10 Photography Lighting Tutorials From Beginners to Pros

Mastering light — or even just taming it– is one of the biggest and most difficult challenges facing any photographer. Regardless of whether you shoot in a studio full of strobes, or venture out on location with nothing but a reflector, overcoming the stumbling blocks that lighting throws in our way all boils down to the same set of tasks– understanding how light works, and making it work for you. The Web is bursting at its digital seams with lighting tutorials for photographers of every type and skill level. Some are good, some not, but they all share a common goal — helping you take control of one of the most important aspects of your photography. We’ve compiled ten of our favorites for you. There’s no ranking system — just a little something for everyone. So, in no particular order…


Joe McNally & One Really Big Light Source

Might as well start with the master himself. If you aren’t familiar with Joe McNally’s work, you need to fix that. Immediately. If you are, you already know some of the amazing things he can do. I joke around a lot about bending light to my will, but Joe really does it. Here he talks about using a single, very large light source for studio portraiture.

Zack Arias Explains the Aperture/Flash Relationship

If you were fortunate enough to attend one of Zack Arias’ “One Light” workshops, you know how much time he spent at the beginning of the day repeating and emphasizing that “aperture controls flash exposure.” Since aperture is a function of quantity of light and not duration, it makes sense that aperture and flash exposure are so closely intertwined. In this video, Zack breaks down their relationship.

Pro-Quality Location Lighting with a Reflector

In this clip, our friends at SLR Lounge show you how to get high-quality location lighting results, using only a reflector. This can come in particularly handy for natural light photographers who don’t want to use any electrical lighting, but still need some help directing the light and opening up the shadows.

Clamshell Lighting with Only One Light

Fashion and head shot photographers will tell you that clamshell lighting is one of the best setups for achieving clean, glamorous lighting, and they’re right. While it is traditionally done using two studio strobes, here, Michael Zelbel of Smoking Strobes walks you through a one-light clamshell setup.

Mixing Strobes with Daylight

This is one of those particularly tricky aspects of location lighting. You want that beautiful, natural-light feel, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen without a little bit of help. The Slanted Lens team shows you how to balance the two light sources, leaving you with awesome results.

Scott Kelby Gets the Flash Off the Camera

Scott Kelby’s name has become synonymous with Photoshop and Lightroom education, but he’s a pretty amazing PRE-production photographer also.  In this video, Scott demonstrates not only the importance of getting your flash off the camera, but just how easy it can be.

Window Light Portraits

Getting back to natural light for a minute, this clip from Chicago Photo Academy does a great job of walking you through the basics of a classic window light portrait. Points covered include the best spots for both the subject and the photographer, as well as tips on posing.




Three Rules for Lighting Photography

Before you can bend light to your will, you have to understand how light works and travels when left to its own, natural devices. Ed Verosky breaks down three of those details for you in this clip.

DIY Photo Studio Product Lighting

You didn’t really think I’d write a lighting article for DIY Photography and not include a DIY tutorial did you? This clip from ProPhotoLife.com shows you how to use relatively inexpensive materials to create your own product photography studio.

Lighting Two Surfaces with One Light

One more from Joe McNally. In this last clip of our roundup, Joe diagrams and demonstrates his technique for lighting two surfaces with only one light– and the dramatic results you can achieve with the technique.

Wrap Up

Light is the primary component of what we do. Taking control of your lighting isn’t easy, but it is well worth the time and effort it takes to tame the beast. Remember– you don’t have to learn everything all at once. Pick a place to start and commit yourself to not only learning something new, but to practicing what you’ve learned until it’s second nature. Nothing instills confidence in a client quite like a genuinely confident photographer. The videos here can help you be that photographer.


  • http://profiles.google.com/bogorad bogorad

    I’d suggest Strobist’s “Lighting in Layers”


    nope, it’s not free, but worth every penny. Gives about 1000 times more practical information that all your links combined.

    • Nic Cage’s Hair

      The links in the article are excellent videos and they are 1000 times cheaper than your link combined. :)

      • Emellio Goldstein

        Sounds like a shameless plug to me. I have to agree with NC’s Hair. Nice avatar, by the way.

    • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

      If we’ve done payed videos (which we will in the future) this one would have definitely gone in. I’ve seen it – it is a great resource. But for this post it is neither short or free.

  • http://about.me/codingerror Max Stottrop

    In addition to “Lighting in Layers” – 100 bucks are worth considering every penny – there is still his website: http://www.strobist.com in which he writes about his professional life and gives tips and tricks regarding lighting and photography.