Introduction to Studio Lights and Modifiers


Creative Studio Lighting


Lesson Info

Introduction to Studio Lights and Modifiers

Thank you guys for being here and hi, everybody out in the internet audience. Yeah, this whole year I've been traveling non stop teaching, and then I'd come back to shoot fashion shoots back at my studio, and I've been all over the place, but I do wanna make sure I think everybody that's here on the internet that have come to the classes, because if you guys aren't enthusiastic and thrilled, then it's really hard to do, but as soon as I see, like your smile right now, like no effort at all when there's a smile like that, then it's, I'm just eager to teach I'm really excited, so I kind of gave me a great energy introduction, so I don't really need to say too much more than that I teach, I shoot fashion, and today I'm going to teach lighting. Um, what I wanted to teach today was more how I understand lighting versus how it's necessarily traditionally taught, because I remember when I took some lighting classes early on in my career, I got really caught up on lighting ratios, diagrams on ...

what you're supposed to call the shadows when they're certain places, and in truth, in like the real world, when I shoot, the only reason we ever use those words is a short cuts like have someone set it up or to communicate what we're looking for, but people get really caught up like, you know, ratio of three to one I never do that ever thats me personally no, I'm not saying that someone who does is wrong and they're plenty of other photographers that meter everything's exactly issues but for me, if it looks good and it's communicating what I'm looking for that's fine, so I'm going to try to take a little bit of that fear away because it's really not necessary, we don't need to over complicate it, so I'm gonna try to do that and so if anything you anybody anywhere has any questions, something doesn't quite make sense or you need a little more technical explanation. I'm absolutely happy to help. So this morning, what I would like to teach is kind of what I'm going to call high impact low fuss lighting in other words, let's, let's talk about some more interesting lighting that wows but ever I'll cover today in the morning session is three lights or less, because when I first started off my very, very first studio that I had well, I started my parents living room okay, but my very first video that I had wass about twelve feet wide um about seventeen feet deep eight foot ceilings, fluorescent overhead lights and I had three lights and I had, like, no modifiers that I didn't know what I needed and didn't know what was right. So the modifiers I will talk about in the demo later are going to be soft box beauty dish and a silver reflector because those are, like, some very basics, and I'll explain which tools are best for what? But I'll just tell you maya might go to for about four years of my business was an eight foot octa box with hair like, and that was the one lighting setup that I did because it's what I had and it looked good, eh? So I'm going to try to give you some more tools to do something a little bit different. I'm and figure out okay, what you might actually want to buy, like why you wanted soft boxer, what might you want to be the dish and things like that? So I'm just going to jump into that and just do a little bit of intro on lighting to begin with, okay, some basics talk about modifiers and things like that. So for understanding lighting, the three things you have to think about when you were trying to figure out what you want is you have to figure out the quality of light you want the direction of light you want. And the intensity, okay, so to break down what that means and I'll talk about that even more so, the quality of light, more lessons do want soft light do want hard light, like, do you want a really crisp, dark shadows? Or do you want something later? Soft shadows, very subtle, and what it comes down to is when you're starting off a shoot, figuring out what you're trying to say and that for me, when I first was learning lighting, I'd go into the studio and have no idea what I was doing, and so I always start with what was safe and that I was kind of build up, but it really helps if you've got a god and you're trying to make him look muscular and manly and tough, then muscular, manly and tough to me says dark shadows, harsh light, and so I'll tell you about the modifiers and the things that I would recommend for that or if I am going for soft and feminine and high key that's going to be less shadows, more frontal light, more phil cards and things like that, and so that's, where we start off with quality of light and the first thing so let's, just start there and talk a little bit. About some modifiers um I am only going to show you three in the morning but I want to make sure I kind of introduce a little bit of everything today so you guys spring over my modifiers that we have over there. Okay um now let's start off with the very, very softest. Okay, the softest modifier if you want soft light gentle on the face you want a soft box appropriately named uh the larger the soft box you have, the softer the light will be and so that's. Why in the very beginning, when I was starting my career, I had an eight foot octa box because it is large it's rapping and it's soft and active box is great for photographing groups or people that need a little bit of help from the light. Okay, so here's the deal something like a soft box here it is the softest it is the most forgiving here's some different things look at we're going we're going to go through all of these this is a silver reflector dish. It comes with most of your lights right away you know it's it's usually what comes with the light it is also the least expensive which is really, really nice, but see