The Standard 3-Point Lighting Technique

3-point-lightingOne of the oldest lighting techniques in the book is called “Three Point Lighting”. It is vastly used in studio photography and by snobby fashion photographers. It is also a very good basis for any portrait photograph. In this technique you use three lights:

The first light is a key light. Usually this is the strongest light and this light sets the lighting of the scene.

The second light is called a fill light, this light helps fill the shadows that the main light casts.

The last light is called a backlight (because it comes from the back), and is used to create a contour and separation. It is common to use a snoot or a gridspot on the backlight to avoid a spill.

The guys at mediacollege have created a nice illustration and explanation of that basic technique. They have also created a cool flash simulator (After writing this, I’ve noticed that this is a pan, so no credits here. Kudos for the great pan) that can help understand the concept of a three point lighting. Or you can just click the various lights and enjoy seeing how the model reacts to each type of light. The flash simulator is also good way to understand key light and backlight in general.

While in general the guys (or girls, I don’t know who works there) deal with video, the lighting stuff is great for still photographers as well.

Related links:
- Media college lighting tutorials
- Flash Simulator
- Homemade snoot

[Read more...]

DIY built-in pop-up flash diffuser (soft screen)

pop-up-difuserWhy spend a fortune on an on-camera softscreen diffuser? (OK, 9 dollars are hardly a fortune, yet…). This guest post by Huy Hoang shows you how to build one for just a few cents. (Mental note: make a DIY manual on how to reduce the cost of a Nikon D2X by the same ratio). Huy is a member of’s instructibles group – check it out. The idea is similar to the one explained on the speed light mounted softbox article, but takes half the time and can be used on a built in flash.

Hold on!! Why would you want a softscreen in the first place? I can think of two reasons: number one – the build in flash is soooooo small, it is a very hard light source. And 2 – it can not be bounced. However – you can get more out of it. Just to get your appetite going, here is what you’ll get when you are done [Read more...]

Back to Basics – Depth Of Field

depth_of_fieldAfter discussing exposure in great detail, I would like to turn to a different kind of control – Depth Of Field (A.K.A. DOF). OK. Don’t jump – you are right. Depth Of Field is not a real control, but more of a result of how you used the aperture control.

In simple words Depth of field is the term you use to describe what is inside the focused area of your image and what is left outside of the focused area (and will stay home alone, and eat dry bread and drink stale water. Sorry Jewish mom syndrome…)

As I said before the control that has the most impact on depth of field is aperture. Bigger apertures tend to provide shallower depth of field. That means that if you open a wide aperture (say f/1.8) you will have a narrow location in your image which is focused. If you set your aperture to a small value, say f/22, you will have a huge focused area. The other two controls you can employ to control depth of field are Zoom focal length and camera to object distance. [Read more...]

Studio lighting – Homemade Softbox Ring For SB or Flash Speedlight

DIY flahs ringTim from Chicago was using translucent umbrellas to get diffusion out of his flash speedlights. This was his home grown studio. When he switched to softboxes, the cost of the flash adjustment ring drove him to… Build a cheap flash ring on his own (this studio lighting DIY is not for the faint of heart – it uses a vise and a sledge). When not building stuff Timothy Witkowski also shoot sports. Here is the deal:

I use my Nikon CLS sb800-sb600 in almost every venue that I shoot. I recently switched from translucent umbrellas to using them with a softbox. I bought a generic 36” softbox with a universal ring that I paid I think $25 for. I found a morris ring at b&h for about $60 + shipping which was nothing more then a standard ring and a l bracket. So I went to the garage to make my own. [Read more...]

Back To Basics – Exposure Demostrated

sunny day 16After talking so much about exposure and the controls you can use to, em.. well… control it, I thought I’d bring up some info that can help bring all the control info together.

As a solid base for demonstration, I chose to display and discuss a bit about a rule know as the “Sunny Day 16” rule. I guess that this rule is known to film photographers, and is of little use nowadays when all the cameras have built in light meters. But we can explore this rule and learn something about exposure from it.

The rule is simple: on a sunny day, set your aperture to f/16 and set your shutter speed to be as close to the ISO setting as possible. (There! All the three exposure controls in one coherent sentence. Pat on the back!). This is where this rule got its name – Sunny day 16. Image by Stefan Mendelsohn. [Read more...]

Painting With Light

painting with lightPainting with light is a fun technique that gives great results. It is called painting with light because this is what you are actually doing while taking the shot – painting with light.

You don’t need much to experiment with this kind of shot, just make sure you have the following items:

1. A camera capable of long exposures – film cameras will work OK, but if you really want to get the most out of the shooting session, use a digital camera. You will be able to see the results in “real time” and make corrections as you go.

2. A nice tripod. Since you will be doing some long exposures you want to make sure your camera sits still. If you don’t have a tripod you can make one in a few minutes (see this article or this one).

3. A flash light – and by flash light I do not mean flash as in a speedlight, but the flash light or what our British will call a torch.

4. A dark location. This one is tricky. If you are going to shot at home – a dark room will be OK. If you are going to shoot outside – make sure that you are not doing this under a street light, or where a car can come by and “paint its headlight” all over your shot. [Read more...]

Back to Basics – ISO and exposure wrap up

isoIn the previous few articles, I have discussed some basic aspects of photography. The first subject to get a close look was exposure, and I have discussed two of the three components that control it: shutter speed and aperture. In this article, I will bring in the missing piece – ISO (or film sensitivity). After that I will conclude the exposure subject.

We have learned that the sensor (or film) can get the same exposure if we prolong the duration the shutter is open, but use smaller aperture (or shorten the duration that the shutter is open, while using a bigger aperture). If we want to be absolutely honest (which, at least for now, we do), we have to include the third part of the equation: film sensitivity (AKA ISO).

In short – ISO sets the impact that light will have on the sensor. High ISO will make our exposure brighter, while low ISO will make our exposure darker.

So how can we use ISO to produce better photographs? [Read more...]

Take to your virtual home

If you love as much as me, you’d be happy to know that I have made some changes to make it easier for’s readers to take the blog to their personal home page.

The first change is to add a bookmark strip that will enable you to bookmark an article to your favorite bookmarking service. You can Digg it, Furl it, Stumble upon it, cook it, bake it or pretty much add it to your virtual bookmarks online. When ever you hover over the bookmark strip found on the left, you will see all available bookmarking options. [Read more...]

DIY – Using Clamps As Flash Light Stands

Using Clamps As Flash Light StandsAs part of the light stand frenzy that’s been going on here, I thought I’d introduce you to another way of placing a flash on location in a cheap and fast way. I learned this hack from David hobby at strobist and been grateful ever since. The idea is quite simple. It is similar to the one displayed in the Spatula article (gotta love this word – spatula…), only instead of using a spatula, I am using clamps. And hey! It was from the same trip to the hardware store. [Read more...]