Lighting for texture is a very important part of what we do.

Understanding Reciprocals: A Basic Tenant of Exposure

Understanding Reciprocals: A Basic Tenant of Exposure

Lighting Basics, Class Three

I am often asked what do I decide first when making a photograph. The answer is easy… aperture. Aperture changes the way my photographs work more than any other thing. It is important to note that I am not an ‘action’ shooter or sports shooter, for whom shutter speed may be the most important decision you need to make. Shooting action means knowing what shutter speed is needed to make it as sharp as you want it to be.

My work is not shutter speed centric, if that is a term that we can agree on. Aperture controls depth of field, and that is the first thing I look at when deciding what kind of photograph I am going to make, or what kind of look the photograph will have in relationship to the focus of subject / background.

We know that at f-16 things are more in focus in the background than if we shoot the same shot at a ‘wider’ aperture like f-4. Additional situations that can create or diminish the DOF blur is the distance of the subject from the background and how close the subject is to the lens.

Add to that, what the lens is… wide/normal/telephoto and we see there are lots of things to think about along with the aperture itself. The shot below was shot on an 80-200MM f2.8L lens and it is zoomed to 200MM. I shot this image at f2.8 so that I could maximize the blur behind her, and distinctly show her face in detail. As you can see, the DOF is so shallow that the back of her head is falling out of focus. Exactly what I wanted, so aperture first was the most important decision. The background was a house and bushes probably 30 feet behind her. 7

The same lens was used in the studio before, but I wanted all of the subject in focus. Front of the nose to the back of the hair. The crispness was what I was seeking. I chose f-11 for this shot so that the DOF would be deep enough with the lens being as long as it was and as close as it was.


The image below was taken in Florida and the first thing I determined was that with my 200MM lens at f2.8, I would not be able to get all of her face in focus. Knowing that the background was simply sky and clouds as far behind her as possible, I could grab a little more depth of field and still have the feeling of a very shallow photograph. I chose f-5 for this shot and kept both of her eyes in focus as well as most of her hair. The background seems to be as blurred as the background in the first shot because it is so far behind her.


We know that lens length can affect DOF as well. Below is a photograph taken in Bermuda. I used my 20-35MM f2.8 L Canon for the shot, and I was set at f-4. Look at how much more the background is in focus behind her. At this distance, the wide angle lens has much more DOF than a telephoto making the same image. (Part of your assignment for next time.)


A wide angle lens used at maximum aperture (f22) was able to keep the subject in the foreground AND the windmill in the background in very sharp focus. This shot, taken in a Minnesota corn field, was done with the 20-35MM zoom at 20MM. The resulting image has full depth of field.


In order to do this in a reasonable amount of deliberation, it is important to understand our reciprocals… the relationship of shutter speed to aperture to ISO needed for exposure.

ISO 100

f-2.0 @ 1/4000
f-2.8 @ 1/2000
f-4 @ 1/1000
f-5.6 @ 1/500
F-8 @ 1/250
f-11 @ 1/125
f-16 @ 1/60
f-22 @ 1/30

As the aperture becomes smaller, the shutter speed gets longer. The same amount of light is coming in based on brightness (aperture) and time duration (shutterspeed), but it is rendered much differently on the film or sensor. F-2 has far less DOF than f-8 with the same lens at the same distance.

I do everything at ISO 100 to start. That is my base and I can make simple decisions faster if I have the same base for each situation. NOTE that I do not necessarily SHOOT at ISO all the time, I just use it for a simple base. So if I know that we are shooting at ISO 100, and the meter says f-8 @ 1/250 I can make a decision rather quickly… I want to shoot the picture for minimal DOF and that means f2.8 or f-2, right?

So I simply open up the aperture three stops (5.6 to 4 to 2.8) and shorten the shutter speed the same equivalence of three stops as well… 500 to 1000 to 2000. The exposure of f2.8 @ 1/2000 is the same as f-8 @ 1/500 but the image has less DOF.

Knowing how to use reciprocals, and working with them on every shoot will help you understand the choices YOU must make for your own imagery.

