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 »


Closeups with Artificial Light

written by: Howard Bond

After photographing outside in daylight for many decades, I began an indoor project last year— using artificial light to make 8×10 black-and-white closeup negatives of small subjects, such as flowers and weed vases. I will describe some of the considerations associated with photographs of this sort that aren’t usually of concern when subjects are larger and outdoors. The lights Multiple-head studio strobes containing modeling lights and possibly directed into umbrellas have always seemed attractive to me. However, I wouldn’t use that equipment enough to justify the cost, so I chose more economical quartz halogen lights for this project. A large 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 »


Digital Portrait Lighting

Retaining the Right Detail While Capturing the Right Mood
written by: Bobbi Lane

Almost five years ago, I wrote an article with the same title as this one; it was about making the transition from film to digital. It’s a whole new world since then due to the great advances in the quality of both digital sensors and image-processing software. However, I maintain the same stance—that you can use any kind or style of lighting with digital images and still retain detail and information from highlights to shadows. To do this, it’s necessary to understand the parameters and limitations of your camera’s sensor, and to use good technique in your metering and exposure. Read more »


Portrait Lighting: Three Situations and their Solutions

Whether You Have Man Lights or One, the Right Illumination Really Makes a Portrait
written by: Steven H. Begleiter

“ Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.” – Chuck Close, painter, photographer, and printmaker As a professional portrait photographer for more than 25 years, I can attest that my career would have been short-lived if I would have waited for the right light or inspiration to create portraits. As a professional on assignments I have had to create on demand Read more »


Modern Light Painting

written by: Jeffery Jay Luhn

Light painting is the common term for a technique that uses a single light, which is moved during the exposure, or through a series of exposures, to simulate a more complex lighting scheme. Most often, a small lamp is moved around to seem as though the shot was taken with a larger light source, or multiple sources. Back in the film era light painting was always fun, but often unpredictable unless extensive testing was done. Camera LCD review features and the ability to blend multiple exposures in Photoshop elevates this age-old technique from a technical chore to an adventure. For Read more »


Two Zone/Mixed Lighting

written by: John Welzenbach

A two zone/mixed lighting set up is one of the simplest to design and create. It’s visually captivating with infinitely diverse applications. Easily controllable, yet unpredictable, it can add drama, whimsy, or elusive sensuality to a photograph. Two zone/mixed lighting refers to two different lighting sources, isolated in two distinct zones to create a single photograph. Zone 1 affects only foreground subject and Zone 2 only affects the background. It’s the combination of the light sources and your creativity that gives you a unique result in the final image. The Basics: • Physical separation isolates one light zone from the Read more »