Monday, October 25, 2010

Lighting Part 3 of 3

Make sure to check out Lighting Part 1 of 3 and Lighting Part 2 of 3 before reading this one.

This post, as promised, will be about the equipment you need to do basic lighting on-location. I thought I would take this time to remind you that I am a Nikon shooter though what I have to say can apply to any of the major brands out there.

1. You need a camera…. Sounds like a duh but inevitably someone will email me saying that I failed to mention this most important part.

2. Strobes/Speedlights – you need an artificial light source to illuminate your subjects. There are several different types of lights out there but for on location shooting I would recommend Speedlights like the Nikon SB-900 or the Canon 580EX II. I would say you need a minimum of two. One to act as a commander unit on your camera (provided the camera does not already do this) and one to be the actual source of light. Several of Nikon’s cameras have this built in with their pop up flash (D200, D300, D300s, D90, D7000, D700, D3, D3x, D3s…and there may be more)

  • a. You can also go the real studio strobes but they are not very portable and can be very expensive. If you go to a location without AC power you would need a larger battery source to plug them into. Alien Bees ( has some great options if you decide that is the route you want to go.
3. Light modifiers – You will need something to diffuse the light coming from the strobe. This can range anywhere form a bed sheet to a softbox… cheap to expensive. One of the best solutions starting out is the umbrella (also called a light grenade). You can get these at your local camera store or online for under 20 bucks. Lightboxes on the other hand are typically more expensive and harder to put up but they allow you more control over the light’s direction. I would encourage you to do more research here prior to buying. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail or call me and we can discuss it in further detail. One thing you need for sure is a reflector. Several companies make these as 5 in 1… enabling you to use it for multiple purposes. It can act as a 2nd light or a shoot through diffuser. The multiple covers allow for different types (colors) of reflections.

4. Stands - These are simple metal stands that hold your lights. They also range from the very inexpensive to the very expensive and come in various sizes etc. I would venture to say that the decent ones start around the 30.00 mark. If you are not using studio sized strobes then you may not need the sturdiest but remember, you will likely have an umbrella attached and if you’re out side…. Well, you might be chasing your lighting equipment should a good gust of wind come up. Yep, I have been there.

Well, that covers basic lighting. In future posts I will cover more of the technical aspects of exposing images using artificial lights. That will likely require multiple posts as well. Thanks for reading and again contact me if you have any questions. I may answer it with a blog post. You just never know.


  1. Sounds like it may be easier to higher a photographer. =)

    You are it! =)

    Also, the list in this blog post sounds a lot like what is necessary for a painter to use to photograph art work. Minus the light box, the rest I remember as basic tools. A huge suggestion, often read but I cannot act upon, is to have a section of the artist studio staged with items you mention. The idea is finish an art painting, photograph immediately, upload to computer, etc.

    Good post. How about the same list, with a cheap, mid-price, and expensive for each item? Part of the reason I do not have the "required" set up in my studio is the space and expense. How about it? =)


  2. That is a good idea. Lighting is one of those things you can spend a little or a lot on... Depending on what you want and what you already have. I may put together a post to show the cheap side and the expensive side. Thanks for the post and the suggestion.