Lighting 101

(Photo by Strobist reader Sam Simon)

Welcome to Lighting 101. You may not realize it yet, but you have just stepped through a door that may change your photography forever.

Over the past few years, over four million people from nearly every country in the world have begun their lighting education right here. And if they can do it, you can do it.

Photography is literally writing with light. As you read through Lighting 101 you'll learn how to control every aspect of your electronic flash. If you can imagine it, you'll be able to create it.

You'll learn how to take the removable flash that you probably already have on the top of your camera and use it off-camera to make beautiful, more three-dimensional photos. Once you learn the basics of controlling light, you'll quickly see that most lighting is intuitive, easy and fun.

The Good News: The Gear Doesn't Cost Much

Basic lighting gear is also refreshingly inexpensive. If you have a camera, lens and flash you have already done the spendy part. The gear needed to take your light off-camera is very inexpensive compared to your camera, your flash or even a single lens.

You can even make a lot of light modifiers yourself for next to nothing. Believe it or not, the photo above was done with a homemade light modifier. Sam Simon covered the opening of a shoe box with some paper and stuck his flash in a hole in the back. How cool is that.

For the most part, it's the location of the light that is most important. By getting your flash off-camera, your images become more three-dimensional, more textural and more professional looking. All of the photos on this page were made by Strobist readers—who very recently may well have been exactly where you are right now—working with small flashes.

Click on a reader's picture to learn a little more about how it was made. (The uncredited ones are mine, mostly culled from my career as a staff photojournalist at a series of newspapers.) And don't worry if you don't understand the terminology yet. You will soon.

(Photo by Strobist reader Ken Brown)

The difference between their photos and yours is that they already know how to use their flash off camera. They know how to synchronize it with their shutter, position it, modify the quality of the light, change the color with gels and tweak the balance of exposure between their flashes and available light.

Which is exactly what you'll soon learn in Lighting 101. That may sound difficult, but I promise you it isn't.

(Photo by Strobist reader Benny Smith)

Learning how to light is incremental, creative and fun. There is almost no math involved, nor any difficult technical know-how. In fact, good lighting is less like math and more like cooking.

It's like, you taste the soup and if it needs more salt you add some salt. You'll see that when we learn to balance a flash with the existing, ambient light.

NEXT: Understanding Your Flash


Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos

Comments are closed. Question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist


Anonymous Chad Worthman said...

Thank you very much for Lighting 101. It's just what I was looking for! I was looking for a new way to shoot, without lugging around big lights. Other lighting forums I've reviewed disregard small strobes as a viable lighting tool. I'll be practising and hopefully successfully applying the techniques you teach here.

Thanks again!


April 15, 2006 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to leave a quick thank you, I have spent a few sleepless nights here for the past week, and then got right up in dawn experimenting. This has opened up a new dimension in my photography and really is helping me getting to that next level.

I can't imagine how many hours and thought has gone into this, thank god for people like you.

April 25, 2006 1:30 PM  
Anonymous baldie said...

WOW what a great site for us hot shoe strobe users!I was brought to your site from photonet...and I have been pouring over the pages again and again to see if i missed anything.Thanks to my 15yr old daughters (Candice)interest in photography we have gone back to the beginning B&W T-MAX,developing our film,and a darkroom to be built in the near future.We happen to have a 2 strobes(still with boxes)Vivitar 285HV & Metz CL-45-1 that will injoy being used ! Sorry to be long winded....Anyway THANKS

Cliff & Candice

May 05, 2006 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the superb resource; this site has provided me with an understanding of lighting, something about which I was previously quite ignorant. Now all I need to do is practice :-)

June 15, 2006 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Alejandro said...

I want to say thank you. I don't know how to express my gratitude. Much like chad and as a beginner i will use your site as a reference. If you ever write a book please do announce it. Your light on the go concept and easiness is incredible. I have to practice it very much. Ahh its so jaw dropping. strobes are filled with so much power, im just so glad you have taught me how to harness it and beam it well. :) Take care. Keep up the fun.

July 12, 2006 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great articles! Thank you, I didn't realize there was so much you could do with an external flash, now I'm saving for one...

July 16, 2006 8:36 PM  
Blogger Joanne C.W. Chang said...



Thank you~

July 19, 2006 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

What a great site! I admit to being intimidated of off-camera lighting set ups until reading L-101. Thanks for sharing your knowledge....Second, my father just gave me his SB-28 to sell, but even though I shoot Canon (and own a 580EX), I plan to keep it for off camera use. Is it possible to trigger the 580 with the SB-28?

July 20, 2006 9:08 AM  
Blogger David said...

Good idea to keep the SB-28. You'll need to slave the 580 somehow. Not knowing the pin configuration on a 580, I would defer to one of the Canon guys for a suggestion.

Post the question in the strobist discussion thread on Flickr - I am sure you'll get specific help there.


July 20, 2006 1:59 PM  
Anonymous arun said...

I hardly used to use flash. After reading in strobist for a few months I am even making my own macro studio.

The results are not very good so far. This is my first digital camera and having problems with metering the flash.

I think it would be great if you add another article to lighting 101 on flash metering with ambient light mix.

I use D200 with sb-28.

September 15, 2006 10:26 AM  
Anonymous LAN MAN said...

I am an absolute beginner to lighting and a novice to photography. I went and purchased a Rebel XTI and the EX580. My question is can I start learning about lighting on this site with just these two basic tools? or do I need all that extra gear to benefit from this wealth of information on here?