In the shot below, I was using a Canon 50MM f-1.4 lens. I knew how much DOF I needed to keep the three subjects in focus, and set the camera settings for EXACTLY that setting – f2.8 to be exact. At a wider aperture (f2 for example) one of the two ladies would have been out of focus. Being able to take a meter reading and make the reciprocal changes in my head meant that I was able to catch the shot as the light began to play in and out of the clouds.


Tutorials from YouTube:

Assignment: 1.

Telefoto or Zoom Lens:
1. Frame a subject at the longest length you have on your zoom. A tightly cropped headshot or similar. Shoot a set of reciprocals for your test. Start at f-16 and end up at the widest aperture you have. Meter for f-16, then adjust by quickening the shutterspeed for each adjustment wider on the lens.

f-16 @ 1/125
f-11 @ 1/250
f-8  @ 1/500
f-5.6 @ 1/1000
f-4 @ 1/2000
f-2.8 @ 1/4000

2. Leaving the zoom at it’s longest setting walk backwards to get a full length shot of the subject. Do the same exposure range as you did before.

3. Now use your normal lens, or zoom back on your zoom and make the same set of exposures at the same crop… so you will now be closer to your subject with a bit of a wider lens (50MM / 70MM on the big zooms).

4. Put on a wide angle lens and come in close to approximately the same distance. Do the same exposure exercise as above. Pull all the images into Lightroom or Bridge and compare. Notice how the exposures are the same, for each series – in fact they should all match exposure wise, but how wildly different they look with the different lenses, and the different apertures.

This is a great exercise to do to get familiar with WHY you make the choices you do and how those choices affect the way the final image looks.

In Threes

In Threes

Many times in catalog or product work we are asked to shoot the same thing from different angles. This is NOT as easy as it sounds.

Objects present light differently depending on shape, color, texture and dimension… and many objects have different qualities on different sides of the product.

Below are three examples of a subject shot at three different angles, or three different ways.

They show what can go right and what can be more challenging.


Anders  Deme (UK) used a large softbox and several white cards for this shot of expensive Brandy. You can see the cards reflected in the bottle cap and the bottle itself.

Sat - Assignment 27 - Jorge

Jorge Rodriguez (Cambodia) used natural light coming in through a doorway, and white cards to enhance the shiny surfaces of the antique sowing machine.

Chopsticks at Multiple Angles

Damian Powell (UK) used a large softbox to the rear of the set, and adjusted white cards in the front part of the set to get the exact look he wanted from the shadow sides.


To shoot one thing from one angle is far easier than to take the same item(s) and shoot them from three angles. The way the items look, how the photographer presents them, how the lighting can help/hinder the process… all are taken into account when attempting to shoot something from different POV’s.


Find an item to make three shots of in the same way. Not closeups/distance shots, but from same distance and with the object being in the same size in all images. Notice how Damian above worked with DOF and angle while preserving the same size of the object he was shooting.

Two additional shots for your inspiration:


Duane Middlebrook (Philipines)… Duane worked with a large light source and white cards to keep the shiny black parts of the blender alive.




Patrick Mathews (US) used gelled speedlights and a small softobx to capture the grit and detail of a fireman’s helmet.

Double Portraits: David Price

Double Portraits: David Price

Bay area photographer David Price was assigned to do a double portrait. He chose some co-workers who were happy to work with him to make the shots. It is always wonderful to have people want to work with you to make images, and David took his time to make the images in the style he is working on.

You can see the delicate back light that falls from top left to bottom right on the curtains behind the subjects. This soft approach to a ‘spray light’ adds warmth and depth to the image.


As you can see in the setup below, David has used a small shoot thru umbrella to do double duty… the background light, and the fill light on the camera left of her hair. As the light falls down the curtains, it is brighter at the top and gently gets less powerful the farther away from the source. This additional gradient also helps the image keep dimension.


David also changed the direction of the light while working with the subjects. For the close shot above, he turned the umbrella to light the wall on camera right and just out of the picture. This provided a big, soft source for the face. In the second shot above, he moved the umbrella back to light the subject with it instead of the wall.

