changing as it becomes easier to point, click and print. Add in social skills which convert portrait selling far better than most men can do and it make a lot of sense why women will so dominate the portrait markets.

November 05, 2009 2:59 PM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

The vast majority of flashers are men...

But seriously, when I visit Strobist related sites I am inclined to look at the light first and the image second. When I visit some of the non-tech photo sites in my RSS feed I'm inclined to look at the images first and the light second.

They are both so key to creating and enjoying good images but I think, in general, men are more inclined to take something apart and put it back together as a key part of enjoying it. Strobist is the ultimate toolbox for doing just that. I suspect it's one of the reasons for the broader appeal of Strobist to men than women.

November 05, 2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Woody said...

Read into this what you will, but I initially read your "weighted boom" comment as "weighted broom".

Thank God I was wrong! Your death would weigh heavily on us all, David.

November 05, 2009 3:14 PM  
Blogger lal:tree said...

I'm a woman who LOVES gadgets. Furthermore, my woman photographer friends are also pretty gadget-obsessed.

I took a class once in learning flash photography. It was taught by a woman, and I'd say over half of the class was women. But I do think that's not the norm.

For me, I'm not that into flash (though I do read Strobist occasionally, and own an SB-800). I don't dislike flash because it's gadgety, I dislike it because it's fussy -- I like to shoot spur-of-the-moment, available light stuff, and don't want to set things up, do test shots, etc. But that's just me.

Also, it seems like lighting is kind of associated with glamor-y model shoots done by creepy dudes, and that might further the "boy's club" aspect.

November 05, 2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Could it be an issue of strength? I don't mean to be sexist here, but all of the women in my life think my camera (D200) is too big and heavy to use when it has anything bigger than a 50mm lens. With my f2.8 80-200, you can just forget about it....they can't hold it. Maybe that is why I personally know lots of male photogs, but only one female photog*

*photog being defined as someone who uses cameras besides little dinky point and shoots cameras.

November 05, 2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger Rachel Blackman said...

Both my boyfriend and I are avid photographers, and are engineers in our day jobs (microchips in the past, software presently, for me; mechanical for him).

We do have very different shooting styles. He'll approach a shot first trying to figure out the perfect way to light it, and composition comes as an afterthought. He views the shot as a technical challenge, and the lights as one of his primary tools. Playing with the lighting is a joy to him, a puzzle with gadgets. He can have as much fun just toying with the lighting for a shot as actually getting the shot. However, because he enjoys toying with lighting just for lighting's sake, he also comes up with techniques I wouldn't have considered in terms of getting a shot lit a particular way.

In contrast, I'll approach a shot with composition as my primary focus. If I find I cannot take the shot with available light, then I look to my Speedlites or Alienbees. But the lights are merely a means to an end; the composition is my primary goal. As another commenter said, if I were a painter the lights would be one part of my palette of colors; not always necessary, but useful to have when needed.

We've found we work well as a team because of this; I look at the situation, compose the shot, he leaps in to figuring out the lighting to get that shot, and in the end we get a better result than either would have alone.

As for the perceived gender skew in the Strobist community, I think the 'lighting for lighting's sake' mentality my boyfriend has leads more towards really active, visible participation in the Strobist groups than the 'lighting as a tool' mentality that I have. If those mentalities are at least somewhat common across the gender divide, that might account for some of what you're seeing.

November 05, 2009 4:17 PM  
Blogger JW Stovall said...

I am confident you will make it back to the USA. You may have gone through some incredible situations, but none like this. Just be damn careful what you say. It is best not to answer in complete sentences. If you do that, they reword what you it makes sense to them. Yes, they will release you, only after you have given up all of your lighting secrets. We know you are in good hands if they send us a shot of you with a Honl attachment gaffer taped to your head.

November 05, 2009 4:57 PM  
Blogger PC said...

I'm stepping out on a limb here, and I certainly don't mean this for every shooter from each gender; but, as a general rule, I think men tend to see something in their mind's eye and want to recreate that image in life, which often requires or inspires the use of lighting. For women, I think they see the moment with their eyes and want to capture the spontaneity, authenticity and immediacy of the moment, which rules out taking the time to set up lighting (in most cases).

That being said, if you want to see a woman that can light, check out Kelly Moore's "Fearless Brides" stuff (no association, just like her work)

November 05, 2009 5:03 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

I am a female photographer and avid Strobist reader who is somewhat addicted to lighting things. I have read a wide variety of lighting technique sites and books (current fave being Light Science & Magic - a book I've heard tends to be *too* technical to appeal to women) and I regularly participate in a variety on online forums. It's been my experience that some of the comments from some of the male readership here really capture the attitude towards females and their gear. Noisy chauvinist attitudes like AdvRdr's don't make it welcome for women to join in the fun.

It's not that we're not out there, we don't always feel comfortable to actively participate in a male dominated forum there are places that out there where we can learn that simply don't have it. I don't think it's a reflection of this site at all - I don't think it's anything you're doing David - as it's the type of thing I hear in a lot of different places. Believe me, it's annoying as heck to walk into a camera shop, ask a gear question and have the guy behind the counter pat your hand and then act condescending.

I don't think it's a large portion of gear guys with this outdated attitude though, for the most part I find photographers to be very generous with their knowledge. It just seems that the small minority who have it really really like to share their narrow minded opinion. It's just like AdvRdr said - it's not that the girls didn't want to do it, someone just made it clear that they were neither welcome nor invited. It only takes a couple noisy people to spread that message and honestly, the comments on this post are making it pretty clear just what attitudes we face out there.

November 05, 2009 5:18 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

David. Look at yourself. You're a guy running a techie blog with an ugly black background.
Don't you think the demographics would be very different if this site was:
- Named "Beautiful Lighting"
- Hosted by a 30's something successful female
- Had a pretty esoteric background

You've consciously done nothing to exclude females, but you're a guy and, like it or not, other guys easily identify with you.

Please take no offense from these statements. You've single handedly changed the definition and extent of amateur photography to many thousands of folks (anyone that cares to indulge) Keep it up.

November 05, 2009 5:23 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Drake said...

Now I'm really curious as to where you got that 6% figure. I'm female -- I've followed this blog for over a year -- I've never posted a comment before. I'll bet you had no idea I even existed until now :).

I think a lot of what you said really rings true. Men are, in general, more interested in the gadgets (and OTC lighting as a subset of that). Women are, in general, more interested in the emotion and feel of the shot. This mirrors our gender stereotypes of men being more technically oriented and women being more emotionally oriented. There's nothing wrong with that, and it doesn't mean one set of qualities is more valuable than another -- it just is what it is. We're hardwired that way. Blame evolution, if you must.

