Lighting diagrams are all the rage these days. There’s a new web site called Sylights designed to bring making and sharing lighting diagrams to the masses, and it’s a pretty cool concept. Unfortunately, I think for lighting diagrams to be really effective they need a lot more information. Most crucially, you need to see sample photos that show the setup in action and what the photographic results look like.
Beyond the sample photos, though, when I make lighting diagrams I include all sorts of data on power, ratios, distance, modifiers, colors, etc. Add that to this web site and suddenly you’ve got something invaluable for photographers.
If you want to learn how to utilize lighting diagrams, a great way to start is to tear photographs out of magazines and then try to recreate them. How? Look to highlights, shadows and catchlights in eyes for clues as to the setups employed in the pictures. That’s how we did it in school, and that’s still how I do it today. Once you’ve got it figured out, create a diagram with all the details that will help you recreate the setup again and again.