The same scheme was used in the portrait below.




A light can be used to make another light as David has done above, using the umbrella to light the white wall for an even larger source.


Make a shot with one light source… without moving the subject, modify that source to come from both directions – again without moving the light. Aim the light toward the subject, then aim the light toward something else that can be used to light the subject. Find an area that allows you to do this without having to move the subject.

Sources can include large white walls, shower curtain reflectors, fomecore boards or V-flats or reflectors.

A Simple Portrait by Tomas Jansson

A Simple Portrait by Tomas Jansson



This portrait of a young man was shot by Tomas Jansson, Norway.



Tomas used a softlighter umbrella (a bounced position umbrella with a diffusion screen over the front) for his main light, and a silver reflector for a secondary light source from camera left. This very specular ‘fill’ added some extra shine to the subject’s arm and shadow side of the face.

By keeping the silver card at an oblique angle to the subject, Tomas was able to control the fall of the specular along the arm and (camera) left side of the face. The softlighter also provided some wonderful light to the book case behind the subject, giving the impression of more ambient lighting in the set. Notice the fall off in the setup shot. Also notice how far away the subject is from the background – far enough to keep the light from being blocked by him, and creating a shadow. This also enhances the feeling of more ambient light.


Simple lighting can sometimes do double duty. Providing not only the main light, but also a sense of more ambient. Shiny reflectors create a sense of a secondary light source since they are specular in presentation.


Using a medium to large umbrella, with or without diffusion, create a shot where the umbrella provides not only the main light, but the ambient behind the subject as well.

“Man In The Red Coat” – Photoshop Magic by Irene Liebler

“Man In The Red Coat” – Photoshop Magic by Irene Liebler

Here is a chance to get something very cool.

One of our Project 52 long time members has created a book of images from her series “The Man In The Red Coat”. Irene Liebler is a photographer and designer in Connecticut and has been working on this project for a while now.

For many of the Project 52 assignments, Irene would find creative ways to use her man in the red coat and derby. We would often be awaiting her next masterpiece and she never failed to deliver.

liebler-2 liebler-1

In this book Irene has put together many of her favorite shots with explanations on how they were created. It is both a whimsical look at some highly creative work, and a roadmap for you to find ways to use Photoshop to create worlds of mystery and magic.

Available at Blurb.

Still Life for a Water Repellent Company

Still Life for a Water Repellent Company

The assignment was to show two images for a company that made water repellent spray. It could not have the spray in the shot, and the client wanted a second shot for the banner across the top of the website. Type and images would be placed on it, so it was to be fairly plain but harken the senses to the main shot.

The photographer on this assignment is Jean Huang.

A single large softbox over the top / back of the set offered a very large and very soft highlight, and the angled light forward helped keep the shadow area of the orange peel in a darker luminance.

The photograph was created as part of the Project 52 Pros group.



The very large light source, close in to the subject, combined with the highly reflective nature of the cloth and water drops helps keep the image dynamic and fun. Notice the reflection of the light source on the water drops, and how differently it presents on the orange cloth background. Also notice how the light falls off on the orange peel. By having no fill card or bright surface to the front of the set, the orange peel had nothing bright to reflect. This dramatic fall off shows the texture of the orange as well as the dimension of the twisted peel.


Photograph something that has a lot of curves in it… whether a sea shell or an orange/lemon peel. Light it from back / top / side an front. Photograph it on a surface that is not reflective like a cutting board or rough hewn tile.

Then wet the scene and shoot it again – back / top / side / front. How does the photograph change from dry to wet? Which lighting position shows the most change in the presentation of the subject? Which shows the least?

Lighting Basics, Class Two

Lighting Basics, Class Two

The Lighting Angle: Part One

Now that we are starting to understand the metering a bit better, we are going to look at how the angle of the light can create different presentations – AND different exposure situations.

The camera is a fixed position. It is where the Point of View is coming from, and it always presents one leg of our triangle. There is a straight line drawn from camera to subject when looking through the lens.