For what is worth (which is likely not much), here are my observations from the small sampling of photographers I know. I am not your "typical" female (I'm big into gadgets and I'm a mathematician and statistican by training, so ratios and technical details don't make me want to run screaming), but even still I was first attracted to photography because of the beauty and emotion that can be captured through a lens. Most women photographers I know were attracted to the craft for similar reasons. It's only once we've really gotten into it that we're exposed to all the gadgets and options with OTC lighting. I don't even think I knew what a light modifier was until 2-3 years into shooting. It's not that women don't have the willingness or capability to understand the technical side of photography, we just aren't aware of them or aren't in any hurry to seek them out.

On the other hand, many male photographers I know first got into photography because they liked to experiment with the camera itself and like the challenge of creating a technically perfect photograph. Following that logic, it would make sense then that men would be more drawn to OTC lighting and any other type of gear right off the bat. They get in the gadget game sooner than women. That's not at all to say that men can't create as emotionally provocative an image as a woman, it's just maybe not the first thing they think about. They go towards technical perfection first.

November 05, 2009 6:26 PM  
Blogger Pam Rauber said...

To AdvRdr..."But then again, look at the ranks of women shooters at the top of the advertising/fashion worlds. They have no problem setting up a roomful of Profoto strobes." A perfect example, Annie Leibovitz. She doesn't set up, her underlings do. But she knows enough about lighting to direct them.

I have been subscribed here for a year now. I'm just slow or it really does not mean that much to me. Either way, I am just having a rough time figuring how to use off camera flash. Over or under expose???

It doesn't help to be with a group of photographers (mostly men) who don't want to take the time to share and help.
I've been on a waiting list forever for flash classes.

All this aside, there are certain games genders are stronger in. I ride horses and 90% of riders are women. Women haul six and eight stall horse trailers driving big rigs. Women can handle a horse better then men can on any given day.

So perhaps in photography men are stronger. Peculiar, I can't carry all that gear but I can use my thumb to move a 1200 lb animal across an arena.

I may be 60yrs old but I won't give up trying to conquer flash. It's just going to take me longer.
I enjoy your blog and I introduced many men to this blog.

November 05, 2009 6:35 PM  
Blogger ryusen said...

Within my social circle, the photographers are more generally male and the models are more generally female. Of the two females that are avid photographers i see them produce very nice works with just a minimum use of additional equipment. One has a great talent for understanding people and ways to pose them, the other uses natural/ambient lighting very well.

November 05, 2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger choet said...

I am a very visual learner and even though I have done 101 and tried to start 102 I still don't fully understand it. I think that I need to hear and see it demonstrated to help me understand the concept. I still keep trying though til it sinks in.

November 05, 2009 6:41 PM  
Blogger pixel.nm said...

well, first of all, I just added another woman to your readership. :) I've been a reader for a while, but I'm not sure if I appear in your statistics or not since I wasn't signed in.

To comment on your post--I am an a-typical, very technically-oriented girl, and I really appreciate all the techniques you've published. But, I also see the merit in looking at the content of the photo (as a wedding photographer, it sometimes doesn't matter how skilled the lighting is if the bride thinks her arms look fat!).

So, I usually try to pair the two sides of technique, because ultimately lighting can make a beautifully composed shot even better--you can even use lighting to compose a completely different and amazing image. So why not get the best of both?

November 05, 2009 7:12 PM  
Blogger Carlo A. Balistrieri said...

Maybe the more important question (certainly by the numbers) is why aren't the guys buying into your seminars????

November 05, 2009 7:16 PM  
Blogger Laura Jens said...

Female follower, first time responder. Love all the tips and wealth of information provided on your site here. I can only speak for myself as a "chick". I wanna get it all, I really do, but this gal here is a techna-tard (technical retard). It takes a lot longer for me to grasp it than from what I gather all you gadget luvin' dudes.
I have this to say: K.I.S.S. :) maybe with that concept I would not be so intimated, but the boys would be bored out of their minds!
Practice makes perfect, "getting it" is an attainable goal for sure. Keep up the great work and I know I will get there and won't be so frustrated when practicing.
This is a very good question though, where are all the girls with the gadgets? Where is the girl power?

November 05, 2009 7:30 PM  
Blogger Nareshe said...

I'm a woman, and I read Strobist because I am interested in lighting and gear--but I don't shoot with off-camera flash. Yet.

Two reasons:

1. Getting started with off-camera flash is crazy expensive. I have to earn the money first--and since my hobby is self-supporting, I tend to do things like buy nice lenses with my camera money rather than lighting.

2. I've been in front of a lot of flashes in my day, and I have to say that the flash is *easily* the worst part about the experience of being on the other end of the lens. I actually vastly prefer hot lights in the studio, because the folks I work with aren't models and haven't trained themselves to ignore the flash. I have a lot easier time connecting with people and getting them to relax if they know I'm not going to leave them with spots dancing in front of their eyes.

I actually don't like the look of a lot of pictures lit with OCF, but reading this site is one of the ways I figure out what it is about various setups contributes to the look I don't like. (If it looks fake, I tend to dislike the result.)

November 05, 2009 8:22 PM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

I jumped in with both feet and strobes. while my wife on the other hand was reluctant. it took a year or so before she 'saw the light'.

November 05, 2009 9:09 PM  
Blogger becky ruppel said...

I've been a subscriber for about a year and spent many hours working on OCF. I am a female photo student with studio experience but the ability to light on the fly challenges and excites me.
I've attended a "One Light" Workshop and a McNalley location lighting workshop and yes,they are predominately male. And many of them get together and talk in detail about output, equipment, light ratios, pixels, etc. They tend to ignore me and that's fine.
I'm a tech geek so the equipment doesn't intimidate me. I shoot tethered as well. Most of my fellow female students are not as interested in OCF and gear as they are in studio lighting. And I agree, it is an investment.

My motivation is simple-I see too many poorly lit images. Yes, natural light is my first choice but if I can make a better image with flash, I'm there. I don't think the equipment make people uncomfortable, either.

Work in the best way that most comfortable for you, but don't discount the OCF thing until you've tried it, ladies.

November 05, 2009 10:22 PM  
Blogger AdvRdr said...

Mamacita Chilena said...

"Could it be that women look at men and their lighting gear and shy away because they don't know how to use it, figure it's complicated, or heavy and cumbersome?"

Ummm hi. That was sexist AdvRdr.

Yes it is and that is why I said it. I was presenting various sexist reasons -- take my entire post as a whole statement and don't just pull out single sentences.

November 05, 2009 10:51 PM  
Blogger Artful Images by Nancy said...

I am a female, and I am insanely obsessed with light. But for me, I also want to keep it as simple as I can when shooting. Although I would love to be able to indulge my time and money in lots of cool gizmos and setups, I never seem to have enough time or money... I am embarrassed by my obsession with lighting, so I tend to keep quiet about it and just hungrily read stuff and think about how it might apply to my work. So maybe that's a valid point - maybe women are more self conscious about having fancy gear, where guys get a kick out of having fancy gear...? That's my two cents worth, from Nancy in Bend, Oregon

November 06, 2009 12:24 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I am a female engineer, so needless to say, I am not afraid of math and technical learning. What I am afraid of is taking a photo that doesn't have a subject and lacks a strong story.

