Categories of Light Shaping Tools


Light Shaping Tools for Professional Photographers


Lesson Info

Categories of Light Shaping Tools

I think what we have to talk about today and one of the main things that we have to hit is what I consider building the foundation of lighting. Every picture starts with a main light, or key light. And that helps to establish... It almost establishes the handle of the picture or the hub of the picture. From that main light or key light, everything stems. Everything based on that one light everything in terms of volume of light, everything is either a multiplication of that or a fraction of that. Everything is either brighter or darker than that. But that one light establishes our language that we're going to speak on how we're going to tell the story of this one picture. And so for me, I always put that in place, I will measure the light for it, I will meter for it, and that's it and that's it and everything else then is relative to that. In photography, that word relative pops into my brain a lot. Everything is relative. Size is relative to distance, that brightness is relative to the...

background, the background is relative to the hair light, it's relative to-- everything's relative to something. Backgrounds of course complement the subjects and their clothing. We try to make sure that we spend time talking to your clients when it comes to the clothing and what you want to do with this photograph. One of the things that one of my great friends, Arthur Rainville one time said, you know, a photo is of someone. But a portrait is about someone. And if you're going to do a true portrait of someone, you might want to learn something about them. You might want to talk to them and you might want to go find out what's going on in their lives. Find out what they love and what they hate and find out what their hobbies are and their habits and what is it that makes them tick. And it might change the way you're going to photograph them. It might change the way you're going to light them. You might find a very very dark personality or you might find a very very bright cheery personality. I'm going to photograph those differently. It's one idea is to consider at the end of your day at the end of the shoot, move your lights off the floor. Move them up against the wall, get them out of the studio shooting area. Because tomorrow if you don't move the lights, then tomorrow morning's first shoot's going to look like today's last shoot. It's just that we've become creatures of habit. And it's like "Well, I'm just going to leave my lights set up, I'll shoot tomorrow just like that." Really? Does that client need to be the same shot as the one from today? So, you'll set those up differently if you move them around a bit. But then make sure that the direction of light is appropriate for the subject. The face, the hair, you're shooting into the face in the proper direction that the light quality and the direction of light is doing what you need it to do. And we're going to talk about all of this when we get to the shooting segments. Highlight to shadow ratios. I don't know what a great ratio is between highlight and shadow. In the world of traditional portrait we were always taught it's a three to one ratio or a four to one ratio. So, the ratio balance between detail in the shadows and detail in the highlights. At what point is it a great balance? Well, I think it's a great balance when you look at it and go, "I like that." That's a great balance. (laughs) You know? Because it's all about your taste, it's all about what you want and it's all about what you like in a photograph. That's the thing, you can't-- when we do the critique tomorrow, one of the things that I'll repeat it over and over and over, this is just one guy's opinion of something you might want to consider doing to improve the picture. But it's not my business to tell you what to do with your work. I can't look at this thing and go, "This is terrible, you can't shoot this." It may be the greatest thing you've ever seen. Who knows? You know? As they say, "Beauty is in the eye of the checkbook holder." When the client says, "I love this!" Well, that's my favorite picture this week. You know? So, everybody has an opinion. You get to choose and decide what you want to do with your picture and how you want it to appear. And that's the fun part about it. You can consider photography the subjective use of the objective craft. It's a science, it's physics, it's optical engineering. And we have to put all that into something that's pretty. You know? And makes someone feel great about themselves. And that's the cool part, when it works. There's nothing more exciting than delivering a client's job and seeing tears in their eyes. Nothing like it. I used to deliver my wedding albums in a box with a pair of white gloves inside the box. As an indicator to the bride that this stuff's important, and it matters to me. And I sure hope it matters to you. It's not just snapshots at your wedding. This is something that matters. This is your family's very first heirloom of you and your husband. Your heirloom begins that day that you get your wedding album. Right? How many of you shoot weddings? Anybody? Are weddings great? They used to be awful. I hated them, I used to call them combat duty. (audience members laugh) I hated shooting weddings for a long time until I got to where I knew what I was doing. And then, all of a sudden, I sort of started relaxing about it and thinking, "Okay, I really don't want to shoot this today." And then after you fire your first shot, then you're on a roll, you're in the bubble and you're on it. And it's just great. Because here's what wedding photographers do. You become an architectural photographer, you're shooting food, you're shooting fashion, you're shooting portraits, you're shooting black and white, you're shooting PJ, you're shooting everything. You're at the top of the food chain, as Clay Blackmore says in Washington DC. He says, "A wedding photographer is the top of our food chain." And don't let anybody kid you. Don't let anybody say, "Yeah, that's just the wedding guy." No. Far more than that. So... Wedding guys, they have to know stuff. They have to know everything. And then finally, we'll talk about three-dimensional contrasts based on the size relative to its distance. Size relative to distance. I'll be saying that phrase the whole time we're here. Size is always relative to its distance to the subject. The sun is a great source. The sun is a big source. It's the biggest there is. But somebody conveniently moved it 93 million miles away. Which makes it a small pinpoint source. Right? And it's got characteristics because of its size. The highlights are very very bright, the shadows are very very sharp and it's the tell-tale sign of a small source. As I increase the size of any light source, things happen. Things get better. Things change. Shadows soften, highlights get bigger, as highlights get bigger, they become less bright. All of this stuff is all related and we'll go into this and we'll talk about this. We're going to spend two days on this. So, stick around. Don't go anywhere. So, for me, these three topics sort of encapsulate everything that I try to instill into workshop attendees or any other photographers that I can influence, whether it's in a book or online, video tutorials, or whatever. Understanding light quality, controlling light quantity, and the understanding and use of light direction. If I can master those three things, my work here is done. I got it. And I can't be fooled. There's nothing worse than walking into a situation going, "I have no idea how I'm going to light this." There's nothing worse than that. How am I going to pull this off? You know? You walk into the office, or you go to wedding to shoot at the First Church of Uglyville. Right? You've done it, you've walked in it, I've done it too, we've walked into these really bad churches and you're thinking, "How am I going to make this look good?" You got to pull it off, because they expect it. And you've been paid to do that, so you've got to pull it off.

Class Description

Light is the photographer’s most powerful medium. Professional photographers know how to shape it and reflect it, divert it and redirect it. They can tame its harshness and coax it into a subtle glow, use it to dispel troublesome shadows or highlight a striking moment. 

Effectively curating light during a shoot can bridge the gap between mediocre images and truly captivating photography. All it takes to bend light to your will is knowledge of the right gear, and when to use it. Tony Corbell is a professional photographer and a master of studio lighting. Join Tony for this course, and you will learn:

  • How to use light shaping tools and their specific uses
  • How to creatively use reflectors of all kinds
  • How to use soft boxes, umbrellas, ring flashes, and other unique tools in the studio
Tony will draw on his decades of experience to teach you a full technical understanding of the gear you need to shape light to your purpose. 


Stefan Legacy

Bought this class on sale for 19$ and it was a great buy considering it was my first class I purchased on CL. Tony is an excellent teacher and demonstrates extensive knowledge on lighting and different uses of modifiers. Overall this is an excellent course for any one who is interested in learning studio lighting, this will give you a great detail of information.

a Creativelive Student

This is my first time watching Tony Corbell teach and work he was great! I am a natural light photographer and this class made me think about picking up some lights and umbrellas! You can tell he absolutely loves what he does. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

a Creativelive Student

Important information if you want to be a photographer. Great teacher, good pace!!