how it's a small light source small, means harsher and silver means more contrast okay, so let's say you put this light on a subject and they walk into your studio use this light on them if you think about what contrast means in photo shop when you pump up contrast in light room are photoshopped the highlights of the light skip brighter in the dark skinned dark er the same thing is true of a contrast the light source like a silver reflector when you put that on somebody's face, somebody has a greasy forehead. Those highlights get really bright, which means their forehead gets really greasy so no offense stole the ball guys out there, but I would not use this on you because it makes the head look a little shiny esso I wouldn't go for that or if somebody's got rough skin or a lot of wrinkles, the other thing that happens where the contrast the light is, the darks get darker, so when someone has blemishes, the darkness and the blemishes will show out a show up more and then wrinkles will get darker, so I stray away from a silver reflector. And so this right here small light source contrast e right off the bat, it sounds bad, right? Well, sounds bad for portrait's, however let's say that I'm trying to show a really muscular, manly guy, okay, and I'm trying to carve out all this features and make him look really tough and chiseled then maybe a contrast e small light source is great because the highlights on the top of the muscles would say his packs will get later and underneath you'll get darker and everything has more definition to it so it's all about using the right tool for the right situation okay well for most people this light it depends what you do but for most people the light that you would probably want for portrait is going to be a soft box and I have a small in here because it's easier for me to hold versus having a gigantic one but raising a soft boxes nice it has something called diffusion material so it does two things to move it away from that first light we talked about it makes the light bigger which makes it broader and softer just because it's a larger light source and it diffuses the light what this diffusion material does is it cuts down on contrast that's the whole point of it so if anyone's ever been outside and used the diffuser outside to put it in between the sun and your subjects it softens the light it makes it much more forgiving same thing with the soft box so now when that person walks into your studio and they have rough skin you probably reach for for a soft box um now if somebody walks in and I used to it's not to be mean but I used to joke with my assistant um I go uh double diffusion for someone with really bad skin or really really rough skin if you've ever seen in your soft boxes how you might have an inter diffusion you can add an outer that's one of the reasons why you would it cuts down on a few cuts on on contrast another time so soft boxes really good if you're trying to go for giving but if you've ever trying to say get really crisp rembrandt light or maybe carve out someone's features it's harder to do it actually feels nearly impossible with an eight foot octa box because it's hard to get direction of light because its just a gigantic circle so if I try to raise it up so I can put shadows under the chin to give some definition to the job it's still rapping I feel move it off to the side it's still wrapping around the subject so if you're trying to get a little bit more control with a soft box and you still need that forgiveness you might try to go with something smaller maybe even smaller than this it'll give let you have a little bit more direction but if you really want control then you would go for a light modifier with more contrast so those were kind of the two extremes they're silver reflector dish and a soft box um and in my studio I do have a little bit of everything but that's now like I certainly did not have that I started off with my three lights and I had the octo box and then I had the two silver reflectors that's what I had start off so let's go through the other modifiers the reason to go through these as if anyone if like when I'm teaching I want to say, oh, you could also use this because you might have that in your kid to the soft box we have the silver reflector dish ok, you also may see me use this later, okay? And I'm going to use this for a second to explain how light works this is called a long throw or tell a zoom reflector both and this is more contrast stephen a silver reflected it's significantly more contrast, those shadows will get much darker and it gives you a lot more focus. So the reason I wanted to grab this for example is any time you're trying to figure out how light works like where do I? Where did I put my light and how close do I put my light and things like that try to picture light like water? You know, if you're you're a nerd like me and you learn that like photons and light actually is made up of particles and all that hole thirty thing and the inverse square law okay feel free to look up the inverse square law but let's just look at it like water, okay let's say that I have a bucket like this okay? Or I have to see the beauty dish over here can I have my other beauty dish if you know where it is okay beauty dish is when she was a kind of a narrow pan this is a big deep bucket so when you have a bucket of water and it's deep like this if I throw it at you okay that was a really that was good acting that was excellent uh and if I throw it at you if you guys have noticed do you know that when you throw a bucket can kind of picture how the water will maintain the shape of the bucket kind of or let's say for example you have a noodle you know, like in the pool when you're floating on a new toe and I don't know if anyone says it's like me but you still like blow the water out the noodle just scored