Recently, I had the honor of attending a workshop where Joe McNally was the instructor. You would think that his lessons would focus on how to light. Although that was definitely a part of his presentation, I learned more about his process of creating a killer photograph. None of these things were technical in nature but they created the strong story that is always present in his photography.

In comparison to what I do as a day job, I really don't find that photography and lighting all that technical and mathematically challenging. Sewing a well fitting garment, on the other hand, is a technical challenge.

November 06, 2009 6:58 AM  
Blogger Cati said...

God. I just can't read through all the comments but there are my 2 cents.

I'm obviously a lady and have been shooting for over a year. At first I didn't want to get involved with all of the lighting stuff. I felt it was too complicated for the kind of pics I wanted and it was too much information for a beginner.

Plus I really love the interaction between the subject and me, I like to think that there's some kind of intimacy between the two of us, that there's a sort of connection needed. Getting more stuff and less talking into the equation didn't feel right at the beginning.

In my case I just took the time I felt I needed to really know how my camera works and how to take the best out of it as it is. My head hurts every time I have to buy a lens, a difuser or whatever... I'm a gadget lover but the gear part is hard because I'm never quite sure when I make a decision about gear. There are too many options to feel confident when making a choice.

Now I just got to a point where I know for sure my photography isn't going to improve if I don't get more tools (wether it is just better gear or more knowledge on lighting...) and that's why I'm here.

Sad part is that I can tell you of a few men that looked at my pics and say they were crap. This is just not right. I welcome critique - constructive critique, but you don't have to make me feel like a 2 y.o. to make a point. If they just pointed the light was too hard, the shadows were too dense or any other particular aspect I would have thanked them because they would have given me a chance to improve instead of discouraging me. A general "this is crap" is not going to help.

When I ask something to my male photographer friends I sometimes can see they thinking "oh, this little cutie knows nothing". I've had some people act all above me.
Recently I asked a male friend about his wide angles because I wanted to purchase one. He gave me a few options and then proceeded to tell me that I must shoot raw, underexpose a little, use the EV, check the white balance blah blah blah. I already knew all of these things. He treated me like a child he was teaching. It was plain humiliating.

I think there are too many people saying this is a man's world. It's discouraging, really. I would love to learn in a positive ambient. That's all I want: I don't want to prove I'm better than you, I just want to be good at what I do.

I know not everybody acts like the examples I gave here, but I bet this is an experience that some more women have had too. Wich is sad. Really sad.

November 06, 2009 8:17 AM  
Blogger Cati said...

Oh I forgot.
It's true I prefer spontaneous, natural shots over superprepared, high level technical setting shots.

I know for sure I don't really relax in front of huge studio lights, softboxes and such. It doesn't feel natural.

But, like I said before, I know I need to know more about lighting if I want to improve.

November 06, 2009 8:29 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

"Could it be an issue of strength? I don't mean to be sexist here, but all of the women in my life think my camera (D200) is too big and heavy to use when it has anything bigger than a 50mm lens. With my f2.8 80-200, you can just forget about it....they can't hold it. Maybe that is why I personally know lots of male photogs, but only one female photog*"

Dan, that's *exactly* my setup!
I have backed off from the D2 series because they are heavy to the hand, but my D200 fits me like a glove.
Correction: I use my 18-200 as my default lens, I need a tripod for my 80-200 2.8 lens but weight isn't part of the equation. Nice try, though.

November 06, 2009 9:38 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

Funny how this topic brings out the gender issues. I don't find photography, personally, to be gender biased. By that, I mean that I know equal numbers of male and female photographers in real (not Internet) life.
Maybe there's something in Internet life that brings out a competitive streak that results in more *apparent* male participation?
I always read but rarely post, as I use this site to be inspired by others rather than to compete with them. I'm not interested in competing so I don't need to post 'I can top this' messages. I certainly *share* as I have thousands of shots on Flickr.

So, let's consider whether there's a competitive angle to posting on Strobist that affects a perceived gender imbalance?

November 06, 2009 9:44 AM  
Blogger Blackbird Photography said...

Well, I am a photgrapHER, and I read strobist. Maybe us ladies are less verbal about the gadgets?

I think men have their weeknesses and so do women. I do not generally notice a difference of gender other than you rarely discuss any female photographers that are doing their thing and well out there. That doesnt mean you have to, it just means there are less of us.

However, I've been on some photographers forums, and I do notice a difference of being a woman, and have been made to feel uncomfortable about that before.

Strobist is the best place to learn and get no nonsense answers without predjudice answers.

November 06, 2009 9:44 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

This is for michael, who commented on photography as a profession.

Michael, I never want to be professional. I have too much respect for the pros to want to be saddled with the responsibility of being nice to obnoxious clients (rare, right?), printing to order and, in general, dealing with all of the business aspects of the profession.
God love you, I couldn't do it (I'm in IT and talk to a computer all day).

My shoots are for people I like and subjects that I'm interested in. They will get shots out of it that they will cherish and use for Christmas cards, and I get to shoot steeplechasing or mysterious Boy Scout rituals or get invited to shoot theatrical rehearsals.

I buy equipment as I can afford it, then learn to use it.

I never think about whether I can master technology, it's all about whether I have the need and opportunities to justify the expense.

Right now I'm looking for Black Friday sales that will get me some Pocket Wizards (an upgrade from CLS at present) at a price I'm comfortable with. Has anyone heard of any good PW sales online?

November 06, 2009 9:55 AM  
Blogger Cailin said...

CatLady, love your analogy with golf!
I'm a golfer, too, and take lessons to learn how to use the clubs that I have rather than think that a new set of clubs will solve everything.
So I choose to spend to improve me (golf lessons, photography seminars and workshops) and learn to use what I have rather than buy new gear (my clubs are so old that the woods are actually made of wood!).

Self improvement, whether through classes or reading Strobist, sticks. New technology is here today, gone tomorrow.

Funny enough, David subscribes to this theory as well (a closet female?) as he advocates using tried-and-true tech (PW) rather than upgrading to the newest CLS components as they come out. And he also does a lot of reading of other sites and, thankfully, passes this along to us. Bravo, David!

(BTW there's a sale as Service Photo this weekend - and you're in Mexico!)

November 06, 2009 10:05 AM  
Blogger shannonmplummer said...

Add another female to that readership percentage!

I have been an avid Strobist reader for a very long time even though this is my first comment. This subject has certainly stirred up something in the readers.

