Let Your Photo Lighting Shine with Derrick Freske’s Tips and Tricks for International Day of Light

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 05-16-2019

In 2015, the United Nations observed the first International Day of Light to raise awareness of light science and its achievements. Since then, this holiday has taken on many new forms, all related to celebrating and understanding light. At Adobe, we’re interpreting Day of Light as a means to explore brilliant lighting in…you guessed it: photography. And who better to discover beaming lights with than the master himself, Derrick Freske?

Finding photography

Derrick first picked up a DSLR camera as a sophomore in high school (eight years ago) when he signed up for a photography class on a whim. He quickly developed the basic skills and soon grew to love the artform. Since his only access to professional cameras was in this class, he signed up to take the class again… and again. In no time, Derrick made a name for himself as the go-to student photographer. Friends began asking him to take their senior portraits, and soon, Derrick’s photography was in such high demand that he had made enough money to buy a camera of his own. Cut to five years later, where Derrick now works in everything from commercial to fashion to celebrity to editorial photography out in Los Angeles.

Developing a style

Bright lights and bold colors define Derrick’s photography. But it wasn’t always like that – throughout those years of growth, learning, and experience, Derrick was honing his style. We asked Derrick how he found his flair for vivid colors and sparkling light. “Years ago,” Derrick explains, “when I was first starting off as a photographer, my work used to be really moody and desaturated. But, as cheesy as it sounds, that style of photography didn’t fit my personality.”

It was during one shoot in particular that Derrick discovered his unique brand of photography and stuck with it from then on. “I was doing a ‘studio’ shoot against a wall in my apartment,” Derrick shares, “and I decided to bring in a house lamp to use as a light source. It turned out I had picked a lamp with a color-changing light bulb. I really enjoyed shooting with this lighting condition, and have done so ever since then!”

There’s no arguing that Derrick’s style is a load of fun, but that’s not all it is. Along with a dazzling aesthetic, Derrick also aims to echo bold emotions. Derrick tells us, “Someone once described my photography as being able to ‘harness the evocative and sensual aesthetic of a colorful melodrama through the use of glitter-clad models, couture poses, neon glows, disco tones, and the flair of playful photo manipulation here and there.’” To this day, this is Derrick’s favorite description of his work, and he strives to achieve that with every image he creates.

Working with light

At this point in Derrick’s career, creativity and light go hand in hand. Instead of using light for his work, it’s almost as if Derrick and light are partners in his photographic creations. “To me,” he expands, “light is a lot of things. Light can be inspiring, light can spark creativity, and light has the power to make something ordinary, extraordinary. I owe a lot to light because it has defined my photography style!”

We asked Derrick to describe his photography process, and unsurprisingly light plays a large role. In fact, as Derrick tells us, his whole creative process is based on lighting. “For artificial lighting, I start to think in color and conceptualize what a location would look like with different lighting conditions. For natural lighting, the shoot is determined by the weather. When shooting outdoors in daylight, I prefer to shoot in direct lighting to maximize color, sharpness, and contrast.”

Tips and tricks

There are many steps that go into achieving lighting effects like Derrick’s. Fortunately, he was kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes, insider tips and tricks with us. Follow along in the tutorial video below as Derrick takes us through his entire process for creating one of his images (plus one bonus image if you watch until the end).

The final images from Derrick’s video tutorial.

In light of the holiday today, we hope this tutorial inspired you to get creative with lighting in your photos. Share your images with us – we’d love to see your work!

For more of Derrick’s photography and tutorials, check out his Instagram and YouTube channels.

Topics: Creativity, Creative Inspiration & Trends, Photography

Products: Lightroom, Photoshop, Creative Cloud