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UPDATE: X-Pedition Havana 2019 has filled.

We are announcing our second X-Pedition photo workshop, in Havana, Cuba for January 11-18, 2019.

A joint project of Strobist.com and Washington, D.C.-based Focus On The Story, X-Peditions are a shooting-intensive week centered at the intersection of journalistic photography and off-the-beaten-path travel.

You can learn full details about the January Havana workshop, here.

This trip will fill quickly. If you would like to learn more about X-Peditions in general, and/or to add your name to the advance notice list, you can do so here.


Thanks,
David


As promised in the last sunset lighting tip, a second quick hack for dusk/lit portraiture. This one involves helping your camera's chip see a contrasty scene more like the way our eye sees it. Read more »


Call me crazy, but I love the idea of finding a great piece of photo gear by going off-label. In this case, a lighting bag that is not technically a lighting bag.

It's perfectly sized, comes in a ridiculous array of colors and is $22.99 shipped. Read more »


Manual flash is great for its consistency and repeatability throughout a shoot. But working in a fluctuating ambient environment, such as against a fast-waning sunset, can get hairy.

So here's a neat little trick to easily control the exposure level of both your subject and background in a fluid environment without your eye ever leaving the viewfinder. Read more »


Whether photographing people or objects, how you approach your lighting is far more important than what camera and lighting gear you use.

To illustrate, today we are going to photograph a complex, mirrored surface—an alto saxophone—using just an iPhone for our camera and the sun as our light source. Read more »


The two photos above have the same light source, same light location and same white background. The only difference in the second photo is that the light has been aimed differently. Pointing your light away from your subject (i.e., using the edge of the beam) is a quick way to sculpt much more interesting light for a head shot or portrait.

But how far away do you need to aim it? Further than you'd think. And finding the nice edge to your light is definitely a game of inches.

Here's how to do it.Read more »


Pictured above is Moishe Appelbaum, of Midwest Photo fame, whom you may remember from Lighting 103.

Moishe is lit with a single small flash. But the gentle wrap of the light—and the soft glow of the suppressed specular highlights—should cue you in to the fact that the light modifier itself is huge.

Today, we'll learn how to make a door-sized modifier DIY style, for about $20 and in a form factor that is super easy to transport. (It collapses down to about the size of a folded light stand.) Read more »


Just a quick heads-up that I'll be teaching a small-class lighting workshop in Washington, DC this June 7th. It is part of the Focus on the Story International Photo Festival being held June 7-10.

This class is small — a maximum of 16 people — and we will be shooting all day. It is designed for people who are new to intermediate in their lighting skills. If you are comfortable with shooting in manual mode, you will not be out of place. If you already have some experience, we will happily stretch you out a bit.

If you have your own lighting gear (small flash only, please) feel free to bring it. But you need not, as lighting gear will be provided for the class. Just bring a camera, normal range lens (a kit zoom would be fine) a storage card and batteries and you are good to go.

I teach this class a lot; it's my favorite course. But oddly, almost never in the U.S. In fact, this is the only time I am scheduled to teach a small shooting workshop in the U.S. this year.

Here is my promise: if you show up as an "available light" photographer, you will leave as a lighting photographer. Period. I guarantee it. (In fact, I won't let you leave until you understand it. So if you are intimidated, maybe... bring a sleeping bag.)

The class, which includes lunch, is $230. You need not sign up for the whole festival to take this class. (But the festival has a really strong speaker lineup, and a 40% off early bird discount until March 18.)

Links below, hope to see you there. (Hit me on Twitter if you're coming!)
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FOTS International Photo Festival
My Lighting Workshop


In Lighting 101, 102 and 103, we learned to control our flashes. In the Strobist Lighting Cookbook, we're expanding that approach to learn to move in a fluid way between flash and continuous light. Read more »


We are back from our inaugural Strobist X-Pedition, which was held last month in Havana, Cuba. The attendees are readjusting to life back on the grid, and busy editing photos and trading stories via email.


Havana X-Pedition, January 2018


Photo by Jeremy Lasky

Our week in Havana was filled with photography, new friends, eye-opening experiences and perhaps even a spot of Cuban rum. Now that we are back, I wanted to send a quick note out to Strobist's readership both to show off some of the student work and give you a heads-up about plans for next year's X-Peditions.


Photo by Martin Stephens


Photo by Michael Grigoriev


Photo by Bob Plotkin


Upcoming X-Peditions



If you would like to learn more about our planned X-Peditions for next year, you can read all about them here. We are planning to return to Havana in the winter. (If you are on the list, you'll be notified of that trip shortly.) And then we're off to Hanoi the following fall.