I simply want to say that as a professional self-taught photographer I shoot both natural light and flash. I have learnt so much from this site and while the beauty of a creative job such as photography means there will ALWAYS be more to learn, I feel that I have been able to master both aspects of lighting and in doing so I have learnt more about the other.

I specialize in animal photography and in particular reptiles, not always co-operative subjects. As such the use of flash to freeze action has proved invaluable and eventually led to me exploring 'studio' lighting in depth on this site - a distinctive style I am now know for!

Thanks David for your generous and continued offering of free access to information, it's greatly appreciated - even if not all of us comment regularly.

Shannon Plummer

November 06, 2009 10:09 AM  
Blogger babycakes4050 said...

i was in venice a few years ago, they had a woman expo at the modern museum, outside posted on a wall was this quote. why are 95% of all the women in museums hanging on the wall as models and not artists"
if you hang out with guys enough and there is a car or a boat around, eventually they show off the engine. i have never lifted my hood to show my girlfriend my carburator. that is the difference

November 06, 2009 10:38 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

I, as a woman (maybe just a person), am struggling through the lighting thing and maybe my problems are a little more universal than I thought.
I can understand the actual strob stuff but what drives me crazy is the 'set up' gear. How do you hook it all together? What works with what else? How do you put it all together? When I walk into a photo store I am overwhelmed and kind of embarrassed to ask these incredibly basic questions. The strobist site has really helped with some of this but I'd sure like to find a local resource.

November 06, 2009 10:58 AM  
Blogger Glenda said...

I am surprised that is only 6% of my gender reading your site. So the first question that pops into my mind is: how do you come to that statistic number? Is it generated by the blog site? Or based on the comments and contest participation? I, for one, do not recall ever posting a comment, maybe once, if ever. And have never participated in the contests (I tried once, but then changed my mind). So up to this point, I have been a silent reader I suppose. So maybe the number is larger, and there is a bunch of women out there just reading and learning, and just not being vocal about it.

November 06, 2009 11:48 AM  
Blogger NtwkGestapo said...

Dave I've been reading Strobist for a few weeks now (and have gone thru pretty much all of the lessons, i.e. I've read them, NOT done them!:) ) I've been a "technical" photographer for about 50 years now (well, 49). Started with an old 620 film camera (fixed focus, fixed aperture, fixed shutter, etc. Had a flash built in, if you wanted a flash you put in a bulb, took the picture, viola! flash photography!). I really learnded the technical side of photography when I became one of my high school's newspaper photographers! Used a 1955 Graflex Speed Graphic 2.25x3.25 plate film camera (this one had a Graflok back so it COULD use 120/220 film holders and Polaroid backs as well). Light Meters, we don' need no stinkin' light meters! :) After finishing my US Navy service I purchased a Canon Ftb and used it for years. In 1980 got a Canon A-1. (This really is going somewhere!) My wife never really could understand why I wanted anything more than a Kodak Instamatic! BUT, when I got the A-1 (I'd given my Ftb to my brother when he decided he wanted to take photojournalism.... did him no good AND he broke the Ftb! Oh Well)..
Well, we went out on a rainy sunday morning, she with her Kodak Instamatic 110 and I with my A-1 (it needed a roll shot and developed before I sent in the warranty card anyway!) I took a couple of shots in program mode, a couple in shutter priority (Tv), a couple in aperture proirity (Av) and then the rest in various manual settings! When we got the film back she finally understood WHY an instamatic wasn't gonna cut it! I bought her an AE-1 about 2 weeks later!
Today, she uses a Fuji FinePix S700 (7MP with a 10x zoom built in). I use a Canon EOS 40D with 10-22, 28-135 and 70-200 F4.0L lenses. She's a watercolorist (sp?) and uses the camera to capture a scene so she can come back home and paint it! She's never been interested in flash UNLESS she just can't get the shot without. I've got a Canon 580EX II and the Canon Speedlite 199A that I bought almost 30 years ago now! Just got the STROBIST Filter set (x2) and a pair of Lumiquest FXtra as well as a very basic wired setup so I can get at least one flash well off the camera! I have a flash bracket which I can do a LITTLE ways off (2 foot cable doesn't give me much room, but) and I've got a 5 meter pc cord with a hostshoe/pc cord combo to put, probably, the 199A on. In a bit I'll add some additional, hopefully wireless, off camera options....

I'm hoping I can get some shots that will make her want to learn how to control the light, not just accept what's there!

While I'm much more technical than she (she always says "I've got to wait for tech support to get out of the shower...") I've already shown her that while some technical know how is good, with digital cameras, you can just experiment and see what happens! Until you print it or send it to someone, it's just electrons!

I've known some women who were VERY technical and some who were about as far away FROM technical as you could get and still survive in today's world! Has NOTHING to do with their innate smarts, just how they look @ things and what tools they use to solve problems!

I suspect once I've shown her what can be done with off-camera flash, she's gonna dive right in!

November 06, 2009 11:52 AM  
Blogger Ann Parry NY said...

Despite being a gadget fan, I found it easier to teach myself Photoshop than lighting, and I don't have a clue if it has anything to do with gender.

Though naturally drawn to outdoor and concert photography, I knew I needed to learn more about lighting to broaden my options.

The equipment recommended by Strobist was practical & effective enough to allow me to capture scenes in ballrooms. Thank you!

However, I'm still working on studio lighting. Hands-on help would be most useful, and a barter situation would be ideal, so I'm looking to swap proofreading/editing help for guidance in studio lighting

November 06, 2009 12:02 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

This reminds me somewhat of rock climbing. Guys think they can outclimb the women in the gym because they have the brute strength to pull themselves up by their fingernails.

So they go to the hard route, and start pulling themselves up, hand over hand, arm over arm, legs dragging behind them. 15 minutes later, they've reached the top and get hauled back to the ground sweating and panting.

Then the little pint-sized woman who was belaying the oaf walks up to the same route and scales it nimbly and gracefully in under 5 minutes, not even breaking a sweat, because she knows how use her balance and her legs and she knows how to rest.

Maybe photography is the same way. You can use artificial light to get your result, but that's the brute force route, while finding natural light and focusing more on the interaction is the more skillful route. Or maybe I'm just stretching this analogy...

November 06, 2009 1:07 PM  
Blogger Lauren_D said...

As a female photographer I have always been interested in lighting, but until now I have been happy with what I would deem "alternative lighting". The lighting equipment I most commonly used was christmas lights, flashlights and a hand held flash. I liked to be able to work experimentally and intuitively. However, I reached a point where I knew what I wanted my photo to look like and I couldn't do it with the lighting setup I had. This is when I started reading Strobist. I recently purchased one of the lighting kits from MPEX and I am looking forward to learning how to create the photos I want to create with this new, more controllable lighting system. This is of course a generlization, but I think women look for technical knowledge when they have some reason to pursue it- like a creative vision, but that technical knowledge for its own sake is less common among females.

