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From the author of Lighting Gear

Lighting Gear

Photography is all about manipulating light to suit our needs. But you don't have to spend big bucks to get the "latest and greatest" lighting equipment—a lot of inexpensive (and good quality) items will do the job just fine.

Reflectors

The simplest light modifier is a reflector, which bounces the available light back onto the subject. I use reflectors in the majority of my photography, especially when the sun is my main light. Reflectors also help in the studio, filling in light from a strobe or flash. You can use almost anything as a reflector: a standard professional reflector purchased at a camera store, a piece of white foam core board—even the side of a bright white building.

Flash Units

Another familiar type of light is the flash. (Speedlight is Nikon's brand name, but it's becoming almost a generic term for a flash unit.) Some cameras have built-in flashes, but you can also use sophisticated external flashes that provide more control and flexibility for your photographs. I know photographers who use these lights for the majority of their work. They're light, portable, and can be placed almost anywhere.

You can attach a flash unit to a modifier (such as a lightbox, diffuser, etc.) to control and soften the quality of the light. The overall great thing about flashes is that you can spend as much or as little as you like, depending on how "fancy" you need the light to be.

Studio Lights

Studio lights are really great for controlling light. What I like about them is that there are so many options for lights, soft boxes, and other modifiers. The choices are practically endless and their uses are very flexible, which is why I really enjoy using these types of lights in my studio. As with everything else I've discussed so far, you can spend a lot of money on this type of gear, but less-expensive options are also available. I've had good experiences with some of the lower-priced lights on the market, so I use them often with my photography.

Light Modifiers

When using an external light source, such as a flash or studio light, you'll often want to control or diffuse the light by using some type of modifier. Many types of modifiers are available, so here I'll just discuss a few of the most common.

Umbrellas are among the most portable types of light modifiers. With most umbrellas, you can point the light source into the umbrella and bounce the light back to your subject, or you can shoot the light source through the umbrella for a softer look.

Soft boxes are another very popular way to diffuse light, especially when shooting in a studio. When using a soft box you will typically get an even light with soft shadows.

Sometimes a photographer wants to control the direction and spread of a light in the scene. Three simple modifiers can be used to achieve this goal:

  • Snoot. Creates a small spotlight with your light source.
  • Barn door. A modifier with four doors you can move around to position the direction of the light.
  • Grid. A device you place in front of the light to control the amount of spread the light will have.
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