We call this the “Axis” of the camera to the subject. Since the subject is always what is in front of our lens, this is a fixed angle.

Shifting the light from front to side to back creates all sorts of interesting changes in our subject. These changes are brought about by contrast, shadows, angles of shadows, and can be used to reveal or hide texture.

Front light is coming from on axis of the camera or very near the axis of the camera. Angled light (45 degrees) can actually be anywhere from slightly off camera axis to the point where it becomes side light.

Once we move the light back behind the model any distance back from the 90 degree side light, it would be considered backlight. And something other than that light source would become the ‘main’ light even if it was not as bright as the backlight.


Front Light Example:



Briana is lit from the sun which is over my shoulders. Notice the ‘flat presentation’ of skin and the shape of her arms and legs. Dimension is not presented well, and that is the point of front light. It flattens and contains dimension. Front light can be a particular favorite of some fashion shooters as it creates something akin to studio lighting, and alleviates many distresses on the skin.

Meter from the skin at the same axis as the camera. Using your in camera meter, choose any middle gray reflectance you wish, or by understanding the exposure (see class one) you can “place” the exposure where you want it to be.

Side Light Example:



In this shot of a man I met in Superior, Arizona, I used the sunlight from a side position to give texture to his face, hair and denim clothes. Light from the side meant that I had two areas of light on his face… the direct light, and the shadow (ambient) to base my metering on. I was very careful to use the dome of my meter right in front of him with the light striking the dome the same way it was striking him… half with directional light, and half with the ‘shadow’ or ambient light.

The resulting exposure indication would be very close to what I needed, and I double checked it through my in camera meter by placing the spot meter on the white t-shirt in the sun and opening up two stops (from middle gray, the reflection that gave me the reading – to the actual placement of the white shirt at a point that would still be white, with texture; two stops brighter than the indicated exposure reading.

See the Using a Photographic Light Meter on UDEMY (Assignment One). This class is free for all photographers.

Side / Back Light Example



In this shot the light is coming from the side and slightly back. This is a ‘rim light’ use, and can be thought of as a “special”. The sun is indeed the main illumination tool here, but the “Main Light” that is providing the light on Briana is the ambient light of the sky above her and behind the camera. The sun is adding the rim affect, and is brighter than the main light.

Notice that the sun still lights up part of Briana’s hands, chest, vest and hair. Notice that these areas are brighter than she is – as they should be. Basing (or placing) the exposure on her face presents us with a slightly brighter side light. This is more natural than if we had based the exposure on the side light on her chest or hands which would have rendered  the image much darker.

Back Light Example:



The sun is coming from behind Briana, and I based the exposure totally on her face. The sun then becomes quite bright and even provides nearly overexposed skin on her shoulder and arm. By placing the exposure on her face, we keep the skin tones of the subject area correct.

I used a handheld Minolta meter for each of these shots. With the ambient exposure dome pointed at the camera, I was very careful to keep all direct light (like the sun) from spilling over on the ambient dome so it would ONLY measure the light as it was presented to the subject – and therefor back to the camera.

In all examples I point the dome directly AT the camera and on the axis line.

Alternatives would be to come in close with the camera filling the frame with the subjects face and taking the reading from the camera. Making sure that all I was reading was the face or cheeks, and that there was no extraneous bright areas or flare from a backlight, I would take the exposure meter reading (thus finding the exposure for middle gray) and open up by one stop to “place” that skin tone at the proper reflectance. (For Caucasion skin I open one stop. For Hispanic or Latin skin, I keep the exposure and for dark, African skin I stop down one stop. These are my rules of thumb and I use them as guidelines to make sure that the reflectance levels remain true to the values I want to portray in the image.

Keep working on the first nine chapters of the Udemy course linked on assignment one. (This is a free course.)

Additional Assignment:

Shoot a person in full on sun, but not “noon” sun from above. Either early in the morning or later in the afternoon so the sun is coming more at an angle to the subject. How much of an angle is up to you, but I like to work with a shallow shadow under the chin. If the shadow under the chin goes all the way to the neckbones, the sun is still too high. This is done with the subject looking at the sun.

