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Strobist
Learn How to Light.

  • Strobist Lighting Cookbook


    NOTE: Links to individual lessons are below.


    The Strobist lighting Cookbook is a practical manual for how to use your flashes. It's where lighting theory meets real world situations — and solutions. In this module, 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 as follows:


    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.

    POSTS:

    (coming soon)


    One Light (1L)

    Combined with a good grasp on ambient light — and how to balance it — 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.

    POSTS:

    1L-01: One Light Outdoors—Find Shade


    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.

    POSTS:

    2L-01: Owning The Sun With Two Speedlights
    2L-02: Two-Speedlight Daylight Group Shot


    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.

    POSTS:

    (coming soon)


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    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-02: Two-Speedlight Daylight Group Shot


    Using speedlights without softening modifiers greatly expands your outdoor working range. And it does so enough that you can easily light a large group photo with a small, portable gear pack.

    Today, we'll walk through how to do that, along with a few tips to tweak and improve your results.Read more »

  • SLC-2L-01: Owning the Sun with Two Speedlights


    When working with one speedlight outdoors in daylight, logic dictates that you need to find the shade if you want to create a nice quality of light.

    This is because you only have one light, which a) needs to do all of the heavy lifting, and b) is not very powerful. Which means that you tend to go soft—and close—with your one light.

    So one light can be limiting. But as you'll see, a second light can open up some pretty neat options. Read more »

  • X-Pedition: Cuba
    UPDATE: The January 2017 Havana class has sold out. You can sign up to receive early notification of future workshops, here. -DH



    This January I'm leading a small-group trip to Havana, Cuba. It will be the first in a series of X-Peditions for photographers.

    The last time I was in Havana was 2013, teaching for Santa Fe Workshops. But that was someone else's curriculum. This time the program is ours to design, and we are planning a week of exploring, learning and lots of time behind the camera.
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    An Immersive Week



    This is not the typical photo tour group, which invariably ends up as some version of a photo walk with everyone getting versions of the same pictures. I'm partnering with Focus On The Story, a D.C.-based organization for photographers. The trip leaders are myself and fellow journalist Joe Newman, whom I've known for over 30 years.

    X-Peditions have a maximum of 12 participants, and are very photo-centric. They include daily instruction, location shoots, and plenty of time to explore on your own or with a teammate.

    Our goal with X-Peditions is to help you learn to travel closer to ground level, to travel more lightly, and to learn to see more more efficiently (and effectively) as photographers. We also hope to help you build the knowledge and experience to confidently choose more interesting destinations for your future travels.

    And while we believe this approach is a better way to travel, it also allows us to keep our X-Peditions prices more affordable.


    Photography and Learning

    Please note that this is not a lighting class. Cuba does not allow the import of radio transmitters. In fact, I'm not even bringing a flash. That said, light itself will be a large part of our daily discussions.

    We'll be out shooting at the edges of the day when the light is good, and at other times as dictated by the locations we have lined up. But during the harsh light of midday, we'll typically be in instructional mode. There will be daily talks that not only help prepare you for the day's experiences, but build on your general knowledge around the intersection of photography and travel.

    You'll learn how to prioritize your day to become more efficient at producing higher quality photos. This will help you reserve the time to just be a traveler; to absorb the city and watch the world go by. That downtime is important for you (and for your family, when you travel with them.) It also makes you more receptive to the insights that lead to better photos.

    We are traveling to Havana under a people-to-people license, which means you'll get interaction with locals throughout the week. We'll work both individually and as a group. We'll be editing, comparing notes, evaluating what we can do better and preparing to go out and do it again.

    In the evenings we'll continue the conversation and share our day's experiences, perhaps over a mojito or a glass of Cuba's famous dark rum. This sort of thing is typical when photojournalists are working together (or competing) in a foreign city.


    The X-Factor



    The "X" in X-Pedition is a nod to Fuji's X series cameras. Small, light, quiet and unobtrusive, Fuji X series bodies are near-perfect tools for photojournalists. And they are ideal travel cameras. I took a leap of faith on my first trip to Havana, bringing only a Fuji X100s with its fixed 35mm equivalent lens. In retrospect, it was a great decision. And it has changed the way I approach travel photography ever since.

    So if you are also a Fuji shooter, you can expect specific tips and advice on how to get the most out of your cameras. Or to even borrow a lens if you like.

    Non-Fuji shooters are of course still welcome. And don't worry, we promise not to try to convert you. But we do strongly suggest that you travel very light with respect to photo gear. It's good travel photo advice in general, but also culturally respectful in a place like Cuba where the economic disparity is a factor to consider.


    The Bigger Picture

    Havana is a unique opportunity for photographers. It goes without saying that it is not going to stay unique for very long. The island is experiencing rapid change.

    Our goal with this trip, and with future X-Peditions, is to help you grow as both travelers and photographers; to gain the skills and confidence to choose future destinations that are off the beaten path.

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    The Havana trip for January 2017 has sold out. You can sign up to receive early notification of future X-Pedition or Travel/Light workshops on our workshops page. -DH

  • SLC-1L-01: One Speedlight Outdoors — Find Shade


    There is an inherent tradeoff when using small speedlights outdoors in daylight. They are light, and convenient and cheap. But they don't have a ton of power.

    And the aggravating factor is the relationship between a small flash and a bright environment. Which is, in turn, governed by our sync speed. And by this I mean our natural speed limit for flash, absent power-robbing gimmicks like high-speed sync (HSS).