people in the face and like anyone else a loser like me but it holds the shape of the noodle it holds the shape of whatever a modifier its end so if I throw something like this it's like a deep bucket when I third on you it'll stay focused however if I have a kind of flattered ish and throw it everything spreads out much quicker same thing here there's a hold less water so the same output like let's say that I have a certain number like just make up the number let's say it said a five on my packs or whatever you have it set halfway the picture will look much brighter using this because the light has more time to focus and it pushes it forward then it will with this here you throw that same bucket the light will spread out more quickly here it'll say more focused okay, so just think about that when you're choosing and then here's my noodle okay this's my noodle the same thing this is called a snoop and it's new you can think of it kind of like a spotlight more or less the same idea snoops are usually used as maybe a hair light because they'll put like a little highlight on the hair. Um I've used it a lot for back lights let's say that you want to put a kind of circular highlight behind the subject looks kind of theatrical I've used it for that, but also this is super contrast e really, really dark shadows it produces just a circle of light and it looks really good for certain dramatic male portrait's I've used it for I photographed professional models so like any time like any light on them looks good because they're beautiful but this is not a high school senior boy with rough skin light okay wouldn't necessarily recommend it for that okay um so to take a look at it yes the bigger soft boxes in the softest and you got a smaller softworks still soft the next thing down that line of getting soft would be a beaut dish okay a bt dish is something that portrait photographers don't use as much because the soft box is the most forgiving but you get more control out of a beauty dish it's easier to get chris bram bram it's easier to raise the light up and get defined jawline it's easier to have control over this and control over the shape and more contrast and is with large soft rock so this is a beauty dish um in general, no matter what brand you have, I recommend something around the twenty inch size twenty twenty two inch just you know I will hear from some people there. I think it's ellen chrome has a eighteen and twenty seven it depends what you want I'll put it this way a smaller beauty dish will give you more contrast and work great for one person if you're trying to late maybe two people or you want more full length than maybe a larger one would be better and there's actually a brand actually company that makes big beauty dishes they're called lola's in case you're interested in checking that out, it functions a little bit differently, but we're not going to deal with that here, okay? So beauty dishes, what they d'oh is they produce forgiving light, but with contrast. Okay, this is the one I do not recommend. One I do recommend is this one I'm going to use it because I don't recommend silver because the silver is introducing contrast again and usually that's going to bring out texture in the skin that I might not want and it's usually not as flattering. So I recommend twenty two twenty two in strange and white, your brand it doesn't matter, but everything that I'm going to be using today is bronze color because that's, what I have in my studio s o, I'm just using kind of some of the things that I'm familiar with. So yes, so lindsay that's awesome and I would love to just get that out of the way, beginning because we're sure to get a lot of questions about how does this brand compared to this brand, just talk a little bit about that, please, yet that's actually definitely something that I wanted to start off with so the brand I get that question all the time, what brando I buy cause there's a million and it's really hard and I'm gonna tell you right away I can't tell you what brand to buy but here's how I would have you think of it knowing what you need from your lights helps you figure out what lights you need in other words, if you need a lot of power up place you're trying to overpower the sun because you shoot on location you're going to need something different than if you're working in an eight foot square studio space where you don't need much power or maybe if you're photographing people in motion you need maybe a packed with high recycle time but if you're just shooting head shots so you don't care as much about your recycle time so in my original studio I had white lightning for six years and you can't in many instances tell the difference between those and my current work well, I mean I think my photography has gotten better but the quality of light you can't really tell on dh so what I would say is figure out more the technical specs you need and that's how you make a difference but one of the considerations is why people often go with the big brands as well something like a pro photo or something like bron color like I have is let's say there's a special light that you want to try I want to try out that tell a zoom reflector that long for I've never tried it before smaller brands you can't rent them because they don't have them at rental houses so you can't buy them um a lot of times for less expensive brands if you shoot quickly, maybe it does recycle but as it's shooting it doesn't have time to get to full power and so the color and exposure changes and that was the big the biggest difference for me in my original lights is you'll see or perhaps if you've seen someone behind the scenes videos, you know I shoot a lot I click I love to click I love to cook because the difference between this and this could be totally different, so I'm clicking all the time um and so