10 Useful Websites to Learn Lighting
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If you want to separate yourself from the pack of photographers, mastering artificial light has always been one of the best ways to get ahead. When I started twenty years ago, the photojournalists who knew how to light portraits and complicated subject material were always the ones who won colleagues’ respect. It also gave them the edge in the job market. How these photographers learned their craft was a bit of a mystery since there weren’t many resources to teach equipment and the fundamentals of the process.
Years later, lighting still makes the difference in the marketplace – but now there’s a proliferation of sites to explain all. This hunger for lighting information is one of the reasons the Strobist blog exploded and still remains a popular destination for photographic lighting aficionados.
As a testament to its influence, I’m starting out with Strobist as a foundational site to consider. For this post, I’ve gathered 10 other useful lighting websites that have caught my eye.
(Please feel free to use the comments below to point readers to any sites I’ve missed.)
If you’re looking for ideas, inspiration, or solutions, Strobox offers an impressive collection of photographs and lighting diagrams uploaded by its community of photographers. You can sort pictures by the modifiers used to light them, see all pictures uploaded by the same photographer, or choose among the “You Might Also Like” pictures. They’ve even published a book of the “most amazing” photographs and diagrams from the site, although it’s pricey given the presumably free content from which it was gathered.
A wonderful and free teaching tool to design and share your lighting set-ups on your blog or wherever you wish. I love its ability to scale the size of elements to put in a grid. You’ll probably see some Sylights grids on this blog going forward. It also has some cool mobile apps that I’ve written about in my post about top iPad apps.
Guess the Lighting is a fun way to appreciate and think about lighting. Blogger Ted Sabarese picks photos that have caught his eye and uses his expertise to guess the lighting used for the image. It’s all conjecture of course, as are the witty remarks he makes about what happened on the set involving such possibilities as boogie boards, Vikings and bird poop.
In case you missed it, Syl Arena’s “Speedliting” website merged into his PixSylated blog to become one site where he writes about his Speedlite experiences in the greater context of imagemaking. I enjoy the “Lessons I Didn’t Learn in Photo School” series of posts.
FStoppers gathers a wide range of impressive and inspiring BTS videos on its blog that show you how to photograph muzzle blasts and Lamborghinis, because you know how often you are called upon to do that. You’ll have to dig a little to find all the videos involving artificial light, but if you’ve got some time to kill, this is one place to have bookmarked.
Paying for classes in the area of “Free!” seems counterintuitive, but you can’t argue with the assembled talent of Scott Kelby’s teaching roster. The training videos offered through membership isn’t limited to lighting, adding more value to the membership. I’d suggest that many photo students wanting to reduce the cost of higher education might get better return on their teaching investment with this site, at a fraction of the price. Kelby Media Group has also put out an iPad magazine called “Light it” which publishes 8x/year.
Speaking of price, if you throw around money like manhole covers, DIYPhotography.net is for you. Some of the more recent posts are titled “Build a Huge (Softbox) Grid From Duct Tape” and “Build a DIY Macro Studio with Pop-Up Laundry Bag”. Seriously, you can’t beat this site for frugality. Whether you should show up to a paying shoot to have a client see your cardboard contraption is a decision about your personal brand that only you can make.
Despite its URL, Don Giannatti brings you more than just lighting with this site, although its core is still about lighting tips and thoughts. Clicking on the “Going Pro” menu item will bring you to various subcategories, including “Model Behavior” which describes the nuances of working with models in your lighting set-ups. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen that subcategory on any blog before.
Popular Photography has a great selection of articles about lighting under its “How-To” section of its site. The articles range from aesthetic insights to gear reviews. If you check out this “Tips from a Pro” article, you’ll find the coolest alley in Chicago that I recognized instantly.
Since most of us are not called to photograph circus elephants, I’m not dying to know Joe McNally’s secret to lighting big animals from top to bottom, which he doesn’t offer. So the usefulness of his videos is the inspiration that comes from seeing a professional at the top of his game perform acts of photographic wizardry for the camera. What softbox at what setting? Who cares? I just want to enjoy his pizzazz and showmanship while keeping my jealousy in check.