Shoot them in the same position but keep taking two steps to your left or right. No farther from them and keep them the same size in the viewfinder, but keep stepping away from the sun on axis until you reach a spot where the sun is slightly behind the subject. The subject turns in place to keep looking straight at you.

This will take you from front light to angled light to side light to slightly back side light.

You may keep on turning if you want to go all the way to full backlight.


The first time take the reading of the full on axis sun, and leave that setting as you continue around your arc.

The second time, use either the handheld meter or the one in your camera to make exposures  come out correctly to your taste as you go around.

(HINT: a gray card should remain the same exposure as you work your way around the second time. Have your subject hold that card and base exposure on that as you go around the arc.)


Photographer Anders Ericksson, Sweden.

A combination of several photographs, Anders Eriksson creates a ‘magical’ moment of light. The bulb was shot alone in order to get the edge lighting exactly right. A strip light was used to light either side and then the two sides of the bulbs were combined with bulb lit from in front by fill cards (see base of lamp). The hand was shot separately as was the fiery tungsten burning inside the bulb. A background with a single spray light for gradient was added behind the composite to give it depth.



The creative conception of an image can lead to many ways of creating it. Anders ‘saw’ this image in his head and then began to assemble the needed tools to make it happen. He discovered that it was easier to assemble two halves of the light than to shoot it with two lights, and creating the image he saw was now a matter of assembly.


See how you can do with this shot. Think it through. You must have a tripod and be able to match items up in Photoshop. That means attention to detail, angle and repeatability is paramount. How many different images will you use to create your “bulb”?

Lady in Blue

Photographer Girish Bashavar, Ohio



In this photograph by Girish Balshavar of Dayton, Ohio, the model is lit with one large source to camera left, and slightly below the subjects elbow. The light source, a softbox, is only a little out of frame and providing soft, washed light across the models arm and skin. Attention to styling pays off with tightly woven hair, perfect nails and excellent makeup. Note the models excellent hand position as well. Fingers are curled and the hand feels comfortable and relaxed. The low camera angle provides the shadow side of the arms and creates shape.


There are times when a lower than normal lighting angle can be used for dramatic effect.


Using a softbox or umbrella, place the center of the light slightly below the chin and work the pose to make it look natural and glamorous.  Do not let the eyes go dark from cheek shadows, nor should you have a “horror-film” look to the image. Work the body, shoulders and pose to provide a state of naturalness to the lower than normal light source. In other words, provide context for the light.

Through the Rainy Glass

Photographer Anna Gunn and Filipe Martins, Portugal.



A thin sheet of glass was sprayed with water to provide a bit of an out of focus foreground and create a mood for this stylish portrait by Anna and Filipe. To create the feel of a rainy day, they used a large diffuser to camera right, just out of frame. To light that scrim, a small strip light was placed only inches from it. The size of the scrim created a soft, constantly fading away light source since the strip light was so close to it. This gave a very natural main light, with ultra soft wrap from the soft, diffused scrim. No fill cards were used on the shadow side.


Moving a very large light source in close, and providing a smallish size source behind it can create a very soft, natural “window” light look for portraiture.


Using a very large scrim (cloth shower curtains from Target) bring an additional soft light into the back to illuminate it. Use a small softbox (6-10″) or small umbrella (24 – 30″) and work the distance from 16″ to 4″. Note the different ways the light falls off, and creates a feeling of soft ambient. The distance of the source from the scrim may determine the size of the ‘hot’ area. Note the difference between small softbox and umbrellas.


Photographer Julie Clegg, Seattle.



A main light softbox from slightly to camera left provides the overall illumination. Julie added a fill card to camera right, and it is just out of frame. Directly behind the center fireman there is a gridded spot to add very sharp edges to the subjects. The ambient lights of the firehouse were turned on full, and they even fired up the “emergency lights” on top of the firetruck for the shot.

The result is a dramatic portrayal of a local fire station. Julie used a 16-35MM lens on her Canon to get a bit of a wide angle look (somewhere around 30MM on a FF body). The slightly lowered angle of the lens allowed her to include the emergency lights and get a feel for the ambient area around the truck.


