UPDATE, JUNE 2024: Strobist was archived in 2021. Here is what I am up to now. -DH


Starting June 4th: Lighting 102

NOTE: Lighting 102 has begun. The first post is here.

I have always thought that summertime was a great excuse to try new things.

Last summer, we ran a little experiment called Lighting Boot Camp, in which we assumed the identity of a fictitious photographer, Phil Phlashem, as he worked his way into freelance magazine photography by shooting a string of group assignments.

We started with a simple headshot and ended up shooting an artist-specific CD cover package.

When we began Lighting Boot Camp, this site was only about 60 days old. It had a few hundred regular readers and a small body of archive information. Still, over the course of the summer, we ended up with hundreds of photographers from around the world completing shared assignments together. More important, they were learning from the photos created by their fellow shooters.

Now, Strobist has over a hundred thousand regular readers and a large body - over 500 articles - of lighting-related articles. So, we're going to try another session.

Like many things I do, the original Lighting Boot Camp was totally made up as we went along a loosely structured journey through some of the various genres of assignment photography. As a group, we now have the critical mass to do something more lasting and comprehensive. Many of you are already doing some amazing things with light, as evidenced by the rotating faves gallery. Quite honestly, the work I put up on this site pales in comparison to what some of you are posting on Flickr.

Rather than be depressed about that, I see it as the best possible outcome. My goal here is not to teach lighting, so much as to create an environment that elevates the craft of photographic lighting on a mass scale. I prime the pump, you experiment and share your results, and we are all the better for it.

The goal of the Lighting 102 series is to make this process both more efficient and more inclusive. We'll also archive our results as we go, so anyone can start up at any time and get up to speed.

On June 4th, just over one month from now, we will be starting from scratch, so anyone can participate. There is no fee for the program, and you are certainly free to come and go as you please. I am giving some advance notice so people will have time to set up a Flickr account with the required waiting period so they can post photos to a group for the first assignment. (Like Lighting 102, Flickr basic accounts are free.)

Also, some of you may need some time to read up, or gear up, or both. But more on that in a minute.

What to Expect

Here's what I hope you will get out of Lighting 102:

• An organic and comprehensive way of understanding and controlling light.

• An enhanced creative process, by comparing your results with those of photographers from all around the world.

• The knowledge that good lighting need not be expensive.

We will be starting in the table-top subject mode, so you will not have to be cajoling roommates, friends or significant others into posing for you. Not to say that the techniques will not be appropriate to use on people - they will. But I realize that many of you might be doing these shoots at 11:00pm in the living room after the kids have gone to sleep. Heck, that's when I will be writing about them.

There will be plenty of discussion, both here and on the Flickr threads, about the various topics we will be covering. We'll be learning new techniques, talking about them and applying them in regular group assignments.

I want to make this as interactive as possible. I also want to get full value out of the wide range of perspectives, experience and ability of the readers of this site. This will allow us to do things that no physical classroom environment could accomplish.

We will be starting off at a basic level, but I hope the more advanced among you will not be put off by that. Over the last few months I have been developing what I think is a novel approach to understanding lighting and I want to use that as a foundation. Which means stating from scratch.

Between Now and June 4th:

First, if you have not done so, sign up for Flickr ASAP. That is where we will be posting photos from the assignments. And you really do want to participate, as comparing your results to those of many, many other photogs from around the world will show you the lateral range of creativity that can spring from a given assignment. Far and away, this will be the most valuable aspect of the process.

The free account will be just fine. Although at $25/year, the "Pro" account is a very good deal for what it offers. But as you know, I am not about unnecessary money spending. So let your wallet be your guide.

Either way, you want to do this first so you will have time for the required waiting period before posting to groups. So sign up and post a dozen or so photos and get comfy with the process of posting and tagging your pix.

Next, you will want to join the Flickr Strobist Group. It's free, and worth every penny. This is where the Q&A, discussion and picture posting will happen. There are already over 3,000 discussion threads there, most of which are about off-camera flash. Good stuff.

As for prerequisites, you should read your way through this site's Lighting 101 section if you haven't already. This will give you some good, basic background in off-camera lighting gear and technique. It will make a big difference in how much you get out of Lighting 102.

There is no required text, but I highly recommend Light - Science and Magic, 3rd. Edition. IMO, this is the best lighting book ever written, and I will be referencing it for Lighting 102.

(Much of the content in the 3rd edition is in previous editions, so if you have an earlier version you'll probably be fine. The photos and page numbers will be different, tho.)

This book has more raw lighting know-how (with less ego) than any other lighting book I have ever seen. We will not just be tracking the book, by any means. But it is a great reference and companion, and I highly recommend it. You can find a full review here.

As for lighting gear, We will be starting off in one-flash mode. But later on, there will definitely be opportunities to use a second flash if you are so-equipped.

I brought Moishe in on the planning early on, and he has gone to the trouble of putting together complete lighting kits. He has stocked a bunch of them. But as a cautionary note, I honestly have no idea what kind of demand this course will generate. So it will be first-come, first-served.

As an aside, Moishe has put a lot of work into researching, sourcing and stocking the gear that is appropriate for both the kind of lighting we'll be doing and our limited budgets. That's a tremendous help for a project like this, and I thank him for his effort on our behalf. Really, folks, collecting this gear from the motley crew of far-flung manufacturers is a job and a half. The one current bottleneck is silver umbrellas, which is has in decent stock numbers now, with another shipment expected May 8th. He will advise of the current status on the kits page.

And the Pocket Wizards sale is still on, last I heard.

If there are holes in your gear situation, this is an ideal time to patch them. And if you want to gear up for June, the early birds will get the worms.

One Small Request

The lighting info is cool and all. But the hidden gem in this series will be seeing the results of all of the other photographers. I can show you theory and technique. But combining that with the huge amount of talent and creativity contained by the readers of this site is what could make this a fantastic experience.

It's one thing to learn a new technique or approach. But to see the results of a thousand other photogs applying what you just learned will instantly show you the near infinite possibilities afforded by every photographic situation. Anyone can learn a technique. Our limiting factor is always creativity and ideas. That will be supplied by your classmates. And I can assure you that there is no one reading this that is looking forward to seeing all of the results that I am.

I think we will get a boatload of participants. But the more, the merrier. The value of this experience will be determined by how many people participate.

To that end, I am asking you to use this advance time to spread the word a little.

If you have a blog, (or a major TV network...) that's obviously a great way. But you can also let others know via message boards or forums, PJ school classmates, your camera club, Digg, whatever. Every little bit helps.

If you need a "permalink" to this post, you can get it here.

And I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to this project. Hope to see you there.

(Cool megaphone shot by TheParadigmShifter.)


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
My current project: The Traveling Photograher's Manifesto