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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 and then we're off to Hanoi in the fall. (I am headed to the latter on a shooting/scouting trip in three weeks.)

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 The Edge of Your Box for Better 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


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


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


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


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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.
Abstract: Some parting thoughts as we wrap up Lighting 103.



Hopefully, you have enjoyed our discussion of color and light in Lighting 103 v1.0—or at least found it useful as you explore your own lighting.

Coming next will be a whole new section: The Strobist Lighting Cookbook. (More info here.)

But for now, here are some takeaways as we wrap up our module on color. Read more »


A value-priced, all-manual flash with a built-in radio and a real warranty? Yeah, I'm interested.

Today, a first look at the new Phottix Juno. Read more »
Just a quick heads-up on upcoming Strobist events. If you are local to Buenos Aires or Dublin—or have ever wanted to spend a photo-centric week in Havana—check out the details below.


Buenos Aires, Argentina: November 17-19



I'll be doing a seminar and two workshops in Buenos Aires in November. In the half-day seminar on the 17th, we'll move beyond F/stops and shutter speeds and take a step back to look at photography from a broader perspective. How can you approach your photography in a way that also incorporates your other skills and expertises? How can you turn this approach into sustainable business models and ecosystems?

Whether your goal is to make money or just to become more aware of and focused on who you are as a photographer, this talk is designed to prompt deeper thought. And because of the Contrastes Magazine's sponsorship, the talk is *free*. Well, at least for subscribers of the magazine. (Which means that if you are not yet a subscriber, the half-day seminar will only set you back the cost of a magazine subscription.)

On the 18th and 19th, I'll be teaching small-class workshops on lighting. These are shooting workshops, and are appropriate for anyone who wants to learn (or learn more) about small-flash lighting. Because of the sponsorshop, they are also economically priced.

More details are here: Buenos Aires Workshops


Dublin, December 3-5



I'll be both speaking and teaching for the Irish Professional Photographers Association in Dublin in December. More important: Italian photographer Sara Lando will also be teaching here during this time.

Sara and I will both be speaking on Sunday the 3rd. Sara will talk in the morning about the thousand things you wouldn't think about that go into a successful conceptual portrait session. I'll be talking in the afternoon about how to incorporate your photographic expertise into a wide range of external possibilities—and how to build digital and economic ecosystems around that.

On Monday and Tuesday the 4th and 5th, I'll be running a two-day, small-flash speedlight bootcamp. This is a small class, and we'll be shooting the whole time. But between us, where you really want to be is in either or both of Sara's two classes. Her unique approach to creative portraiture will cause you to completely re-examine your own approach. Honestly, the less creative you feel you are, the more you can benefit from spending a couple of days with her.

More details here, with early bird prices in effect until October 31: Dublin Workshops


X-Pedition Havana, January 12-19



Our inaugual Strobist X-Pedition is set for Havana, Cuba, from January 12-19. This is not a photo junket. This is an intensive week in perhaps the most photographically (and culturally, economically, etc.) interesting city in the western hemisphere.

The US government makes it a total pain in the butt to get to Cuba, and it is becoming far more so under the tightening restrictions. But having been there, I can tell you it is well worth the trouble. Go while you still can.

Our week is designed around learning and photography in a tight, small-group environment. When the light is crap, we'll be indoors learning how to think and see more like a photojournalist. When the light is right, we'll be out shooting. We have several location shoots lined up, and you'll get plenty of time to explore on your own as well. Throughout the week, we'll also be learning to bridge the perception-reality gap for lesser-traveled destinations.

Our goal by the end of the week is threefold: to make you a more observant and focused traveling photographer, to learn to shoot efficiently while retaining time for yourself and/or family while on the road, and to have the knowledge and experience to grab your camera and confidently head to nearly any place in the world.

This trip is nearly full. As of this writing, we have only one spot left in our Havana X-Pedition.

More details: X-Pedition Havana
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I'm stoked about each of these, and very much hope to see you there.

-DH
Abstract: Even an on-camera flash grab shot can be elevated by an intuitive understanding of light and color.



As your understanding of light and color grows, how does it affect your daily shooting? Like most things that seem complex at first, color pretty quickly becomes a secondary thought process, just like tying your shoes.

I just had the above archive photo picked up by a nonprofit, to promote children's books. Looking at it, I'm reminded that creating a natural looking color need not be complicated at all.

This was a little more than a snapshot, done with on-camera flash, and no gels. And the thought process behind the light is a good example of how you'll start to see and control color, even if you're just grabbing a snapshot. Read more »
Abstract: A dynamic, 3-D scene and hundreds of sources—a talk with a theatrical lighting designer


Photo © Lucas Krech

Today in Lighting 103, a little side trip. Fair warning: we are taking a bit of a deep dive. For some of you this will make your eyes glaze over. But for others, it'll be a very cool look into the way live performance lighting designers think with respect to color.

No worries; we'll be back in the center of the bell curve in the next installment.


A Chat with Lucas Krech

New York-based Lucas Krech is a lighting designer who works with operas, dances, plays and performance pieces. He is also is a photographer, which is how we originally intersected via Twitter.

A ways back, I wrote to him to find out a little more about how people approach the process of lighting live performances. What I got back was basically a firehose/brain dump that gave me a fascinating look into how he thinks. Read more »