It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or even a professional, you’ll want to give Broncolor’s free “How To” page a look. There, you’ll find nearly 100 pro lighting examples—beautiful photos, each accompanied by a gear list, description, and lighting diagram. It’s a tutorial gold mine.
The page consists of 98 (by our count) photographs, each broken down by the photographer who shot it. Want to know how this magazine-worthy wine photograph was captured? No problem. Curious what it takes to capture one glass of water breaking another at the moment of impact? Here you go. Need to light a simple, subtle portrait? You get the idea…
Regardless of your skill level or the genre you’re interested in, if studio lighting is involved in any way this is a resource you’ll want to bookmark. Check out all 98 of the tutorials for yourself by clicking here.
We’re not entirely sure why, but product photography tutorials are coming hard and fast lately. So in case this DIY lightbox wasn’t good enough, and 360° product photography isn’t your thing, here’s a great tutorial that will show you how to capture killer reflective product shots on a sea of black.
The video tutorial was created by London-based photographer and cinematographer Tom Watts, and using the simple setup shown in the video he was able to capture a bunch of high-gloss product photos like this one:
The setup is simple. First, Watts placed a glass table in front of a black backdrop, and added some black material underneath the glass to get a perfect reflecting surface. Then, he set up a big softbox as his key light, a fresnel kicker with some barn doors as a rim light, and a simple square “reflector” (read: cardboard cake base) on the other side for some fill.
You can see the whole setup in this screenshot from the video:
Using this, he’s able to get these product shots on all black with a great reflection to really make the final image pop. The results speak for themselves:
Check out the full tutorial up top to have the lighting setup explained step-by-step, and then subscribe to Watts’ YouTube channel for more videos like this one.
I came across dichroic film years ago while researching materials for an art lighting business, Lightlink Lighting. The color changing properties of this material was so inspiring I ended up creating new lighting designs based on it.
Dichroic — from the Greek meaning “two-colored” — film comes in at least two versions: a heavyweight clear vinyl that reflects and filters light in the blue/green/magenta/indigo range and a lighter weight version that reflects/filters light in the magenta-gold range, as seen below.
Being both a mirror and a filter, dichroic film can be used to bounce multi-colored light, as well as re-filtering it against itself. So unique and complex effects can be achieved by layering it against itself and other optical and lenticular materials like lenses, mirrors, prisms, lasers, fiber optics, perforated metals/wire cloth, diffraction gratings etc.
Aside from the lighting, one of the first photographic enhancements came as an accident in the form multi-colored gels, which add unexpected tonal range and drama to materials like the wood in guitars, as seen below (Magenta/gold film in the sunlit window was used in both compositions):
The number of uses in photography is only limited to your imagination. Here it’s used in various versions of the art lighting, which led to the photography in the first place:
So, those are just a few examples of how the film reacts with passive sunlight, LED, Fiber-optic and incandescent light behind it. What else can you do with it? Next it’s used in the form of a gold-coated glass diffraction grating to split the light across the water in the bowl.
You can actually see the film (purple + olive gold strands) filtering the sunlight as it hits the oil and water in the bowl above.
Above is just a large sheet of the magenta/gold film in the window tinting late afternoon sunlight as it hits a bamboo mat, giving it a bit of a Zen-like feel.
Below is a projected abstract created with reflected sunlight from hitting two layers of different dichroic film types at the same time. It’s not a double exposure. You can easily create an entire series of these type images with minimal materials and space.
The last image is my favorite model playing around, being mysterious with a strip of the film during a glam shoot last Fall.
Dichroic film and diffraction gratings are just two optically enhancing materials you can use in a myriad of ways on all types of shoots. They enhance the subject, alter the mood, color or implied texture, or they can be the subject itself.
One way to explore this world is to just start collecting as many types of these materials as possible and when inspiration strikes and the light is right take one or a few of them and try whatever idea comes to mind.
About the author: Mike Brannon is a well-published, award-winning guitarist/lighting artist/writer/ photographer, and apparently likes slashes, nature and anything to do with guitar or light. You can find his photo work here, lighting design work here, music here and here, and writing at EnLIGHTenment, AllAboutJazz.com, Vintage Guitar and Jazzreview
Introductions to basic lighting don’t get much simpler or better than this. You could call it Lighting 101, and whether that light is coming from a window or an artificial light source, the info here qualifies as “must know basics” for anybody with a camera in hand.
The video was put together by YouTube channel Film Riot, and while it’s aimed squarely at videographers, it’s quickly making the rounds on the photography Web because of how applicable these techniques are and how well Ryan Connolly manages to explain them. From broad, to short, to side, to backlight, to Rembrandt lighting and beyond, several of the most popular one-light orientations are covered.
Each style is quickly demonstrated and paired with examples from famous films to really drive home the technique and show you what it looks like in practice.
Beyond one-light setups, they also dive into fill lighting and (more applicable to film, but still useful) cross lighting two subjects facing one another. There’s also a brief mention of how to separate your subject from the background, but, of course, we already covered that this month.
If you’re a lighting expert, this video probably won’t contain any new information, but you might find some inspiration in the clips Connolly uses to illustrate his point. If, on the other hand, you’re a novice, this is about the quickest introduction to basic lighting techniques you’ll find online.
When photographer Paul Schlemmer started out in photography in his late teens, he spent the first four years studying the subject of light. As he became more proficient, he began sketching lighting diagrams to share how photos were lit and constructed.
Schlemmer’s current collection of lighting diagrams spans everything from using a single reflector to direct sunlight onto a chicken to more complicated scenes involving multiple gelled flashes. His hope is that these photo/diagram combos will help other photographers in their lighting journeys.
