7 Techniques For Modifying Light

Behind the scenes on a photo shoot using a Lastolite Skylite. Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm F2.8G ED, 1/600 sec. at ƒ.8, ISO 400

Every photographer knows light is what makes or breaks an image. One of my favorite quotes about photography is, “You’re not photographing the subject; you’re photographing the light on the subject.” Photograph a supermodel in flat light, and you get a nice shot. After all, that’s why she’s a supermodel. But add some edgy, focused light in the right place, and you have a stunning portrait. The right light brings any subject to life.

I teach a lot of lighting workshops, and a primary goal is learning how to modify the light. Participants start off figuring out how the lights work, what a reflector does, and how to set up a softbox. Then they start to master lighting concepts like direction, quality and color. After three days of shooting, they’re getting a good handle on available light and using flash.

But how can you elevate your lighting technique to a higher level? What really separates the photographer masses is modifying the light to bring your creative vision to life. Everyone can blast strobes at a subject or use a soft gold reflector for fill light. Similar to graduating from Program mode on your camera, modifying the light quality results in much better images. You’re not taking a snapshot but rather creating an image. Try out some of the techniques below on your next shoot, and get ready to go to the next level.

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