The info page linked just above is also where to sign up to ensure you'll get advance notice about next year's trips. As with 2018's Havana X-Pedition, these will certainly sell out. There are only 12 slots available for each of the two trips. And because of the advance interest sign-up sheet, they may not be publicly announced.

I hope to see you next year, someplace really interesting.

-David


Long-time readers will recognize this shot, of the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel in Maryland, as the photo from the very first post on Strobist in 2006. I was happy with it when I shot it. And to some degree, I still am.

But looking at it today, there are definitely some things I would approach differently. So let's walk through it, bearing in mind what we've learned since way back then.Read more »


Using speedlights without softening modifiers greatly expands your outdoor working range. And it does so enough that you can easily light a large group photo with a small, portable gear pack.

Today, we'll walk through how to do that, along with a few tips to tweak and improve your results.Read more »


When working with one speedlight outdoors in daylight, logic dictates that you need to find the shade if you want to create a nice quality of light.

This is because you only have one light, which a) needs to do all of the heavy lifting, and b) is not very powerful. Which means that you tend to go soft—and close—with your one light.

So one light can be limiting. But as you'll see, a second light can open up some pretty neat options. Read more »


There is an inherent tradeoff when using small speedlights outdoors in daylight. They are light, and convenient and cheap. But they don't have a ton of power.

And the aggravating factor is the relationship between a small flash and a bright environment. Which is, in turn, governed by our sync speed. And by this I mean our natural speed limit for flash, absent power-robbing gimmicks like high-speed sync (HSS).

At a sync speed of 1/250th of a second, even at a low ISO, you are probably going to be at f/16 in full sun. That's a small aperture, which means your flash will be working hard to create a full exposure.

Because of that, working in full sun with speedlights usually means we lack the power that we need. Certainly, we don't have enough power to push the flash's light through a softening modifier to look nice.

The solution: Get more power... or find some shade. Read more »


NOTE: Links to individual lessons are below.

(Latest: Use Your Second Light to Hide Your First Light)

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The Strobist lighting Cookbook is a practical manual for how to use your flashes. It's where lighting theory meets real world situations — and solutions. In this module, we will assume you have read Lighting 101 through Lighting 103. (If not, start here.)

Unlike On Assignment, which was haphazard and chronological, the SLC will build out to be an organized resource. You'll be able to find a solution set for yourself if, for example, you just own one light.

The examples will be (mostly) speedlight-based, and grouped by the equipment it takes to make them. This way you can learn what you can do with your present gear, and/or make a more informed decision as to whether to add another light to your bag.

The categories for the Strobist Lighting Cookbook are as follows:


No Lights (0L)

Having a better understanding of ambient light will make you a better lighting photographer. Ideally, you want to get to a point where ambient and strobe are seen as virtually interchangeable. If you don't own any lights, 0L is for you.

POSTS:

0L-01: Flash or Continuous, Light is Light
0L-02: Shiny Object, iPhone and the Sun


One Light (1L)

Combined with a good grasp on ambient light — and how to balance it — one light gives you some cool options. But you have to work within some creative restrictions.

Shooting with one light is usually compromise between what you'd like to do, and what you're equipped to do.

POSTS:

1L-01: One Light Outdoors—Find Shade
1L-02: One Light, Inside the Frame
1L-03: Use The Edge of Your Box for Better Light
1L-04: Useful Hack for Manual Flash at Sunset


Two or More Lights (2L)

Adding a second light is the sweet spot for most photographers. A second light lets you add separation — either on your subject or on your background. Or it can let you control the shadows created by your first light.

And if you want to add a third light, or more, we'll explore that here, too.

POSTS:

2L-01: Owning The Sun With Two Speedlights
2L-02: Two-Speedlight Daylight Group Shot
2L-03: Use Your Second Light to Hide Your First Light


Odds and Ends (OE)

If it doesn't fit well anywhere above, it goes here: DIY, cool hacks, connective tissue for the gaps above, and the like.

POSTS:

OE-01: $20 DIY Portable Doorway Diffuser
OE-02: Off-Label Compact Lighting Bag, for $23 Shipped


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How to Follow Along

The Strobist Lighting Cookbook will grow in size and usefulness as new posts drop in. There is, however, no set schedule. If you are on the mail list, you'll get a heads-up anytime a new idea or technique is published. Or you can also keep tabs on new SLC posts via Instagram.

As for scope, the Lighting Cookbook is totally open-ended. We'll see where it goes when we get there.