Yesterday I talked about the overall ideas behind how we shot an MMA fighter smashing food for Nikon’s “Moment of Impact” campaign. As promised, today I’d like to discuss the technical details about how I lit the shoot.
A quick recap: I’m firing a Nikon D500 at 10 frames per second, and I’m lighting with a mix of up to 11 different Nikon flashguns1 — SB5000s, SB900s, SB800s, and SB80DXs — all triggered via SU-4 mode. Why old-fashioned SU-4, not something more high tech? Are you some sort of luddite Tom?
Whilst Nikon flashes have the very clever CLS system that allows remote TTL lighting, as well as full control over power output, it only works on the newer flashguns, so that rules out my older SB80s. I’ve had triggering issues with it in the past as well, as the sensors really need a nice clear line of sight to the triggering flash to work properly — you can’t really hide them behind things and expect them to work.
It’s also not the fastest to respond, and on testing it before the shoot, it struggled to keep up with 10 frames per second. I don’t want to have to add a radio trigger to every flashgun, as that will over-complicate things. For me, as a long-time user (and lover!) of Nikon’s flashguns, the answer is very simple: switch them all to SU-4 mode, and use one flashgun on camera to trigger them.
For those that don’t know, SU-4 mode on Nikon flashguns has been around for a while, and is found in many of their models, including my older SB80s. It’s a simple optical slave just like you would find in a studio flash head – the sensor in the flashgun sees a flash, which sets off its own flash. Simple as that.
Of course, the drawback is that there’s no control over things like power output, or TTL metering. If I want to change the power of a flashgun I must physically walk over there and change it, which is a bit of a faff with 11 flashes!
The loss of TTL is no problem for me at all, as I use manual mode pretty much all the time. My lighting background comes from using studio lights, which have only started to have TTL in the past couple of years, and even then, in only a handful of models – manual is what I’m familiar with, and what I trust implicitly.
My reasoning is always that if I’m taking the time to set a shot up to the degree I am with a shoot like this, why leave the output of the flashes to an automatic algorithm? Using manual mode, I can tell each flash EXACTLY what to put out, and it will put the same amount out each time.
With TTL I’d probably get a decent exposure, but if I reframed, or objects within the frame moved so that the image had different areas that were now dominating, the TTL exposure would change. No thanks – I’m in manual exposure mode on the camera, I’ve done test shots, and I know what exposure I want, so I’ll stick to that thanks!
Now, this might sound like I’m just being a luddite for the sake of it, however, I think the fact that Nikon has retained this old-school technology is to be hugely commended. I’m sure it would have been very tempting to someone in Nikon’s R+D department to remove this functionality at some point, and just stick to the headline grabbing CLS and the new radio controlled wireless systems. I’m very, very glad they’ve kept it in.
Not only does it allow me to create shoots like this, but I frequently (too frequently to mention) mix my flashguns in with my Profoto studio lights, and they all work together quite happily. A Nikon flashgun in SU-4 mode, on manual power, is basically a lower powered studio light without a modelling light – they can both trigger each other quite happily.
Use TTL in any form however, and the pre-flashes that TTL uses to assess exposure will often trigger the studio flashes. Some kit will let you set the amount of pre-flashes they’re sensitive to, so as to limit this problem, but then you’ll need to reset them again afterwards when you revert to just using manual.
Some modern triggering modes, like Nikon CLS and Profoto Air, are capable of quite incredible tricks. However, they only work at their best when they’re inside a fully compatible system, and often don’t mix well with others. Unless I’ve got the option to have every piece of kit singing from the same hymn sheet, I much prefer the robustness and reliability of shooting with SU-4 mode and manual power output. You can call me old-fashioned, because that’s what I am…..
In case you’ve never come across it before, here’s how to enable SU-4 mode in the various flashguns I used on the MMA D500 “Moment of Impact” shoot:
1. Hold down “OK” to bring up the menu. 2. Roll the scroll wheel round until you highlight “SU-4” in the left column 3. Hit “OK” 4. Roll the selector to “on” and hit “OK” 5. Hit “Exit” (should be the button top left) 6. Now switch the main mode dial to “remote”
SB800 (Mine – ancient, and held together with gaffer tape and willpower)
1. Hold down the “SEL” button until the menu appears 2. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the remote menu – the icons look like 2 flashguns being attacked by snakes. Probably not what the designers had in mind, but that’s how it looks to me! 3. Press “SEL”, then navigate until SU-4 is highlighted 4. Press “ON/OFF” to exit the menu
1. Hold down “SEL” to bring up the menu 2. Press the Up or Down arrow to move through the options 3. When you reach the option with the snake on the bottom left (it’s them again….) press the Left or Right arrow to change the option from “Off” to “On” 4. Press “On/Off” to exit the menu
SB5000 (Borrowed from Nikon)
1. Turn the main selector switch (the one with “off/remote/on” on to “Remote” 2. Press the remote mode selection button (left of the illuminated lightning bolt) until the rear display shows “REMOTE DIRECT” with our old friend the snake in the top left corner.
I love high-tech, new toys, believe me, but sometimes the old ways work better!
1 I’m aware that much of the rest of the world calls flashguns “speedlights”. They were called flashguns when I started using them in the early 1990s, and old habits die hard, so I still call them flashguns. Let’s not fight over this!
About the author: Tom Miles is a professional photographer and educator based in London who specializes in shooting sports, features and portraits. You can find more of his work, writing, and teaching on his website, blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Teachable. This article was also published here.