November 06, 2009 2:33 PM  
Blogger electrasteph said...

The only reason I haven't gotten heavily into lighting is because I'm still learning to use the camera. I follow your blog, though, because I pick up things that I know will fall into place when I get more serious about lighting later. And I think for me, there's a bit of a financial barrier to getting started, too. I can't speak on behalf of other women at all though.

November 06, 2009 4:54 PM  
Blogger Florida Strobists said...

Amazingly true. Then again, when a girl gets her first set of triggers and a flash, all photographic hell breaks loose, and that's not a bad thing in the world of photography!

Thanks so much David,


November 06, 2009 5:36 PM  
Blogger SpiffyPix said...

I'm a woman, a locomotive engineer & a photographer. I'm quite a capable learner when it comes to technical things, but I need to be shown how to do something. I do not learn well from reading. I'm a hands-on type of gal. I have off-camera lights, an incident light meter & PWs but I really don't know how to use them. I need someone to show me how to do these things. I wonder if other women learn in a similar fashion.

November 06, 2009 5:50 PM  
Blogger Jay in Frederick said...

At the risk of overly-generalizing about the genders, sitting in front of a computer reading blogs to learn how to do things is a fairly solitary activity - women generally prefer to learn things collaboratively, with immediate interaction and feedback, such as in person in a class or seminar, or even over the phone. There are always exceptions, but this is from general observation.

November 06, 2009 8:21 PM  
Blogger Faith said...

This is a really interesting idea, and one I haven't considered until now. In retrospect, most of the female students I've worked with tend to use available or natural light almost exclusively. As a female photographer who graduated three years ago from a good photography program where I did have access to professional lighting equipment and shooting studios, I have to admit I've only just started to get serious about lighting and off-camera flash this year (and I'm apparently part of that 6% of your female readership).

I'm intrigued by some of the comments here suggesting that women are less likely to pick up the gadgets even if they really want to, and it is perhaps assumed by professors that the interest to learn is not there. I grew up around gadgets and tools - everything from woodworking and metal working equipment to sewing machines - so I can't say that applies to me, but I did see friends of mine, both male and female, feel inhibited by having to learn a complicated lighting setup prior to making work.

I wish someone had told me three years ago that what my photographs were missing was a better understanding of lighting. I hope readers of this blog pass their knowledge and their passion along.

November 06, 2009 8:49 PM  
Blogger Turk said...

maybe we should focus on what gender shoots what type of photography. in my city, most of the female photographers are doing children portraiture and 'specialize in natural light'.

November 06, 2009 10:02 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

It's not a gadget thing. I've been on a dedicated forum for MWACs and there's the same gear lust there that you see all over the web. Women are not only getting into gear, but they're all over image editing software as well. I just have a tough time believing it's a gadget thing.

I don't know what you do about the gender skewing. I was around when the gender poll was posted a year (two years?) ago. You've talked about wanting to do something about it before, but I'm not sure too much came of that.

I refer girlfriends to this site any time one of them mentions wanting to buy a flash. One of them has used the information she got here, but the others just want to take decent photos of their kids and find themselves overwhelmed. But they are not your audience, I suppose.

Who is the audience? I never quite know, even after reading this blog for two years. I think it tends toward advanced amateurs rather than rank noobs. Maybe that's something... Or maybe not.

November 06, 2009 10:33 PM  
Blogger Photorina Studios said...

First off, thanks David for being "sensitive" to this matter. I personally don't think it's a gender thing. Maybe if you're blog background color was pink, you'd get less male readers and this wouldn't be an issue. (Talk amongst your selves...)I decided to tap into my mid-life crisis and take up knitting..(cough!) I mean, photography and more than that, everything that involves a gadget or lens, or radio trigger etc. to help me becoming and excellent photographer. Ask my assistants how much I grumble about the gadgets vs. the shoot and they would tell you that my better pictures are the candid, ambient light ones. I became loyal to your blog because of your humility and your transparency which = love and for me and as a woman, I like that. It says that you care about your readers and this creates a certain amount of courage for me to go out with my camera and toys and see what I can do. Okay, okay, I'm not saying that you're Oprah, I don't even have a tv, BUT, I am saying that those who want to learn go beyond their persona as a whole. I could have chosen to do creative memories, or cross-stitch or collect those little troll like figurines, but instead I pursued what interested me the I admit that I would gel better with a room full of Strobist chicks vs. Strobist guys, because...frankly I don't like baseball. ;}

November 07, 2009 12:36 AM  
Blogger TheEternalImage said...

Actually a lot of the (hidden women) that are coming out of the woodwork are from those female forums I was talking about, I have now seen this link in three different forums. You might get more luck targeting a women audience if you post in places where women hang out and say "FREE LIGHTING CLASSES" They (I) would be all over that, were bargain shoppers don't forget LOL (the sun is free you know)

I am so glad I found it though. I have been wanting to learn flash for a while.

November 07, 2009 1:57 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Lol! Great post! I just stopped by your blog for the first time to try and figure out lighting! I am a woman and will be back! So you can count one more woman reader to your blog! :) :) :)

November 07, 2009 9:29 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 07, 2009 10:12 AM  
Blogger David Manning said...

I work with 2 female staffers, both of which are excellent with location lighting.

My thought is that they are too busy taking photos then playing on the computer.

November 07, 2009 10:14 AM  
Blogger Mary Banducci said...

Hi, I have been doing photography for several years and have relied heavily on natural light and my reflectors. I never really learned studio lighting or flash photography. This perhaps has stalled me from pursuing it.
Honestly I did "shy away" from it at first. I wasn't sure how to start, where to start. But my interest in learning and in strengthening my skills has pushed past my resistance (anyone read the War of Art by Steven Pressfield? I strongly recommend it) and I have, thanks to this site and some others, started to learn.

November 07, 2009 11:53 AM  
Blogger Cory said...

(I am male BTW - "Cory" confuses people)I have read a lot of the comments, and I have to agree the most with Debra. I think a lot of women aren't as interested in the technical components of things. That doesn't necessarily mean they are any less proficient, just not as into the science. I am reminded of the time I taught my wife to drive a manual transmission. We were sitting in the car and started to describe how a clutch works. Her response was, "Honey, I don't care what a flywheel is, just show me how to drive the damn thing!" And proving my theory, she drives just as well as I do even though she has no idea (or interest) of what's going on under the hood.

November 07, 2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger Pavel said...

Hi David. I'd be interested in helping you to translate your 101&102s into czech if you find it useful .Let me know. Good Luck.

November 07, 2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Kenners said...

I'm a female professional photographer and I love my gadgets! I do a lot of aviation photography here in the UK and at the air shows in the press area I'm usually the only female photographer. Never a problem, I've known most of the male togs for a few years - we banter and chat about gear etc. I don't even think about being in a minority. I love to read your blog and also Joe McNally's. I see it as a way of increasing my knowledge and appreciating your lighting skills. I don't think it would ever occur to me to search out a ladies only tog group as in this visual art I am a photographer first and girlie second.