when I was shooting and I was shooting a lot, they wouldn't recycle or get back to full power and the color would change. I was always confused why some of them would look kind of blue and other was look kind of magenta and in the because when it's recycling, if it doesn't recycle in time, then a lot of times of color shifts with it so a lot of the higher end brands maintained color fidelity regardless of, you know, recycle time and what not and also power some other brands when you're at a low power, the color will be different than when you're at full power when that makes a difference, it will see of three or four lights set up one's out high power ones at low power now the colors don't match that being said if none of that fix your work that none of that affects your work and don't worry about it um and this is not a snotty thing but if you give me the least expensive lighting brand right now I can make a beautiful photo and if you give me my beautiful amazing high end brand color lights that could make a beautiful photo so just to get that out of the way, try if you can actually experiment with the different brands I do recommend going with something that has a more well known name because if they are likely to they could go out of business because they're new when they're inexpensive then there's no one to fix them or there's no variety of modifier so make sure you have a friday modifiers good customer service and ideally something you khun try um also one thing I want to talk about before we move on is the differences between mon alights model blocks and packs okay so what this means is a monologue is what I started off with what I had and there's nothing wrong with model lights what they are is all the power output all the controls, everything that your change is actually on the light itself and that was what I had for my white lightnings in the beginning, those air good because there are often very portable um you don't need to have a pack and there are often significantly less expensive, but there's also a couple benefits of having a pack and that's what I have here so I have a squirrel packs from brown color benefits of packs are they will give you often much higher output, so if you need high recycle times, what they do is actually a capacitor that holds energy so we can just shoot like I can more I mean, I can hold my trigger down and it will recycle and shoot um, because that's, what a pax for it holds that energy when you're shooting a mon alight it's pulling from the wall so it's a it's a pse fast as it can pull it. Basically, some model lights are excellent. I know that pro photo the d ones will give you really good recycle times, the less expensive ones, it won't be a ce fast recycle and you usually can't get as high wattage. Some of the pack that I have are like twenty four hundred watts, so if I'm trying to overpower the sun in light and entire scene, I can't do that from my model lights, but I can't do that from some of these packs the packs if you're suiting have you ever seen those shots where they do slow motion of water or powder? It has nothing to do with flash duration like how quick that flashes whether it freezes the powder so the people that do that fancies fashion and in the beauty with the water they're using packs that they can have really fast flash durations does it matter? I don't I don't know does it matter to you it depends on what you're trying to do something else that's nice as well is when it's not a model light it's just the heads they're much later so when your booming them out over a scene it's less weight to balance on a boom arm or less wait up in the air first stand so it's less likely to topple well considerations it doesn't matter I have mono lights and I also have packs that kind of depends on what you're looking for so hopefully that's kind of equipped you with some overall considerations there do you guys have any questions related to that anything that you were you're curious on that front and then also to you as well do the bulbs themselves make a difference and are there different brands? Does a brand of modifier or pack require their own brand of bald some of the different companies that have light specifically made there are some that traverse different brands usually it's their own lights and the higher went and ones they're expensive s o that's just this is how it goes but yet the only thing that is usually well not on these but a lot of them they actually just usually have like regular sixty year hundred watt bulbs for the modeling lights but the actual flash tubes our what are specialized indifference and the flash tubes aren't the wattage you're like the output you know you can get different waters so five hundred watt and then a thousand won is going to have a lot more power output it's not the bulb it's the head or the pack itself the ball doesn't affect that although they have to design the balls to handle the luggage but that's totally different yes yeah I was going to ask about modeling lights and how they related to various how how much you can see from the modeling light I guess sure and so one of the things that's good about depending what late you have you might consider getting something where you could make the modeling like proportional output okay so what that means is I have them off but when I when I turned them on right now so you guys can see I have my modeling lights at full power so if they are on their on is bright as they go but with many packs in many heads you can make it so that the output of that light match is proportionally the output of your stroke it does not mean that that light is strong is your stroke it doesn't mean that it means if you're flashes said it full power that modeling light will be a full part if your flashes set to a third of its normal power, the modeling light will be