Lighting 101

(Photo by Strobist reader Sam Simon)

Welcome to Lighting 101.

You may not realize it yet, but you have just stepped through a door that may change your photography forever. Over the past 10 years, over four million people from nearly every country in the world have begun their lighting education right here. If they can do it, you can do it.

Photography is literally writing with light. As you read through Lighting 101 you'll learn how to tale control of your electronic flash. If you can imagine it, you'll be able to create it.

You'll learn how to take the removable flash that you probably already have on the top of your camera and use it off-camera to make beautiful, more three-dimensional photos. Once you learn the basics of controlling light, you'll quickly see that most lighting is intuitive, easy and fun.

This Isn't Even Expensive

Lighting 101 and 102, widely considered to be the best lighting courses in the world, are absolutely free. The upcoming Lighting 103 course (starting in early 2017) will also be free.

The goal, in keeping the educational material free, is to allow you to instead spend your money on the small amount of gear you'll need to get your flash off-camera.

And the gear itself is also refreshingly inexpensive. We can help you build a well-chosen and solid lighting kit for under $150. That kit will turn your camera and flash combo into a wireless mobile studio. And then you'll be on your way to creating light like in the photos on this page.

If money is tight, you can even make light modifiers yourself for next to nothing. For example, take a close look at the photo on the top of this page. It was lit with a homemade light box. Strobist reader Sam Simon, who not very long ago was just as new at this as you are now, used a flash, a shoe box and some paper to create the light for that portrait.

How cool is that?

It's the location and the quality of the light that is most important, not how much you spent. By getting your flash off-camera, your images become more three-dimensional, more textural and more professional looking.

All of the photos on this page were made by Strobist readers working with small flashes. Not so long ago, those people were exactly where you are now.

(Photo by Strobist reader Ken Brown)

The difference between their photos and yours is that they now how to use their flash off camera. They know how to synchronize it with their shutter, position it, modify the quality of the light and tweak the balance of exposure between their flashes and available light.

Which is exactly what we'll be learning in Lighting 101. That may sound difficult, but I promise you it isn't.

Okay, Let's Get Started

(Photo by Strobist reader Benny Smith)

There is no reason to be anxious. Learning how to light is incremental, creative and fun. There is almost no math involved, nor any difficult technical know-how. In fact, good lighting is less like math and more like cooking.

It's just like when you taste the soup and it needs more salt. So you add some salt. You'll see what I mean when we learn to balance a flash with the existing, (or "ambient") light.

But before we get to that, let's educate you a bit on the gear you'll need. First, we'll make sure your flash is appropriate. Don't worry, it almost certainly is. And if it is not (or if you do not yet have a flash) we will point you to a good recommendation.

Then, we'll walk you through the inexpensive kit you'll need to turn it into a mobile mini studio. Don't worry if you don't know anything about that yet. We are assuming exactly that and will help you make good choices.

After that, we'll be off and running.

NEXT: Understanding Your Flash


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