    At a sync speed of 1/250th of a second, even at a low ISO, you are probably going to be at f/16 in full sun. That's a small aperture, which means your flash will be working hard to create a full exposure.

    Because of that, working in full sun with speedlights usually means we lack the power that we need. Certainly, we don't have enough power to push the flash's light through a softening modifier to look nice.

    The solution: Get more power... or find some shade. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Takeaways
    Abstract: Some parting thoughts as we wrap up Lighting 103.



    Hopefully, you have enjoyed our discussion of color and light in Lighting 103 v1.0—or at least found it useful as you explore your own lighting.

    Coming next will be a whole new section: The Strobist Lighting Cookbook. (More info here.)

    But for now, here are some takeaways as we wrap up our module on color. Read more »

  • First Look: Phottix Juno


    A value-priced, all-manual flash with a built-in radio and a real warranty? Yeah, I'm interested.

    Today, a first look at the new Phottix Juno. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Becoming More Intuitive with Color
    Abstract: Even an on-camera flash grab shot can be elevated by an intuitive understanding of light and color.



    As your understanding of light and color grows, how does it affect your daily shooting? Like most things that seem complex at first, color pretty quickly becomes a secondary thought process, just like tying your shoes.

    I just had the above archive photo picked up by a nonprofit, to promote children's books. Looking at it, I'm reminded that creating a natural looking color need not be complicated at all.

    This was a little more than a snapshot, done with on-camera flash, and no gels. And the thought process behind the light is a good example of how you'll start to see and control color, even if you're just grabbing a snapshot. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Using Gels to Shift the Ambient
    Abstract: By combining a white balance shift in your camera with a complementary gelling of your flash, you can easily and efficiently alter the ambient color temperature of an entire environment.



    In addition to controlling the color of light from your flash, gels can also allow you to alter the color of the ambient areas of your frame. The portrait above, done for the Baltimore Sun, is a good example. I made it as a storm approached, and the light was gray and pretty neutral.

    The light was okay, but not great. I really wanted was a stronger color environment for the photo. And I also wanted the subject to pop more. So instead of daylight white balance, I shot it on incandescent (tungsten) white balance. This shifted the expected light source from 5600k to 3200k. In essence, the camera was expecting to shoot under tungsten lights. Read more »

  • Upcoming Strobist Events: Buenos Aires, Dublin and Havana
    Just a quick heads-up on upcoming Strobist events. If you are local to Buenos Aires or Dublin—or have ever wanted to spend a photo-centric week in Havana—check out the details below.


    Buenos Aires, Argentina: November 17-19



    I'll be doing a seminar and two workshops in Buenos Aires in November. In the half-day seminar on the 17th, we'll move beyond F/stops and shutter speeds and take a step back to look at photography from a broader perspective. How can you approach your photography in a way that also incorporates your other skills and expertises? How can you turn this approach into sustainable business models and ecosystems?

    Whether your goal is to make money or just to become more aware of and focused on who you are as a photographer, this talk is designed to prompt deeper thought. And because of the Contrastes Magazine's sponsorship, the talk is *free*. Well, at least for subscribers of the magazine. (Which means that if you are not yet a subscriber, the half-day seminar will only set you back the cost of a magazine subscription.)

    On the 18th and 19th, I'll be teaching small-class workshops on lighting. These are shooting workshops, and are appropriate for anyone who wants to learn (or learn more) about small-flash lighting. Because of the sponsorshop, they are also economically priced.

    More details are here: Buenos Aires Workshops


    Dublin, December 3-5



    I'll be both speaking and teaching for the Irish Professional Photographers Association in Dublin in December. More important: Italian photographer Sara Lando will also be teaching here during this time.

    Sara and I will both be speaking on Sunday the 3rd. Sara will talk in the morning about the thousand things you wouldn't think about that go into a successful conceptual portrait session. I'll be talking in the afternoon about how to incorporate your photographic expertise into a wide range of external possibilities—and how to build digital and economic ecosystems around that.

    On Monday and Tuesday the 4th and 5th, I'll be running a two-day, small-flash speedlight bootcamp. This is a small class, and we'll be shooting the whole time. But between us, where you really want to be is in either or both of Sara's two classes. Her unique approach to creative portraiture will cause you to completely re-examine your own approach. Honestly, the less creative you feel you are, the more you can benefit from spending a couple of days with her.

    More details here, with early bird prices in effect until October 31: Dublin Workshops


    X-Pedition Havana, January 12-19



    Our inaugual Strobist X-Pedition is set for Havana, Cuba, from January 12-19. This is not a photo junket. This is an intensive week in perhaps the most photographically (and culturally, economically, etc.) interesting city in the western hemisphere.

    The US government makes it a total pain in the butt to get to Cuba, and it is becoming far more so under the tightening restrictions. But having been there, I can tell you it is well worth the trouble. Go while you still can.

    Our week is designed around learning and photography in a tight, small-group environment. When the light is crap, we'll be indoors learning how to think and see more like a photojournalist. When the light is right, we'll be out shooting. We have several location shoots lined up, and you'll get plenty of time to explore on your own as well. Throughout the week, we'll also be learning to bridge the perception-reality gap for lesser-traveled destinations.

    Our goal by the end of the week is threefold: to make you a more observant and focused traveling photographer, to learn to shoot efficiently while retaining time for yourself and/or family while on the road, and to have the knowledge and experience to grab your camera and confidently head to nearly any place in the world.

    This trip is nearly full. As of this writing, we have only one spot left in our Havana X-Pedition.

    More details: X-Pedition Havana
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    I'm stoked about each of these, and very much hope to see you there.

    -DH