Use light to sculpt and add drama where appropriate. The angle of the camera can have a tremendous effect on the overall feeling of the image, as well as include areas that can be more (or less) interesting. Attention to detail is very important.


Use a second light to sculpt the edges of a portrait. From behind the subject try an unmodified or snooted  or grid-spotted single light. Note the different characteristics of each of these modifiers… they are all different in presentation.

Bob Knill’s “Moody Style”

Photographer Bob Knill, Maryland.



Bob Knill of Frederick, Maryland wanted a very dark, moody portrait.

Using a main light consisting of a 5-in-one scrim (the inside of a 5-in-one reflector system) with a speedlight he created a very earthy, dark but sublime main light. By keeping the strobe very close to the scrim he was able to create a bit of a hot center, while the surrounding scrim was lit up enough to provide excellent “ambient”. A second hard light (un modified speedlight) was added behind the subject to give an edge to the natural shadow side, presenting detail and shape.

Bob sent along a behind the scenes shot of his lighting setup. Note how close the flash is to the scrim.



Note how the gentleman’s head never disappears into the very dark background. Bob kept the ambient at a point where the head never falls away. The detail provided by the hard “kicker” light behind is just enough to give the image separation and depth. The overall dark, mysterious look is achieved by not letting any of the subject blend into the background.


Using a scrim or shower curtain for a main light, bring your source (flash/strobe/hot light) into a distance of about 3 – 5 inches and use that ‘hot spot’ to light your subjects face. Control the ambient with the amount of ‘spill’ you get from the light in close to the scrim. Don’t let the subject melt into the background, instead provide either fill cards or a second light for separation. Work this out… you can do it, and it can be a wonderful stylistic approach for you.

One Light Glamour

Photographer Alicia Bonaterre (Trinidad)


For this shot, Alicia used a single strobe in a dish reflector from slightly to the left of her camera. The hard light provides a wonderful highlight on the models legs and sculpts her form well. Using a single hard light is not the easiest tool to work with. Hard lights can throw shadows from areas that are problematic (nose, lips, arms) but Alicia managed that well with a perfect pose, and the head position coming toward the flash direction. The angle of the face, being closely aligned with the flash creates a very small shadow from the nose, and wonderfully modeled cheeks.


Careful placement of the hard light, as well as attention tot he pose can create a dramatic fashion portrait. Not all light has to be soft.


Shoot a one light, hard light portrait and pay careful attention to the placement of the light and the shadows that are created by it.

Small nose shadows can be OK in fashion/glamour, but watch out for arms and hands and strange areas of darkness that can fall across areas of the subject.

Lighting Basics, Class One: Light and Exposure

Lighting Basics, Class One: Light and Exposure


This is Lighting Basics… a way to get a fundamental instruction in the art and science of photography. It is geared toward beginners, and those who are mid level but have not had formal training of any kind. Please do all the assignments, it will help you more fully understand photography and how to make better photographs.

– Don

Light and Exposure:

Understanding the qualities of light and exposure means we have to master a tool that is part of our camera system… the light meter.

Here is a link to my UDEMY class in using a light meter. We discuss the handheld meter and the meter in your camera. The class is free, and I want you to start there.

I want you to study the chapters 1 – 9 and understand that information. The goal of this first exercise is to acquaint yourself with the power of understanding a light meter.

Note: If you do not use a handheld meter, do not worry about it. Just watch to understand the principles of how a handheld meter works. It is also important to know that your camera is equipped with a reflective light meter… so it works the same way as the reflected light meter on my handheld meter.

You only have to go through the course up through Lecture 9. Please go through all the lectures up to lecture nine so you can do the following assignments.

Camera meter settings:

I usually recommend using the spot meter setting or at least the center weighted meter setting. With my camera on spot meter, I can use it very much like the handheld meter in the videos you watched. I can pick out and choose what I want my light metering to be based on. I can move in close to fill the frame with a gray door or a black shirt… and get the reading I want. I then make the exposure based on what I know… that black is reading two stops OVER and white is reading two stops UNDER. Or damn close anyway.

