Tips + Techniques

Master Your Photography with the Right Lighting Tools

August 26, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Angela Marklew

[Register here: A webinar on-demand about the future of lighting, hosted by Rangefinder and WPPI.]

Whether you’re just starting to build your photo business and gear kit, or have already accumulated a broad array of equipment, learning how to master your imagery with the right lighting tools is key, takes time, guidance and understanding, along with some helpful “cheat sheets” and handy guides.

To put this insight into context, check out next-level lighting tips for wedding and engagement photographers, honing the essential portrait lighting skills, expanding your repertoire with more creative techniques, perfecting how to photograph with only natural light (and, when you don’t have it, how to imitate natural light no matter where you are), and delving into artistic and cinematic lighting setups.

A Complete Guide to Color-Effect Gels in Portrait Photography

Master your imagery with the right lighting tools.
© Angela Marklew

There are two basic types of gels: color-correction gels and non-corrective, color-effect gels. But before you dive into using them, it’s helpful to understand the science behind color gels, theory behind the color wheel, color mixing, and the different looks you can create. Angela Marklew, a beauty, fashion and portrait photographer based in Venice, California—who is also a former chemist—breaks it all down for you here.

The Pros and Cons of TTL vs. Manual Flash

The right lighting tools include the pros and cons of TTL vs. Manual flash
© Justin Marantz

Much like auto exposure modes on cameras, TTL modes help automate some of the decision-making, freeing you to focus on composition or other camera settings. And like those same auto exposure modes, many professionals quickly evolve beyond needing, or wanting, to use them. If you’re just getting your feet wet with flash, here’s a quick cheat sheet to guide you.

Your Guide to 5 Illustrated Strobes and When to Use Them

Mastering Strobes and how to use them.

From the venerable speedlight to the petite strobe (a.k.a. monolight “lite”) to battery pack systems and more, your illustrative guide to why we love them, what type of photography they are great for, and the downsides of each are all compiled here.

10 Great Battery-Powered Strobes

Ten battery-powered strobes to master your lighting.

Here are ten great battery-powered strobes that can also connect to a power supply when the battery runs out. Pictured here, the Godox Wistro AD400 Pro, which supports TTL metering for Canon and Nikon, plus wireless triggering for Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm cameras. Discover more battery-powered strobes here.

19 Cool New On-Camera Lights and Modifiers for Event Photographers

Continuous light with creative effects.

If you want a continuous light with plenty of easy creative effects, Manfrotto’s petite Lumimuse is a good option. It has several snap-on filters to modify color temperature and diffusion of the eight LEDs. The Lumimuse can be dimmed in four steps and has a CRI of 92+. It is daylight-balanced and delivers 550 lux at 1 meter. You’ll get about an hour of life on a fully charged battery. Discover the 18 other on-camera lights and modifiers here.

A Handy Guide to Modifiers and What They’re Good For

beauty dishes, softboxes and more

This handy guide outlines everything from beauty dishes, softboxes, honeycomb grids and Cinefoil, reflectors, umbrellas, scrims, barn doors and snoots. Find out how to use them and what they are great for here.

Watch: How to Use Rim Lights in Portrait Photography

Rim light is a great way to separate your portrait subjects from the background.
© Andrew Boey

Using a rim light is a great way to separate your portrait subject from the background. In this tutorial, Andrew Boey of the Beyond Photography Academy not only provides a deep-dive into how to position them, but also how to calculate the proper flash output power based on where your lights are placed. Boey has created what he dubs the “Lighter’s Cheat Sheet”—a handy reference that helps you determine your exposure based on how close your subject is and what light modifier you’re using here.

Watch: Understanding Diffusion and Hard vs. Soft Light When Photographing Portraits

hard light versus soft light.
© Francisco Hernandez

Like many decisions you’re faced with as a photographer, the question of whether to use hard or soft light to illuminate portrait subjects has no simple answer. The best way to think about the problem is to weigh the relative merits of each type of light against the look you’re trying to achieve. Photographer Francisco Hernandez offers a helpful breakdown on the kinds of looks you can expect when switching between a harder light and a softer one in the video shown here.

Video Tutorial: How to Master the Beauty Dish

Beauty dishes.
© Joe Edelman

The beauty dish is a staple of portrait photography, helping photographers focus light to create dramatic images. If you’re new to using one or are looking for some pointers on how to make the most of a beauty dish you already own, this video from photographer Joe Edelman is definitely worth your time.