The Essentials of Strobe Syncing

written by: John Siskin

Syncing your strobes (or flashes) to your camera has its share of difficulties. Problems include broken cords, misfires, and, if you choose too fast of a shutter speed, an exposure that is only partially illuminated by your lash. But when flash syncing works (Figure 1), you control light. For a photographer, that’s an essential power to have. Background A “sync” (short for synchronization) is basically an electrical connection. When a camera’s first shutter-curtain finishes traveling across the sensor or film, an electrical circuit is completed, triggering the strobe. If the second shutter-curtain has already started to move when the first Read more »


Setting Up a Photo Studio on a Budget

written by: John Siskin

If you’re a landscape or street photographer, you probably don’t need a photo studio, but for some photographers a studio is essential. For many, this means converting a garage or spare bedroom into a studio, sometimes temporarily for specific projects. In this article, I’m going to lay out what you need to create such a studio, keeping one eye on the pocketbook. A studio is a place where a photographer has control of the light, whether it’s daylight from a window, or strobes or quartz lights. There should be no other light sources that overpower the photographer’s light. This includes Read more »


Tools of Light

Here's what you need to get light to do your bidding
written by: John Siskin

In Classical Greek, the word “photography” literally means writing with light. One of the most important things a photographer can do is to take control of light. Many photographers spend most of their time capturing available light; fewer photographers use lights to create their pictures. The real difficulty with lighting well is learning to write in a new language with new tools. If we want to do that well, we need to understand the tools and how to use them. After a few decades of using lights, I have become convinced that there are two-and-a-half important things about light. The Read more »


Does HDR Mean You No Longer Need Lights When Shooting Digitally?

written by: John Siskin, Richard Lynch

[John Siskin reports the first part of this article]. Architectural shots are an important part of my business. When I do a shot with strobes, I often work for a couple of hours and move a couple of hundred pounds of equipment in the process. That is a pretty normal way of doing architectural lighting for me.The newer HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature in Photoshop, introduced with Photoshop CS2 and improved with CS3, has potential for making my job easier by reducing the need for all that equipment and automating the process of merging multiple exposures. The purpose of HDR Read more »


Reflecting About Reflections

How Professionals Photograph Shiny Objects
written by: John Siskin

The basic principle behind shooting very reflective subjects, from motorcycles to jewelry, is the same: you need to light what the subject reflects more carefully than you need to light the subject itself. Think of the subject as a mirror and you’ll understand why. So the first tool for lighting a reflective subject is essentially a white room, which photographers call a “tent.” The tent is a white translucent container; because it is larger than the subject, its surfaces can be evenly lighted. You can use many kinds of tents. The one I use, for small objects, is a clothes hamper from Read more »


Strobe Power

written by: John Siskin

I have been working with and writing about strobes for several decades. In that time I’ve made a really huge number of images with strobes. All strobes have certain characteristics: they have a daylight spectrum, and the light has very short duration. These characteristics make them the best lights for still photography, because you can mix strobes with daylight and also stop action. Several characteristics are really important in understanding how useful any particular strobe might be. First, know how much light output the unit has. Second, know the coverage of the strobe, how big an angle it illuminates and Read more »

I used one light, a Calumet Travelite 750. Working quickly, I also used a 60-inch umbrella to make the shot. The light is placed just to the left of the camera. I also needed to allow a lot of light from the window to light the back of the shot.

An Approach to Interior Lighting

written by: John Siskin

Please understand I am not offering rules, but an approach to architectural lighting. First examine the room for existing light sources, everything from lamps to windows. Then classify those resources, something like friend or foe. So a window that throws diffused light into a room is a friend, and a mercury vapor lamp is a foe. Fluorescent lamps are generally foes, but they can be used under some circumstances, especially with digital. This understanding of the lighting of the room will give you the information you need to choose the dominant color spect- rum you can use in your shot. Read more »