Lighting 103 Starts in January

Are you busy in 2017? If not (or even if so!) we invite you to join Strobist's upcoming Lighting 103 course live, when it arrives in January.

As with Lighting 101 and 102, L103 is completely free. There are some minimum gear requirements (sorry, I can't afford to give each of you gel packs.) But as with L101 and 102, there is nothing crazy expensive.

The first section of the course will debut in mid-January, and new lessons will post bi-weekly after that. Expect the course to last for most (if not all) of the 2017, as there are already a couple dozen lessons planned.

Are you in? Cool beans. Here's what you need to know.

Lighting 103 Is About Color

Our flashes spit out clean, white light. But that white light exists almost nowhere else. (The sun, at noon, in Washington DC in December. That's where they got the standard.)

The rest of our world is a mashup of many different colors of light. That variety of color connotes many things, including environment, time of day, mood, etc. So ignoring that full palette by using a bare flash makes your lit photos look sterile, clean and, well, lit. With Lighting 103, you'll learn to see and recreate light that is much more nuanced and natural looking.

In L102 we learned to balance multiple lights against each other. But we essentially were working with a one-color palette. (Okay, I did warm up my key...) With color, we get an entrely new axis of nuance and realism to work with. And once you see it, it's hard to go back.

Before You Start

At a minimum, I am assuming you are working with two flashes. We'll be blending colors in highlight and shadows, so you really won't be able to get through it with just a single speedlight.

A basic, value two-light kit will suffice. But FYI, we'll also be stretching into more lights in some examples. You can get good advice on a two-light—or perhaps add-a-light to your current bag—here, in Lighting 102.

Speaking of that, it stands to reason that you should also be familiar with the concepts in Lighting 101 and 102 before starting Lighting 103. So if you need to catch up (or brush up) you should start here.

You're Gonna Need Some Gels

I am including this info well before class starts in order to give people time to source their gels. If you do not have a local theatre supply store (a great place to start) you'll need to order them from afar. And gel kits are sometimes thinly stocked.

Far better to get in the queue now, than try to order them in January when I suspect they will truly be in short supply.

Rather than buying 20x24" single gel sheets, you'll get a lot more practical useability at first out of smalls-sized packets of the most useful gels. You can graduate to larger sheets later if necessary. Rosco (the leading gel manufacturer in the US) makes three kits that will prove very useful. They are all between $20 and $25.

The links below are US-based. Hopefully, the advance notice will give those of you in other countries time to hunt down local sources. (But Midwest Photo will ship overseas if needed.)

The first kit I recommend is the Rosco Strobist Collection v2 Flash Pack. And no, before you ask, I don't get a cut. I actually worked with Rosco to choose the best variety of gels for most lighting photographers for this kit. So they named it after the site—with permission, yo.

The speedlight-sized kit has all the most useful gels, in multiple copies, in a little box case with thick rubber bands for mounting. Whichever way you go, I strongly recommend you choose this as your first kit.

The choice of additional kits depends on what you are most likely to be shooting. For those who photograph people, consider the Rosco Beauty Flash Pack (seen above in speedlight size) as a second gel kit. For those of us who shoot people, the first thing we often learn is to warm our key light. And that often means choosing a more generic warming gel, such as a Rosco 08 or 1/4 CTO (both included in the Strobist gel pack) to accomplish that.

The R08 and 1/4 CTO are fine (and distinctly different.) But the Rosco Beauty Kit includes a lovely selection of subtly different hues designed for warming a key light. Generally, this involves a varying amount of red and/or amber intensity, to allow you to choose a subtly altered key that brings out the best in your given subject's skin. Think of it as Photoshop that works in 3D...

A third option I will recommend is Rosco's CalColor® Flash Pack. Fun fact: this gel kit is actually patented. The CalColor® kit is a system—primary and secondary colors, calibrated to different strengths.

With it, you can create damn-near any color you want. Or explore colors that go beyond your typical CTOs and CTBs. (I'm presently indulging my cyan phase...)

Or say, for instance, that you CTB your fill light. Maybe to get some coolness and hue separation all up in them shadows. Why? Because shadows are cool man. And not just Big Lebowski cool, but cool in the Kelvin color temperature sense.

A discerning, sophisticated photographer might, for example, take a close look at those blue shadows and see that the interaction from the CTB and caucasian skin yielded too much magenta. And by adding some green to that CTB'd fill light, you could easily remove it.

How much green to add? That's your choice. And it's all good, because in the CalColor® kit you have four different strengths of green to try out.

You get the idea.

L103's Companion Text

And who, pray tell, would have a) the color chops to notice there was too much magenta in the shadows and b) the presence of mind to fix it by greening his fill a little?

That'd be Greg Heisler. Seriously, that's something he learned a while back by just being observant about color. Greg may be the most naturally observant photographer on the planet when it comes to color and light. And you'll be happy to know he'll be dropping in on Lighting 103 to share some tips.

To that end, I would strongly suggest that you pick up his book, 50 Portraits. Not only is it a fantastic book with many layers of information that will help any photographer's portraiture, we'll also be sending you there for parallel reading suggestions throughout Lighting 103.

Most long-time readers of this site probably already own this book. If you do not have it, let me put it this way: for a people shooter, it's probably the best $28 you'll ever spend. The pictures are amazing. The text is better.

Not only will Greg be an occasional voice throughout L103, but we'll also be getting some diversity of experience from theatre: Photographer/lighting designer Lucas Krech will be dropping in for a little bit of different perspective.

Other Stuff to Know

That's a quick overview of the upcoming Lighting 103. And if you want to follow live, you should defintely be signed up for email updates. (They are infrequent, and I do not sell or spam.)

Since Strobist changed in 2014 from a 2x/weekly blog to a more knowledge-base footing, many new additions and updates are not mentioned on the front page. Some new L103 posts will be announced on the front page, but not all of them. Email subscribers will receive links to the new lessons as they drop. Casual readers will be more likely to come across them later, after the fact.

And that's it. Looking forward to January! If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter.


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