Portrait

David Bicho brings his passion for light and light shaping to Profoto Academy

23 May, 2018

Written by: Steve Hanratty

Can you fall in love with light? Sounds like a trick question. After all, who's ever heard of a person going weak in the knees over a form of electromagnetic radiation? But someone did, and that person happens to be the educator at the heart of our latest series of Profoto Academy courses — David Bicho.

David is an internationally renowned photographer who has shot some of the world's most famous faces and worked with some of the world's most famous brands — Renault, IKEA, Electrolux, Sony Ericsson, Mastercard, McDonald's, SAS and TV4 — to name but a few. Ultimately, however, David is a teacher and an evangelist. He's passionate about spreading the good word, and the good word is light.” 

It all started when David was 5 or 6 years old. He became fascinated with the romantic pocketbook covers he would see when visiting a local bookstand with his mom. The images that caught his eye were super-realistic illustrations. David would attempt to recreate them with pencils and paints, trying to make them look as close to a photograph as possible. It was only years later he realized it was the way the artist used light and shadow that made those illustrations feel as real as they did, and a lifelong obsession began. 

The drawing and painting usually resulted in frustration, and it wasn't until David got his hands on his first camera that he began to create images. Later, as a sixteen-year-old, David would work with a film production company in the evenings and on weekends. It was there he began to work with light. 

Following a break for military service and a brief flirtation with graphic design, David was drawn to light again. He took a job in the lighting department of a local Stockholm TV station, helping out on a famous Swedish soap opera. Here, he learned how to be creative with light when lighting for film. He eventually moved to another production company as a director of photography, and it was here that he started to take stills. 

I became fascinated about what you could do with a camera, so I set out to take everything I had learned about lighting for film, and I applied it to stills. 

David soon realized that he knew very little about lighting for stills, but he was already hooked. By the end of the 90's, he had dropped everything to become a stills photographer. 

Like all stills photographers, David started out as a natural light shooter. He soon realized, however, that natural light has its limitations and that he would need to figure out flash in order to gain sufficient control of light. And it was on this journey that David encountered the same frustrations many photographers experience. 

Learn the fundamentals of lighting with David Bicho at Profoto Academy

I was irritated that my images didn't look like Richard Avedon's, so I decided that I needed to understand the physics of light. I was determined to gain a scientific level of knowledge so I could control it — so I could do anything with it. 

Few photographers immerse themselves so completely in the science of light, and David discovered that there were no books on the topic (although he's currently busy writing one). David thus embraced the responsibility to experiment, research, and even obsess over the craft of light shaping for still photography. As a result, he not only has a body of work that speaks for itself, but he has lectured and taught at photography schools across the nation. 

And that's why we're so proud that David has partnered with us to create a series of courses for Profoto Academy. 

Of course, it's about teaching the practical things like, ‘how does a shadow form on a curved surface?’ or, ‘how do I create a highlight?’ But I think it's fun and hopefully informative to dig a little deeper. Because I like to think of photography as the point where science and practical application meet. So, once you know what you're doing and why you're doing it, then you can be incredibly creative. 

David’s enthusiasm is infectious, and you can understand why he’s never limited himself to a particular style or genre. He’s passionate about light and its application in photography as a whole. 

“The joy isn’t being put in a box; it’s lighting all the boxes. You never stop learning, and you never stop discovering.”

The first video from the series explains in detail how to mix flash with natural light, the second deals with how to light a face, and the third demonstrates how to light a background. All three video courses are designed to educate, inspire and be fun. While they are packed with essential concepts, they have been specifically designed to be accessible and easy to digest, enabling the aspiring photographer to start applying learned principles straight away. 

"If the photographers who take the courses take away enough knowledge to have half as much fun as I’ve had working with light, then I'll be very happy.” 

Written by: Steve Hanratty