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Learn How to Light.

  • Strobist Lighting Cookbook

    NOTE: Links to individual lessons are below.

    Latest post: Use a Tight Grid to Create Color


    The Strobist lighting Cookbook is an ever-growing practical manual for how to use your flashes. For SLC, we will assume you have read Lighting 101 through Lighting 103. (If not, start here.)

    Unlike On Assignment, which was haphazard and chronological, the SLC will build out to be an organized resource. You'll be able to find a solution set for yourself if, for example, you just own one light.

    The examples will be mostly speedlight-based, and grouped by the equipment it takes to make them. This way you can learn what you can do with your present gear, and/or make a more informed decision as to whether to add another light to your bag.

    The categories for the Strobist Lighting Cookbook are:

    No Lights (0L)

    Having a better understanding of ambient light will make you a better lighting photographer. Ideally, you want to get to a point where ambient and strobe are seen as virtually interchangeable. If you don't own any lights, 0L is for you.

    0L-01: Flash or Continuous, Light is Light
    0L-02: Shiny Object, iPhone and the Sun

    One Light (1L)

    Combined with a good grasp on ambient light (and how to balance it) even just one light gives you some cool options. But you have to work within some creative restrictions. Shooting with one light is usually compromise between what you'd like to do, and what you're equipped to do.

    1L-01: One Light Outdoors—Find Shade
    1L-02: One Light, Inside the Frame
    1L-03: Use The Edge of Your Box for Better Light
    1L-04: Useful Hack for Manual Flash at Sunset

    Two or More Lights (2L)

    Adding a second light is the sweet spot for most photographers. A second light lets you add separation, either on your subject or on your background. Or it can let you control the shadows created by your first light. And if you want to add a third light (or more) we'll explore that here, too.

    2L-01: Owning The Sun With Two Speedlights
    2L-02: Two-Speedlight Daylight Group Shot
    2L-03: Use Your Second Light to Hide Your First Light
    2L-04: Use a Tight Grid to Create Color

    Odds and Ends (OE)

    If it doesn't fit well anywhere above, it goes here: DIY, cool hacks, connective tissue for the gaps above, and the like.

    OE-01: $20 DIY Portable Doorway Diffuser
    OE-02: Off-Label Compact Lighting Bag, for $23 Shipped
    OE-03: How to Choose a Softbox for your Speedlights
    OE-04: Cheap, Portable Outdoor Light Source


    How to Follow Along

    The Strobist Lighting Cookbook will grow in size and usefulness as new posts drop in. There is, however, no set schedule. If you are on the mail list, you'll get a heads-up anytime a new idea or technique is published. Or you can also keep tabs on new SLC posts via Instagram.

    As for scope, the Lighting Cookbook is totally open-ended. We'll see where it goes when we get there.

  • SLC-2L-04: Use a Tight Grid to Create Color

    Normally, you might think of a grid spot for what it creates: a tight zone of light. But it also can be helpful to think of it in terms of the inverse: a grid also prohibits light from reaching everywhere else.

    And the "everywhere else" part—that relative blackness you can create with a gridded key—is what can help you to amp the color palette in even a small room with light-toned walls.

    Read more »

  • SCL-OE-04: Cheap, Portable Outdoor Light Source

    No matter how long you have been doing something, be it lighting or photography or, well, anything, you're never too old to be dumbstruck by a cool new idea.

    Take the linens drying on the line above, for example. In the right frame of mind they are essentially super-portable outdoor light sources.

    Read more »

  • SLC-OE-03: How to Choose a Softbox for your Speedlights

    Umbrellas are a great first light mod: cheap, easy to use, easy to transport. But softboxes can give you more control, both in the beam's edge and with reduced light leakage. The photo above was shot with a single speedlight and a small softbox.

    Today we'll look at how to choose a softbox that will marry well with your speedlight, and do so without spending a lot of money.

    Read more »

  • Now Open: X-Pedition Havana

    UPDATE: X-Pedition Havana 2019 has filled.

    We are announcing our second X-Pedition photo workshop, in Havana, Cuba for January 11-18, 2019.

    A joint project of and Washington, D.C.-based Focus On The Story, X-Peditions are a shooting-intensive week centered at the intersection of journalistic photography and off-the-beaten-path travel.

    You can learn full details about the January Havana workshop, here.

    This trip will fill quickly. If you would like to learn more about X-Peditions in general, and/or to add your name to the advance notice list, you can do so here.


  • SLC 2L-03: Use Your Second Light to Hide Your First Light

    As promised in the last sunset lighting tip, a second quick hack for dusk/lit portraiture. This one involves helping your camera's chip see a contrasty scene more like the way our eye sees it. Read more »

  • SLC-OE-02: The Best Compact Lighting Bag Is Not a Photography Bag

    Call me crazy, but I love the idea of finding a great piece of photo gear by going off-label. In this case, a lighting bag that is not technically a lighting bag.

    It's perfectly sized, comes in a ridiculous array of colors and is $22.99 shipped. Read more »

  • Our Next Two Strobist X-Peditions:Havana, Cuba and Hanoi, Vietnam

    We are back from our inaugural Strobist X-Pedition, which was held last month in Havana, Cuba. The attendees are readjusting to life back on the grid, and busy editing photos and trading stories via email.

    Havana X-Pedition, January 2018

    Photo by Jeremy Lasky

    Our week in Havana was filled with photography, new friends, eye-opening experiences and perhaps even a spot of Cuban rum. Now that we are back, I wanted to send a quick note out to Strobist's readership both to show off some of the student work and give you a heads-up about plans for next year's X-Peditions.

    Photo by Martin Stephens

    Photo by Michael Grigoriev

    Photo by Bob Plotkin

    Upcoming X-Peditions

    If you would like to learn more about our planned X-Peditions for next year, you can read all about them here. We are planning to return to Havana in the winter. (If you are on the list, you'll be notified of that trip shortly.) And then we're off to Hanoi the following fall.

    The info page linked just above is also where to sign up to ensure you'll get advance notice about next year's trips. As with 2018's Havana X-Pedition, these will certainly sell out. There are only 12 slots available for each of the two trips. And because of the advance interest sign-up sheet, they may not be publicly announced.

    I hope to see you next year, someplace really interesting.


  • SLC-1L-04: A Hack for Manual Flash at Sunset

    Manual flash is great for its consistency and repeatability throughout a shoot. But working in a fluctuating ambient environment, such as against a fast-waning sunset, can get hairy.

    So here's a neat little trick to easily control the exposure level of both your subject and background in a fluid environment without your eye ever leaving the viewfinder. Read more »

  • SLC-0L-02: Shiny Object, Using an iPhone and the Sun

    Whether photographing people or objects, how you approach your lighting is far more important than what camera and lighting gear you use.

    To illustrate, today we are going to photograph a complex, mirrored surface—an alto saxophone—using just an iPhone for our camera and the sun as our light source. Read more »