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Immersion Training: Strobist Lighting in Layers

UPDATE, AUGUST 2013: If you are a member at, you already have access to these lighting videos for online streaming. They are here.

Strobist has over two thousand articles and tutorials on off-camera lighting. But there is no substitute for actually watching someone produce and light a shoot. Lighting in Layers is a 6+1 DVD set that allows you to ride along on six different shoots — each different, each varying in complexity.

All shoots were done solely using small speedlights like the ones in your bag. You can see some of the photos from the shoots throughout this post.

This video series assumes just a little bit of basic familiarity with lighting. If you don't know what a sync cord is, or an umbrella, etc., you may want to take a look at the Strobist Lighting Seminar series, which is aimed at absolute beginners. But if you have any experience at all, or have read into Lighting 101, you are ready for this series.

Here's a one-minute teaser:


An Immersive Ride-Along

Lighting in Layers comprises six community-oriented location shoots. The kinds of shoots available to any photographer in the world. Each of these shoots in shown from a 360-degree approach — purpose, concept, planning, lighting, shooting and finally a lighting diagram with summary.

There is a lot more to making photos than just setting up a couple of lights and pressing the button. The goal is to focus on lighting while showing you the whole process as we go.

The first shoot, one of the photos from which is shown just below, is more instructional in nature. We'll talk through the basic concepts of light placement, balancing with the ambient, etc.

This is to bring any relative newcomers up to speed before heading out to straight location shoots.

For the remaining shoots, you are a fly on the wall as we work through the process. We let the content breathe, opting to leave in as much information as possible.

Generally, I am shooting through one eye, trying to keep rapport with the subject through the other and talking over my shoulder to you -- all at the same time. Sometimes it gets a little crazy, but it is a very efficient way to learn.

Lighting in Layers is not designed to merely show off lighting techniques. You'll learn them, but within the context of what it takes to bring a shoot together. Lighting is cool and important, but it is not the end-all. And it's important that you see that in practice.

Also — and this is very important — we left the mistakes in as they happened. As I am pressing he shutter, you'll see live, unedited images popping up onscreen. Just like when you shoot.

As a photographer, this makes me cringe. Psychologically, it's like inviting a few thousand people to rummage around in my medicine cabinet.

But making (and fixing) mistakes is when you are learning the most. So we leave them in, and work through the fixes together.

Our Format

The complete set features six full shoots, spanning nearly nine hours over 6 DVDs. The shoots are real-world, and an accurate cross section of my chosen focus of community-oriented photography.

The shoots are for local organizations — a dancer for the Howard County Arts Council, three young goalkeepers for a local soccer club and a blacksmith, (seen above) shot for the Howard County Conservancy.

Speaking of the Conservancy, we included a behind-the-scenes feature on the recent meet-up/group shoot 15 local photographers did for that organization. This is something I very much hope will replicate itself all around the world — it's immensely fun and rewarding.

There are also editorial shoots, all done for HoCo360, a local visual journal which I am nurturing into a standalone business for my next 20 years as a photographer. We photographed a local beekeeper for a piece on the various encroachments they face, and also spent an evening with an epic group of fencers tucked away in a local industrial park.

A 360-Degree Approach

The business of photography is in a state of flux, what with the decline of traditional print and the rise of zero-cost publishing online. I have spent more time thinking about my particular place in the new photo food chain than nearly anything else over the last few years.

The truth is, it is a very scary time to be a working photographer. But it is also a fantastic time, with low-cost digital technology available to both create and publish your photos.

So I have developed an approach to my shooting that draws on 20+ years' experience as a community photojournalist -- and another five as a caffeine-laced blogger. That separate discussion weaves throughout the whole series. And, as with the lighting, I try to be as open and honest about the business side as possible.

My primary goal is to try to be happy and fulfilled as a photographer, to create work that is of value to others and to do so in a way that is economically sustainable. Period.

Is my roadmap the exact same one you would use? Probably not. But the point is to open up new lines of thought in your own head when you're plotting your own photographic path.

So at the end, we try to tie it all together with a full, detailed look at my own business ecosystem. It aims to balance my desire to have a fulfilling life as a photographer with one of serving my community and still feeding my family.

Rather than thinking about money first, the goal is to optimize for a rewarding, productive and happy life as a photographer and then to work income into that process.

The set includes six full standard DVDs, encoded to Region 0 so they will play on your DVD player regardless of country. The "+1" in the "6+1 DVD set" mentioned above is a duplicate copy of video files of the entire series, pre-ripped and ready to drag onto your mobile device.

The .mp4-formatted files are optimized for compact file size (2.9GB, total) and available as segments to further conserve space on your mobile device. They will work with any iOS or Android device, or play on any computer with iTunes or the very good (and free) open source VLC Video Player.

So you can watch them on your commute, keep them with you on a shoot, or whatever.

If you do not need physical media (DVDs, box, etc.) you can get the portable files as an instant download for $99.95 and save more than a third off the $159.95 DVD set price.

After-The-Fact Support

Questions? I am here to help. You can reach me at any time with LIL-related questions via Twitter at @Strobist. Hit me up.

How to Get Them

The Lighting in Layers 6+1 DVD set is USD $159.95 in hard copy (boxed DVD) set, or USD $99.95 instant download.

If you are from the Americas or Europe, hard copy DVD sets are available from Midwest Photo in the US. For those in Asia, Australia and Africa, get them from Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. We have worked deals with both vendors for low- or no-cost shipping, too.

Have a good 'net connection and want them right now? If you don't need physical media, the downloadable version is available separately through Fastspring for USD $99.95.

Content-wise it is the same drag-and-drop (iPhone/iPad/iPod, laptop, Android, etc.) file-set that is included as a bonus on the $159.95 hard copy version. They are 640x480 .mp4 files, encoded via h.264 for maximum compatibility and file-size economy (2.9Gb total) for portable media players.

Please note there are no subtitles on the hard copy version. The downloadable version allows you two choices: No subtitles or a (hard-coded) English subtitled version. For those who use English as a second language, subtitles may be a better choice. But they are always present.

If you do not need subtitles, choose the no-subtitles version.

Finally, thanks for your support of the site with your purchase. We put a lot of time money and effort into Lighting in Layers and it has already helped a lot of photographers. We are confident it will help you, too.


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