For the assignments here, please use your camera on spot or center weighted and make as close to accurate reading EXACTLY on the part of the scene you want to use to base your exposure.


  1. Find something black to photograph. Car tires, black leather jacket, a small pile of charcoal… something black, but NOT shiny. Make an exposure based on what your meter says, then make an adjustment in your mind to where you want to “place” that black and take another exposure. Note where the exposures fall and what you did to compensate for the obviously incorrect exposure that was indicated by your camera meter.
  2. Find something white to photograph. Brides dress, white shirt, white brick building. Make an exposure reading based on the reading and then adjust in your head to make a second exposure. Note where the exposures fall and what you did to compensate for the obviously incorrect exposure that was indicated by your camera meter.
  3. Look around your location and find subjects that look like they are middle gray. Meter them with your camera and shoot the image with that exposure.How did you do? Is that exposure based on what you considered middle gray correct? If it is, find another subject. If not… where does it fall? If it is too light, it will be necessary to move the exposure down to compensate. If it is too dark, open the exposure till it is correct.
  4. Repeat the above for at least 30 minutes. Becoming familiar with how the meter works in your camera is very important and will be a real lifesaver when you need an accurate exposure fast.

You can see in this portrait of our dear leader… heh… where we found the middle gray reflectance to base exposure on.


And here is the image in grayscale so you can see how close the reflectances are without color involved.


Remember that the meter does not see colors, it sees the amount of luminance that the subject is reflecting. You can more clearly see in the second shot how close all the reflectances are.

When you are comfortable using the spot meter to make readings, and your mind to adjust those readings to make the exposure correctly, you can move on to the next assignment.


Lighting Basics: The Introduction

Lighting Basics: The Introduction

It’s February 1, 2014.

This begins the “Year of Teaching” for me. I may or may not be doing any workshops, but I love to teach so here goes.

What this year long series will be:

A comprehensive look at what I call “Subject Centric Lighting” – the understanding that the characteristics of the subject have a great deal of influence over the way different light sources react with and present from the subject. Whether or not a specific light or modified light will work with a specific subject has as much to do with the subject as it does the light.

We will be covering natural light, studio light, and lighting on location. Our subject matter will range from still life and food to portraiture and product. And we will throw some curve balls occasionally.

Assignments come out every Saturday morning… things to see, things to do, things to read. If you are diligent and committed, you will be a much better photographer at the end of this exercise. We will not be grading anything here… this is YOUR chance to push forward. Push beyond procrastination and malaise and into the exciting world of imagery.

For the basis of my discussions here I will be using the techniques discussed in both of my books, Lighting Essentials and Lighting Essentials Two (available on Amazon).

We will start with an basic understanding of light and subjects and begin to shoot specific assignments based on the methods and techniques that are discussed.

What this year is not:

A discussion on speed lights, or any other specific kind of lighting gear. We will be discussing lighting, and that includes speedlights, natural light, tungsten lights, studio flash and fluorescent units as well.

Nor will we be discussing wedding photography. There are more than enough websites, books, classes and online presentations on wedding photography.

What you will need:

  • A camera with controls… your controls. DSLR’s, Mirrorless, MFT’s… whatever.
  • A working knowledge of your camera; Setting the apertures, shutter speeds and ISO.
  • A familiarity with what is called reciprocitythe shutter speed/aperture relationship and how ISO can be included.
  • A light.
  • Light stand.
  • An umbrella or softbox for the light
  • Tripod… while of course you can shoot handheld, having a tripod makes taking the notes and working with the notes much easier.
  • Enthusiasm. This is supposed to be fun.

We start tomorrow… so be prepared for a really fun and exciting year.

Jump in any time… no need to begin at any special time… the classes are free and they are specifically geared to people who want to understand light and make better images.


And We Are Back

And We Are Back

That medical issue took more out of me than I was willing to admit.

But I am back – and so is Lighting Essentials… a new post every day.

Lighting, gear, photography and fun…

What’s gonna be new? Watch and see.