set to a third of its normal power it's not matching output though it's more so you can see okay, these back to lights that I have on the hair there third darker or they're only third powers you can see that they're more subtle comparatively they have nothing to do with final output it's just you can see proportional ratios visibly um usually I just said a month full power so everybody can kind of see what we're working with but then people were like, oh, wait that that backlight looked really bright why does it look so subtle? Because the power on the pac or the head has been turned down but the modeling lights at full power so you can see where it is on the john on the face so some modeling like these air specialty modeling land so you have to get there a lot of women just screwing bulbs depends on the brand that you have thanks so that's one of the things that is usually less expensive and lighting everything's always crazy, expensive so lindsay, we have quite a few questions coming in from around the globe and people are asking specific questions what about this? What if I change this modifier things like that? And I'm hoping that we're going to get many of those questions today, okay, but we do have our model ready so I'll just ask one question, okay? All right, this is from parabellum who says how would you compare a large soft box against a parabolic seven foot umbrella in terms of softness of light? Ok, um that's a good question. So for large umbrellas, if you want something that is really, really soft a large white umbrella gets really soft, but it usually lacks contrast and I generally stay away from them because to me there kind of a blah light think theyjust look blocked to me now bad um but often soft boxes if you look in the inside even though they have diffusion often their silver and so that silver adds a little bit more contrast a little more direction I'll put it this way for quality of light I prefer the soft box more you have a little bit more controlled direction it's a little more crisp. I like the shadows with an umbrella. The shadows usually for me kind of blend more into the highlights there's there's a little less definition um but if what you have is an umbrella that's fine, I actually don't have umbrellas in my setup here. Um, I used umbrellas, okay, so you're gonna like, if anyone knows lighting, you're all going to cringe when I described my first lighting setups, my very first letting sit ups when I started my photo business as I had two silver umbrellas at a forty five degree angle from the subject in the front equal power, so it was completely flat, but also somewhat crossing light because there were never any shadows where I didn't want them, um, and it's just not not flattering. Often, if you have that light crossing from either side, you'll get kind of a shadow almost right here in the pocket, so you usually do want to pick your one light that you want as your main light on before I go to that this's just a trick, something that I've done with people trying to figure out their good sides because people have a good side. People have a dominant side. If you ask somebody to take a cell phone photo of themselves, they always put their good side close to the camera. They already know what they're good side is, and so you can figure out what side they like and sometimes maybe it's the way that and the other thing is people usually part their hair on the side of the face that they prefers you can tell based on someone's part usually what side they like better and what you want to do, austin is you put the light on that side of the face the good side so you're lighting the good side of their face and I have talked plenty of workshops where I didn't ask the model you know she looks good on both sides to me and I start shooting and every shot she'd moving the wrong way away from my life and I'm like what what what is going on here? It's because she keeps favoring one side so that's just something? Yeah, the cellphone photo people know what they're sighted I think one is thiscause I'm pretty sure I do that by my photographers and I think about it too much. So go ahead oh no just you are talking about the forty five degree lighting and stuff and I thought in my business we call that a booking photo well said yes and they try to make that unflattering it's a good idea to make it really inflated. Okay, so get harsh light sources on four feet yes, when you photograph when you're booking, I like that so I recommend the white over the silver beauty dish and I'm going to demo with the beady dishes I'd like the contrast in control um a couple other things I did want to address that when I talk about it later, you will have been able to see kind of close ups all right? So we have grids here grids there something that I didn't really use until maybe a year or two ago, and I'm like, how did I not use grids? Um they're wonderful eso what they allow you to dio as they allow you to focus your lights, they prevent spill of the light and so let's say that I have of beauty dish on the person's face, but I don't want their midsection is bright because I keep I keep looking at someone's stomach, for example, and I would like to draw a little less attention to that area. I can add a grid and it will focus the light, maybe more around the shoulders and round the head. So if you go back to the water example it's kind of like if you think of putting a filter when you put a filter in front of a bucket of water, it kind of it shoots it out even more straightforward that's what it does, it doesn't allow the water just to pour out all angles it forces it forward because it makes little pathways little tunnels that the water has to shoot through andi come in different degrees c o five, ten and twenty five okay, some different some different brands have different numbers you can get