The Beginners Guide to Photography Lighting
We have talked in a previous post about Indoor Photography Lighting Tips and a little about equipment. In this post I am aiming to cover photography lighting equipment especially for beginners and to illustrate to you different ways in which you can manipulate light using shades, reflectors and attachments. Whilst there is equipment out there that you can buy I would like to describe a few methods that might be more cost effective especially if budget is an issue for you.
Or if you are just getting started and don’t want to buy lots of equipment that you may not continue to use.
So lets’ dive in and get started with the various Flash Head Attachments you can have. The purpose of head attachments is to modify the light – to concentrate, diffuse or shape it.
A Condenser Lens focuses the light into a small spot. A black tube without this lens is known as a Snoot, and also concentrates the beam but less precisely.
As I said before you can create many of these attachments with a little ingenuity – try attaching a well Known Snack Biscuit tube (Pringles) with end cut out or alternatively tape some black Paper or Card around your Flashgun to create a similar tube effect.
Diffusion increases the area of the light source, reduces shadow intensity, and softens shadow edges. However to accomplish this, light intensity is reduced.A Silver or White painted bowl broadens the light source in proportion to its depth and diameter – small deep bowls give little diffusion and illuminate a small angle. Large shallow bowls give a softer light over a larger area. Again you can create these with a paper plate or paper bowl with the middle cut out.
A Spiller Cap shields the subject from the direct beam. Different Screens increase diffusion especially if made of Perspex – also the use of Barn Doors alter the shape of the beam.
As you can see from the pictures above it is not difficult to recreate these kinds of Diffusers but whilst simple they can greatly affect the way your final picture turns out. As I have maintained throughout my site, Photography is not an exact science – have fun with it, experiment until you find the end result you really want. That being said make sure you record your setup so that you can replicate it later on down the road – this obviously cuts down preparation time at the beginning of your next shoot. I would recommend taking a snap of your Lighting equipment setup and giving it a good descriptive name so that you can remember it.
Various shades can be suspended in front of a light to control the way it falls on the subject. A French Flag is a small mask usually fitted to an articulated arm or stand attached on or near to your camera to shade the lens.Again this can be recreated using some black card.
A Gobo has a number of uses but generally it is a large flag which is;
A card, screen, or other blocking set-up placed near a light to create shape or pattern of light and shadow together. It may also be used to part block or redirect the light beam from an artificial light source.
- A blocking mask with a designed shape cut out of it. This type of gobo is placed in front of projected light and used to project a particular light-shape onto your photographic scene.
- A gobo may also be used to create negative fill, shadow or deeper shadow on an area of the scene to induce mood.
- A light modifier which is jury rigged around or on a light to help shape or direct the light while in use.
- A form of light modifier that allows some light through but which casts a specific shadow or diffusion shape.
Slightly more difficult to create this yourself but can be achieved by using a large piece of cardboard. This does have some very definite lighting effects so it may take a while to make full use of its abilities. Personally with the other light controlling attachments above I have never really seen a need for a Gobo but you may have some other ideas. Of course it will also depend on what and where you are trying to create your perfect pictures.
Umbrellas – Photography Style – not Rainwater Deflectors
Umbrellas give very broad, diffused but unshaped lighting. These are my particular favourites as I like to give my subjects a soft all encompassing light. White, Silver or Gold lined umbrellas diffuse the light less than translucent ones, which can also be used in front of the light.
An alternative to the Umbrella is a Soft Box which is basically an umbrella that sits over your flash gun with a diffusing piece of material hanging down in front. Again this creates a beautiful soft light on your subject.
So in conclusion – Whilst there is a whole myriad of equipment available for us as photographers – when you first start out there can be an overwhelming amount of information about how you should do this and that and what equipment you should be using. My advice – keep it simple – think clearly about what it is you are trying to achieve in your photographs and then work out the type of equipment you will need to achieve it. As I have said in previous posts a lot of the equipment you might need can probably be made or obtained quite cheaply – search around the web for second hand equipment sites or as I have said before just make it.
Above all enjoy your photography – play with it – note down what you like and dislike and how you got there with your setups. With some practice your pictures will look amazing.
As always I welcome your comments below. If you have an idea you would like me to discuss please let me know in the comments below.