November 07, 2009 3:07 PM  
Blogger laurent said...

Nice website and technics.
I'm french so my english is bad… but I think you'll be interresting about those pictures for your website

I discover… I'm a strobist !!

November 07, 2009 4:12 PM  
OpenID cameraaddict said...

I agree with you, most women photographers I know are more interested in the subject, and getting the picture right now, than in fiddling with gadgets and lighting. A lesson to male photographers: a good subject captured at the right moment is more important than how it's lit - or whether the latest gadget is used.

November 07, 2009 5:59 PM  
Blogger Ann-Marie Stillion said...

I think is more about money.

Men still far out earn women universally--for the same jobs or just tallying overall earnings.

Equipment, etc costs a lot. There are plenty of women who could do the work but the world still belongs to men. It's a pretty expensive hobby and I know plenty of men who have every gadget in the book but aren't really pros. They may not be as good as their female counterparts but men have the big glass and studios.

So women take classes because we cannot really hope to enter the male dominated world. Women can play at it, but we do not have the resources to keep going. Hence the class attendance.

Also women are still socialized to be of service and not stand out.

It was devastating news to hear that a big recent study showed that the top professions for women are still secretary, nurse and teacher. This after generations of women's equality.

I used to be a graphic designer when it was male dominated. Now it is female and guess what? Very low wages.

Thanks for the discussion Strobist. I really appreciate the exploration but it is a far bigger issue than what kind of strobe to use. It comes down to overwhelming social forces.

November 07, 2009 6:26 PM  
OpenID visualperspective said...

I've notice that the word technical isn't being used incorrectly by alot of people. Not being into gadgets or wanting to discuss in forums non-stop gadgets is not the same thing as not being technical, to be a professional photographer you pretty much have to be technical:

tech⋅ni⋅cal  /ˈtɛknɪkəl/ Pronunciation [tek-ni-kuhl]

adjective 1. belonging or pertaining to an art, science, or the like: technical skill.

2. peculiar to or characteristic of a particular art, science, profession, trade, etc.: technical details.

3. using terminology or treating subject matter in a manner peculiar to a particular field, as a writer or a book: a technical report.

4. skilled in or familiar in a practical way with a particular art, trade, etc., as a person.

5. of, pertaining to, or showing technique.

6. technically demanding or difficult: a technical violin sonata; a technical ski run.

7. designed or used for technically demanding sports or other activities: technical apparel.

8. pertaining to or connected with the mechanical or industrial arts and the applied sciences: a technical school.

9. so considered from a point of view in accordance with a stringent interpretation of the rules: a military engagement ending in a technical defeat.

10. concerned with or dwelling on technicalities: You're getting too technical for me.

11. noting a market in which prices are determined largely by supply and demand and other such internal factors rather than by general business, economic, or psychological factors that influence market activity: technical weakness or strength.

Saying women are not or are less technical than men is a really big slap in the face... Women use lighting all the time in a variety of way since photography is pretty much all about the light in the first place.

And since my Open ID isn't going to work right for some reason this is who I am

Bec Thomas

November 07, 2009 6:33 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

anecdotes aren't evidence.
However, as a lady, all my female friends are tech geeks. I don't think there's nesscarily a lot of truth to ladies don't web surf/love technology. The female nerd population is continually on the rise.Additionally whoever was using google reader feeds as evidence:
My feeds: 220 subscriptions
Boyfriend: 15.
Generally Male-Dominated fields are not welcoming to women, and as children girls tend to hear the 'girls are bad at math and science' expression and it affects development.
I am also curious where you gender statistics come from for the blog.

November 08, 2009 3:15 AM  
Blogger Alisha Stamper | Photographer said...

All I can say is for myself, as a female photog (with a BFA in photo who isn't a soccer mom, or into weddings), MY work is all lit. none of that natural stuff for me. Women can be extremely technical, I know I am.

November 08, 2009 3:55 AM  
Blogger mother in law said...

I enjoy lighting and I'm female. I actually love this site because it teaches about lots of lightweight, easy to carry lighting that doesn't cost a fortune!

Similarly I am quite happy with my D40 as although there are much better cameras it's lightweight and therefore I can carry it plus a bag plus a two year old toddler...

I just don't seem to get as much opportunity to practice as a lot of people on here having small children. Natural light is easy with them. Also, the cost can be a problem. Maybe more men have more money to spend on equipment?

November 08, 2009 5:58 AM  
Blogger EmilyKate said...

Just wanted to let you know you now have one more female reader now. Came here specifically having googled lighting techniques :o)

November 08, 2009 4:47 PM  
Blogger notsosmallfries said...

I'm an amateur female photographer. I've been reading your blog for probably 6 months or so and this is my first time commenting. By training, I'm a software engineer but I quit that 3 years ago to start a family.

I'll be honest that the biggest reason I am not more invested in staging light right now is money. I have a specific set of gear right now. While we could afford for me to buy more gadgets, it is a matter of priorities--spend money on something for my kids and my whole family to enjoy or spend it just on me. Most of the time, the family wins. I make exceptions for Christmas and my birthday and always provide my husband with a list of specific gear I want. But that means I really have to prioritize what gear I need/want. So, for now I learn to shoot as best I can with natural light and/or my single speedlight (my last birthday gift) not out of laziness as some commenters stated, but out of necessity.

If someone wants to buy me a bunch of gear, I would love to throw myself into the more technical details of staged lighting.

November 08, 2009 4:48 PM  
Blogger niagaragirl said...

I'm a little bit of a gear hound and tech geek and have been around here almost since the beginning. I check in about once a week. As far as commenting, well I just don't do a lot of that in blog world.

As far as females being visible on Strobist, yes some can be put off by the in your face and balls to the wall approach. Personally I love it.

Female photographers and Lighting - Some are finally starting to get it. I know a few MWCs (Moms With Cameras) who went down to the Best Buy, got their Nikon D200s, and went into business. They thought that as long s they could put sucky Fairy Wings and shit on little girls they would make money. One of the ladies has finally "gotten it" and is taking lighting more seriously and learning about it. The others who say it's too hard are selling their cameras.

Thanks for a great blog. DOn't worry about the demographics so much - we are out there ;-)

November 08, 2009 6:34 PM  
Blogger MushyPup said...

I was shooting with a couple of my male counterparts not long ago. They had their Alien-Bees (or whatever) and their speed lights and this and that and the other, and all their lenses laid out - they were comparing their gear and who had the best glass for the situation...blah blah blah blah blah. The model was looking damned impatient. I took my 5-in-1 reflector, grabbed the model, grabbed a mid-range telephoto and we started shooting. A few tests to get the light effect I wanted and we were off.