grades also for your flashes I know that rogue extra imaging has a number of grids that you can get to put on your flashes if you want to have and people also call these grid spots or spots this in case you have ever heard that, um five degree is really focused and really small holes very tiny ten a little bigger twenty five they also make thirty but that's usually the range so we are going to use these a little bit today but whenever you want just ah focused highlight or something like that and the light's going where you don't want it you'd use the grid and they also make grids for soft boxes the same thing the one the last light that I was less two lights I want to talk about are these two okay, this is this called a strip thank okay um some people call it a strip light which is fine, but there actually are things called strip lights which is a different light altogether but it doesn't matter. You should people know what you're talking about. Strip lights are usually like eight thousand dollars so often when you say strip like I'm sure you minister thank typically um and these like this is the wrong color one and the reason I love this sierra has he's black piece of fabric on the outside that is like having something we talk about barn doors, it's like focusing the light, the light can't just spill out the edges, so when you're trying to get a nice, even highlight on the body, this makes it so the light doesn't spill everywhere. If you've ever tried to use the strip light and you've gotten lens flare, it's catching in your cameron, you're getting a little bit of flair, it's because the light's going everywhere so you might also want to add a grid to strip bank, they make grids and that focuses the light. But for these it's awesome because it kind of has a focus built into it. It's the very last modifier then I want to talk about are these right here called barn doors? All right? Um, I'm kind of cheating a little bit because in my my interest, so I'm gonna talk about three lights or less a soft box, a beauty dish and a silver reflector, so I'm going to put barn doors on them also because I want teo no, the reason, the reason why is you can actually make barn doors yourself and expensive if you want to, it could be pieces of foam core you could use something called cinna foil, which is black sick tinfoil, but the reason I like it is it gives me more control so if I want my beam of light to be very narrow, I can close it down and it's not really its own modifier. It goes on a silver reflector dish, so I'm just kind of cheating a little bit, but we're going to use that and so that's, we're going to start. So I'm gonna move this gear off out of set and we're going to get started on my show how to use it be dish and how to use light in general. So you guys want to come grab it for me? You have any questions while they do that? Adrian, far from england, asked for photographers beginning to use lights and modifiers for the first time. Could you give any in any advice for understanding what good quality light actually looks like? Mm. Okay, so good quality light has often more to do with direction a lot of times, and it does with the modifier because there's drastic, different, drastically different results for the modifiers and so it's. Kind of hard to say that I'll say for most portrait's a soft boxes and easy go to because it usually looks quite nice, but the mistake I see is when people use soft boxes, they usually the late too low and so something I'll have you all watch for whenever you're taking a portrait is looking for where those shadows go the biggest mistake I see for poor quality of light is that people have the shadows that save the nose and it goes straight across the face so the shadow of the nose is going this way or even slightly up and what we really want in what we see here and what we see outside its shadows that go down shows that go under the lip shadows that go underneath the jaw and so often a bad quality of light is when that light is exactly equal the face that I see a lot of people do with the soft box they sent go like equal in the face and they put it there and then the shadow goes across that usually makes people's faces look wider and heavier you want to give a little bit of dimension um so the quality late it depends it depends on what shadow if you want really harsh shadows then you pick a modifier so I'm going to say it's independent type of photography you do soft boxes a good safe solution for when you have a portrait and I'm going to use a beauty dish because it's easier to see how changes in light are the way you move the light affects your subject all right thanks sorry that it's a it's true that it's completely

Class Description

Creative Studio Lighting is part of our special bundle Lighting Toolkit.

Join award-winning photographer Lindsay Adler for an introduction to the essentials of creating high-impact studio lighting with minimal fuss or expense.

Drawing on years of experience, Lindsay will introduce you to the basics of studio lighting and give you strategies to apply these basics in creative ways. Along the way, you’ll explore unusual light modifiers, crafty ways for working with limited gear, tips for ensuring that light is flattering, and more!

This course will inspire anyone ready to take their work to the next level, whether you’re a veteran photographer or just starting out.


Justin Tui

This is my second course purchase from Creative Live amd im a short way in but already love it. Lindsay Adlers style of teaching is easy going and simple to follow along with. Her personal work is amazing too so i feel confident that im getting knowledge from a trustable source. Im definitely going to continue to invest in more content from Creative Live and I rock the podcast everytime a new ep comes out.

Victor Hernandez

She's so beautiful