We will have a new photograph, complete with lighting information every day. From natural light to studio strobes and on location lighting, we will bring you some of the best from amateurs, semi-pros and pros out there. No matter what you are interested in, there will be something to learn here.

I decided to make this year the year of teaching so all my energy will be placed there… and here.

Starting Saturday (February 1, 2014)… Lighting Basics. One assignment a week for you to consider, work on and learn from. These are lighting assignments, NOT to be confused with the Project 52 PRO assignments that are geared to creating actual gigs. This is all technique and I will be giving you the entire breadth of my “Subject Centric Lighting” approach.

I will be continuing the “Tech Sheets” approach and I look forward to working with photographers from all over the world.

The Lighting Basics class is free… there is no signup required, although you will get more out of it if you ARE signed up for my weekly dispatch… see the column on the right at the top. It comes out every Sunday and has received some remarkable reviews from pros and semi-pros all over the world.

We will also be discussing my take on gear… a non gear-head looks at gear and the tools of the trade.

You will also get a few rants and challenges along the way, so be aware of those bumpy turns… and keep your arms and hands inside the car at all times.

So here we go… back at it full swing and full on.

Lighting Essentials is BACK!


Going Back to Go Forward: REBOOTING Lighting Essentials

Going Back to Go Forward: REBOOTING Lighting Essentials

As many of you know, I had a pretty rocky third quarter with some serious health issues. They took the wind out of my sails, so to speak, and I had limited energy to work on the things that I loved.

Lighting Essentials is one of my favorite things, but I had to keep the newsletter going, and finish a book project in the last few months of the year. LE paid for that time allotment crunch.

In that time, I have done some soul searching, and some planning and some thinking on how better to serve the photographic community that I love so much.

Lighting Essentials was, I believe, one of the more original voices out there, with articles and content that was more personal in nature – and as such, it had a good run. It did.

Now is time for a reboot. LE will continue on with a new mission of education. Focusing on the commercial photography genre, I hope to bring a lot of fresh content here for photographers who want to be professional in either attitude or business – or both.

Lighting Essentials began as a lighting centric website, and we are going back in order to go forward.

(My more personal essays will be under the rants section, and they will continue on the newsletter for those who enjoy them.)

2014 is my “Teaching Year” and I am taking it very seriously. Project 52 and Lighting Essentials will endeavor to bring new and exciting articles to you with a special focus on commercial aspects.

More Lighting articles.
More gear discussions, but from my POV of non-gearhead. Yes, non-gearhead gear discussions. You’ll see.
More photography discussions and some introductions to some of the greats in the commercial arena.
More looking at photographs… much more.

This is the next iteration of Lighting Essentials and the reboot comes on February 1. 2014.

Lighting Essentials, V2.0. Coming soon.

The “Help Me Pay My Docs Off” Sale… LOL

The “Help Me Pay My Docs Off” Sale… LOL

The “Help Me Pay My Docs Off” Sale



As many of you know, I was hospitalized for a week in August for a severe blood clot, and a PE which resulted in a heck of a lot of clots in my lungs. I am on the mend, and things are getting back to normal… but I also have a heck of a hospital bill to pay off.

This is the first sale I have ever done for a book, and I wanted to do it big. All proceeds will be going to my hospital and doctors. They were incredible, but I have many expenses tied to that adventure.

The bundle I am offering is:

  • All three of my books written for Amherst Media, personally signed to you as well as a fourth book specifically for this offer.
  • “Maine: Photographs” will contain some of the photographs from my “Maine” portfolio, and some you have not seen, and will only be seen in the book. I will number and sign each book for you as well. The “Maine” books are 6×8″ Softcover, and will be printed by Artifact Uprising on beautiful stock.
  • In addition you will receive a coupon for a free UDEMY course. I currently have three courses available on UDEMY, and am completing a fourth before years end. Choose whichever one you wish and a coupon code will be emailed to you ASAP

It has been a year full of challenges, and I very much appreciate your support.

Have a great holiday season, and next year will be a blast!

To Purchase:

Choose Bundle Class