By the end of the day, the model was giving her business to *me* because all the gear-head bantering kinda grated on her. At the end, when the storm clouds were rolling in, I folded up my reflector, put away my camera and walked away home...while my tech-head friends were *still* arguing about gear while they were tearing down all their *stuff* before the rainstorm hit.

The point I make here is that guys will always be guys...whether it's buying a car (if a Prius will do, why do you need to get something with double overhead cams, 800 horsepower and lawnmower hubcaps?) or buying/learning about gear - tech heavy areas of photographers will always contain a larger ratio of men. It's the way they're wired. Sometimes that's burdensome for everyone, including them, and sometimes it's not. Those of us who have been around long enough to know and understand that fact will just smile fondly, leave them be, and go on to take the photograph we want, as we want it...and be infinitely grateful that when the need arises that most of our brothers-in-arms will share their goods when asked nicely, and will generally help you set them up and be your assistant, too.

Because you know what - we're all just a bunch of photographers out trying to capture a good image, have some fun, and make some friends along the way. They share their toys - we share our all works out in the end.

November 08, 2009 8:56 PM  
Blogger KlineTimes said...

I don't have much to add that hasn't been said already. I'm a long time female reader though so I thought I would raise my hand and say "Hi".


November 08, 2009 9:48 PM  
OpenID facesandfeatures said...

I am a female photographer who enjoys reading your blog. However i know a lot of women who find the idea of sitting in front of the computer reading blogs, facebooking or surfing the internet in general a waste of their spare time when they do get some time to themselves. Perhaps its just a matter of how people like to spend their time..

I taught myself off-camera lighting by reading, practising and watching instructional dvds. However it probably would have been a lot quicker if someone had shown me the techniques.

If i were learning a musical instrument, it would be more effective and practical learning from a teacher than from a book or a blog. Same with lighting i guess.

November 08, 2009 10:39 PM  
Blogger Cailin said...

Folks - I'm an *amateur* (gender irrelevant) and use the lighting appropriate to the subject. Over the weekend I shot junior golf and hunter trials. Both outside, both with plenty of natural light. I had lighting equipment with me for the hunter trials gig but it would have been very intrusive to litter any of the rings and/or fields with light stands to add light when, to the eye, there was plenty of light on a beautiful fall day. So I let the *occasion* dictate the lighting scheme. If I am asked to photograph specific horses and riders it may be a different story. In this case the gig and objectives thereof decide the use of technology.
That said, I'll be shooting some product photography for eBay. THAT will require a lighting setup. I use what I need, not go into it for the technology alone.

November 09, 2009 9:45 AM  
Blogger Chanell said...

I'm a female photog and I think the reason is that guys get caught up in getting new shiny gadgets more-so than females. Speaking for myself i'm more concerned with setting up the shot and capturing the true essence of a person than getting all the technical stuff right. I can tweak all that in photoshop lol but I can't tweak emotions in photoshop.

November 09, 2009 11:16 AM  
Blogger Amy Cham said...

As a female wedding and event photog who shoots with her husband, here are my thoughts based on my own experience and perspective. We have vastly different approaches to lighting, which seem to be inline with the discussion here.

I can say that, as a web geek in my (pretty recent) pre-photography days, it's not a matter of the lighting being too technical. For me, it's a bit more about priorities.

1. The more gear you add, the less intuitive the shooting is. I tend to take what's available at that moment and do what I can with it. Take the ambient light and add a reflector or flash. My husband wants to plan out every detail ahead of time and stage things with multiple strobes and pocket wizards.

2. The lighting gear is just one more thing to carry. I'm already hauling 15-20 lbs or more in camera gear, often on my shoulder running through a train station or shooting for 4-6 hours. And now I'm supposed to add a lighting setup?

3. I'm more interested in content, emotion, and the "awww" factor than technical perfection. I absolutely want to get better (thus my presence on this site), but my top priority is to capture the moment. I'm striving to do better out of camera, but for now I'm content to get the moment and make it art in Photoshop. I don't see myself using a real lighting set up in the field until I've played with it enough that I don't have to think about it much. Even then, I'm more inclined toward someone holding a flash and diffuser by hand than a stationary setup with stands.

4. The gadget and showoff thing. I like to read about and discuss creating emotion and building relationships and trust with clients and subjects; my husband is drawn to things like DPReview forums and talking about hardware and settings.

5. It's a distraction. Carrying around the gear, figuring out where to put them, testing the configuration, adjusting the flash powers, etc, takes me out of my zone and interrupts my connection with the subjects.

Who's approach is better? I don't think either is totally best. Intuitive shooters and gearheads need to move a bit away from their core and integrate some of the others' approach. A technically perfect but emotionally bland photo isn't worth much to me, but a beautiful moment can be compromised by a bad shadow or washed out sky. I certainly do not want to become fixated on the gear, but do want to develop a stronger understanding of and ability with the tools available--to a degree that I can incorporate them into my in-the-field shooting and relationship style.

November 09, 2009 3:42 PM  
Blogger Javajet said...

Whenever I see any group that has an associated "Lady Such-and-such" wing, I immediately feel uncomfortable because I think this assumes that women want or need a dumbed-down option--or worse--that the men want the women to leave them alone ("Go join the Strobettes."). My interest in learning lighting is strong enough that I'll overcome being put off by it.

November 09, 2009 9:51 PM  
Blogger Randall Douglas said...

This site seems to be more gear oriented and many of the posts explore d.i.y. shop type projects that take advatage of handiness. It' a stereotype, but I'd attempt to put my finger on the nature of the content, since I see women enrolling in traditional classes and many of them using lighting and hotshoe flashes in their photography work.

November 09, 2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger mattrothphoto said...

Wow! What a rad topic.

Some of you mentioned that you think, for men, playing and experimenting with the gear and light is, more the point of photography. -- and the photo is kinda like a certificate of merit. -- a testament to their effort. "hehehe. check out how rad my lighting scheme is. Yeah, I used a pillow case over a Vivitar and bounced some major orange colored gels off that wall with my SB-ten-billion. Isn't that the best picture of my new 70-200 f/2.8 you've ever seen?"

While women are more interested in the actual photo of whatever it is they're shooting -- you know, the end result. "ooooooh. look at how adorable baby Davy looks in his sailor outfit."

While these are gross simplifications, I think these might be pretty accurate generalizations, too. Well, at least in the world of hobbyist photographers.

For those who photograph purely for fun, you're going to emphasize the part you get the most enjoyment out of, right? I think guys are culturally expected and conditioned to be into gadgets. Similarly, women are culturally expected and conditioned to be more tuned into communicating and also to be the more emotive of the two genders.

Is this what's best for society? I dunno, but Majority rules, right?

