Lighting Options, Image Looks

There have been profound changes in lighting gear options of late, and each adds newfound ways to make images. You can work using hot or cold continuous lights, with AC or battery-powered units, and even choose between LED and strobe sources. Some “new” light sources are coming into their own. For example, we have been covering LEDs for a while, and now we see how they are growing in their use in both the studio and on location.

Apt for both video and still work, they are “cool,” can be set up for various color temperature ranges, and have opened up a whole new way to create fill and multiple color light sources within the frame.

Another strong growth area is in wireless flash control, which allows for more freedom for the photographer to work and the ability to control multiple lights at near and far distances, both inside and outdoors. Advances in this area in control, distance coverage, and reliability have been impressive.

We’ve also seen more in the way of new light modifiers, with shapes and sizes of every sort. Traditionally used with strobes in the form of softboxes and strips, and as adapters for on-camera speedlights, there’s a new generation of speedlights that combines diffusion and redirection with lighting effects and colorization. In short, the speedlight has come into its own as a newfound source of lighting inspiration. Adding to the portability trend are battery-powered lighting kits that do not require a wheelbarrow to move around, making full lighting assemblages a valid option for even casual location work.

The new trends in lighting gear bring more power to photographers who take the time to master their use. It’s all about controlling the light and not having it control you. For example, while it’s true that you can make portraits outdoors with natural light, you can also use an on-camera speedlight (or LED setup) for fill, and that will help, but you’ll get even more control and perhaps better results using a light modifier on that on-camera flash. You can take it a step further and work with off-camera lighting via a controller, or use a battery-powered strobe, with softbox and modifiers, all without needing a trailer on your car to carry it around. In fact, a major trend in lighting now is the kit “bundle,” where you can match subject or your level of knowledge (and budget) to kitted gear and come up with a very workable solution.

In this issue we focus on lighting and lighting gear, with the main story being an overview of lighting today as represented by various types of lights and lighting kits, from budget to high end. There’s no reason you have to spend excessively on your first lighting setup, especially with the kits available today that include source, stands, and modifiers. In fact, for anyone starting out, budget kits are a great way to learn about setup, ratios, posing, and more. As you grow in your knowledge you’ll know when it’s time to move on to other gear and applications.

We concentrate on lighting in this issue, and throughout the year with how-to articles and gear tests, because we recognize how using light in creative ways is what can separate your work from others not only in the style you develop around the use of the lights but in the ability to control light and make it work for you. The beauty of a well-lit shot is hard to beat, and it’s something that everyone recognizes as the mark of a craftsperson. Let that craftsperson be you.