Lets play a game. QUICKLY! Who here likes food? Now, Who likes eating spicy food? who likes cooking french cuisine? who likes going out for sushi? who likes heirloom gardening? who likes hunting pheasant? who likes processing deer meat? who likes preparing a three-course meal for a stay-at-home date?

I'm sure you could assign gender expectations to all the above food tasks.
(ahem*Nurse. teacher. doctor. truck driver. photographer...?) But should we? of course not. it's limiting to our interpersonal experiences, right?

But then again, isn't it human nature to compartmentalize what we recognize to be generally -- and I mean generally -- and historically true? Like if enough people tell you you're a fantastic photographer (great capture! perfect exposure. beautiful shot. lovely frame.) then aren't you going to start believing it just a little? "Girls Rule! Boys Drool!" that's what all the girls said to me in elementary school and it stuck until college.

So, if we see a trend, as I think is evidence on this post -- like, that boys are obnoxious gear heads who care more about pixels than their subjects -- then isn't it sorta true, too?

I think what David is pointing out is a pretty valid concern. ...not that women tend to excel in photographing moments or that men like their toys. Individually, those are no big deals. It's the exclusion and alienation that women, at large, seem to feel in this particular realm of photography, that us men should start paying attention to.

I see it all the time. Men will often use their knowledge of gear to talk down to women. It's tough to admit on a public forum, but I've done it. -- more so to hobbyists than fellow professionals, though. I'm less sexist and more elitist in how I exclude ;]

Here's the interesting thing: after reading this thread, I realized that women hobbyists, for the most part, ask me how to make a better photo. --which can be kinda annoying because they sometimes shadow me. Men, on the other hand, talk about megapixels and such. Then they'll tell me about how they have a digital rebel, or, hehehe, about how they bought their daughter an D60 last Christmas. And really, I don't mind answering questions, or talking shop, but SERIOUSLY, not while I'm working.

So, to all you boys out there, and I'm including myself, don't be jerks. And for you ladies who feel pushed out, remember the only reason why the strobist community seems like a boys club is because you're not coming out to play. Really, how many women on this thread are long-time lurkers first-time posters?

Girls Rule! Boys Drool!

November 10, 2009 3:32 PM  
Blogger ambienteye said...

As a woman, i have a vagina. Also, us women only shoot babies and weddings and flowers. Weddings always make me cry. so do babies. But then what doesn't? Lighting is tough, because as Barbie says, math is hard! I'm so glad for the lady strobist group, because nothing encourages equality like segregation. Its fantastic to find a place on the internet we can get away from all those assholes, god knows we have no capacity for dealing with them. Besides, like every woman, I am utterly offended by pictures of women prettier than me. its just not possible to find beauty in my own genders form, and I certainly can't appreciate male sexuality and its visual representations. And can we get a change to strobist? This black and grey simplicity just screams PENIS. I'm uncomfortable reading anything that isn't pink and flowery and ornate.

(disclaimer: this post was entirely sarcastic. in reality while i understand it might be a little disconcerting for David to realize his readership is so skewed, the discussion is largely irrelevant, either you want to learn light or you don't - genitalia be damned)

November 11, 2009 5:13 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

Let me get one thing out of the way: whatever differences might exist between men and women when it comes to lighting has nothing to do with capability. I think we all know that.

So, that means it comes down to preference and inclination. Here are some possibilities, some of which have already been addressed above:

* On the whole, men are more interested in interacting with objects and women prefer interacting with people. This often results in men having more interest in gadgets. We men feel pleasure not only in the final shot (I don't think it's true that men care less than women about the end image), but we get an extra thrill knowing it happened because of something we did (i.e. lighting). I figure that women on average simply aren't as interested in the technical process and want as few steps as possible to get what they want.

* There is a cultural bias via social roles against women being involved with technology. I suspect that most DVD players, for example, are researched, purchased, and set up my men (and of those women who buy DVD players, I bet they base their decision most often on price, with little regard for features or expert reviews). Again, this isn't about capability, but a combination of learned behavior and inclination.

Another personal anecdote—although I am far more expert in the technical process of photography, given adequate ambient lighting, my wife will get the better shot more often than not.

November 11, 2009 6:29 PM  
Blogger Cailin said...

Ash, I (female) do the techology upgrades for my extended family, buying my share of HDTVs, DVRs, DVD players, cabling, computers, cameras, lighting equipment, TV (cable vs satellite), Internet service, etc. This includes for my father and one brother-in-law (actually, for my sister). Getting the *right* solution is most important, but for price - I will admit to really enjoying the hunt for the correct price (gearing up for the Black Friday sales as I write).

Another myth broken.

November 12, 2009 9:35 AM  
Blogger Sara Frances said...

Flash use has been a passion for me since I was 5. I believe in finding, modifying and creating lighting designs with as many sources as I can lay my hands on. Most respectfully, I qualify as Missus Strobist.

We know that 60%, perhaps more, of working photographers are now women, yet many are part-time or occasional shooters, making the lion's share of the professional output still male dominated. The ladies, however, are almost always more eager to learn and try new things.

A decades-long complaint is that equipment and accessories are not all that ergonomic - particularly for women's smaller hands and frame - and equipment design has not kept up with the ways we work now in the random environment with found objects. This seems true of everything from awkward gear bags to heavy DSLRs with battery module and 200mm 2.8 lens. In fact I don't know many men who can work a typical 12-14 day, hand held with this gear and come back with a high percent usable capture.

About a year ago I discovered a less-known flash modifying product which addresses ergonomic use and should attract male and female shooters alike for its extraordinary directional and dimensional light capabilities. It's fast, lightweight, simple, flexible. Used off or on-camera. On camera it can be manipulated to produce the feel of Rembrandt lighting (apologies to Mr. Vermeer). The Ulitmate Light Box has not failed me in thousands of difficult pr, convention and event situations. Even our Denver mayor has stopped to ask what I do and to see the LCD proof of how I get directional light with one flash on camera.

My purpose is to tell women photographers about an inexpensive tool that would make their jobs quicker, easier, stylish and produce better quality images, so please don't comment that Strobist is supposed to be only for off-camera flash. The Ultimate Light Box system is amazing on-camera, BUT used off-camera, or with multiple flashes, I've found it to be nothing short of miraculous.

November 12, 2009 11:55 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

Hi Cailin... rather than thinking of it as a myth or as a true/untrue scenario, think of it as a bell curve. You fall on that part of the curve where women do indeed enjoy technical gadgetry, and that's great. But that doesn't mean that the vast majority of U.S. women in the middle don't match my general observations.

The good news is that the curve is changing—more women are getting involved in science and technology, if we can look to certain trends, such as enrollment in engineering classes. But because of men's greater interest in object manipulation and women's inclination towards social interaction, I think that men will always dominate the world of technology. But I would enjoy being proven wrong :)

November 12, 2009 12:03 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I never noticed.

- Amy Dunn

November 13, 2009 12:12 AM  

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