October 04, 2006 1:57 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

David, your blog has kept me awake many work nights in a row. I've gotten fidgety and decided that after months of reading Strobist to actually put the knowledge to practice and make the leap into Pocket Wizard-synched off-camera flash photography. The initial jump isn't too bad considering I already have continuous tungsten lighting equipment (I am an indie filmmaker) and really only need the PWs and a Nikon flash for my Canon 20D. So, I pulled the trigger tonight and I feel better having done so. It's time to get serious as a photographer and learn how to light with strobes. Thanks for clearing my head, David.

October 17, 2006 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anthony said...

I just have to say thank you. I discovered your blog yesterday and cannot stop reading it. I already have nearly 90 feeds related to design, filmmaking, technology and photography in my feedreader, but Strobist is by far the most informative sharing of professional knowledge I have ever seen.

I purchased a SB-800 for my Nikon about a year ago and it still has more control over me that I have over it. Strobist has allayed some anxiety I had about purchasing an umbrella and requisite accessories and I am anxious to start trying out all these techniques I have read.

I look forward to joining the Flickr group and sharing my results.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

October 27, 2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Matt Bennett said...

I'm confused. The Lighting 101 section seems to advocate a procedure of getting a base ambient exposure for aperture and shutter speed and then dialing up/down the flash of moving its position. However, all the On Assignment postings describe doing something different, that is to say choosing a power setting for the flash, adjusting aperture until the flash looks good and then slowing the shutter until the ambient looks right. Why the different accounts?

November 18, 2006 6:23 AM  
Anonymous scott said...

A lot of great information here, especially for someone like me, totally unfamiliar with this thing called a "strobe" (I only have a Leica MP).

My point in bringing up Leica is only that people like me are interested in strobe work with cameras that don't have any smarts of their own, but it seems most of your on assignment examples use the histogram of a camera to get the light right.

I would love to see more writing on how to setup flash using rules of thumb and rough calculations, instead of relying on digital cameras. For e.g., I'd like to add an almost imperceptible amount of strobe light to help add a bit of pop to ambient, low light, wide-angle environmental portraiture. So I am concerned about keeping the flash from overpowering these shots.

Thanks for sharing all your great information.

November 22, 2006 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Dean Parsons said...

Thanks for all the time and knowledge you've put into Lighting 101 !
I've learned a lot from this and I'll likely use it as a reference later on as well.

Thanks Again.

December 02, 2006 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Harry Hole said...

What a fantastic site. And there was me about to invest in some of those heavy cumbersome lights that would stay in the boot. Ive read and digested, now for boot camp. Great stuff.

December 06, 2006 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Jan Huniche said...

Whow !!!.
Lots of very usefull tips & Tricks.

A great wish ...

Was it possible to put together all the articles to one pdf file ?.

Best regards.

Jan Huniche

March 18, 2007 4:35 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Hi, I learned a lot from your blog, thank you! I have a question about a trick you used a lot. you often set the camera to its high synch speed and explained to let you use the least amount of strobe possible. But I think it should let you use the least amount of ambient light, coz strobe light is constant as long as you keep shutter speed longer than the sync speed. The higher the shutter speed, the less ambient light plays a role. am i right?

March 26, 2007 12:28 PM  
Blogger Glen said...

Thank you for this!

May 27, 2007 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Premier Lighting said...

Its nice to see a comprehensive post like this. Its good to get a good refresher on the tips even for professionals. Im surprised at the stuff I tend to forget about.

June 25, 2007 6:56 PM  
Blogger Gugs said...

this is the first time I comment this site. I have been lurking for sometime. This is one of the best resources there is on the net about lighting and photography.
Gugs from

Thanks for maintaining this high quality blog.

August 05, 2007 6:57 AM  
Anonymous On Stage Lighting said...

Thanks for this fantastic resource of information. It has given me loads of things to think about and to pass on to my aged mother, who is just starting digital photography (don't ask) with some good results.

October 10, 2007 3:06 PM  
Anonymous belfast_instinctive said...

This site is amazing. I've recently just got rid of a set of bowens studio lights(that incidentally took up an extreme amount of storage space) with all the other garb that comes with it, backgrounds etc etc. My photography has been sort of stagnating since, but this has given me the kick i need, now i know that i was just getting too far ahead of myself with all that expensive equipment.

back to the old school i say!!

December 01, 2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Ads said...

Love the 'done that and got the photo' confidence of your recommendations and great writing style. And the irony is running into your site while searching to buy monolights and (now)old school and uncool studio lighting.
Looking forward to learning more.


January 12, 2008 2:43 AM  
Anonymous Akshahkumar Shetty said...

Hay David,

thanks for sharing your knowledge with all of us. I have put together a small thanks post at my blog with a quick start guide to Strobisim. Hope many more join the moment. Thanks again.

March 15, 2008 1:54 PM  
Blogger CMM said...

Thanks for that great video, you must have some really good video editing software ;)

Seriously, this is a great intro. I feel much less intimidated by lighting already!

March 24, 2008 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! I was looking to learn about studio lighting and this is perfect!

March 31, 2008 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am setting up a home photography studio, and this is exactly what I needed. Thanks!

April 02, 2008 9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am setting up a home photo studio, and this is exactly what I needed!


April 02, 2008 9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You just saved me from buying one of those studio lighting kits!

I already have two small flashes. I had no idea hey were this useful as studio lighting equipment.

April 02, 2008 9:51 PM  
Blogger J said...

Great tutorial. You will see a lot of links to this article from other forums.

At my next wedding I plan on bringing a mono light to help light up the background a bit more then a strobe. I don't have to worry about batteries that way and they can give off a lot of light. For everything else, and especially outdoor work, strobes are hard to beat.

April 06, 2008 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Cool! I can use my Canon flash with a Pocket Wizard! (I have three flashes, actually: a 580 Ex, and 540 Ex and a 430ex.)

I was thinking about the new elinchrom skyports, or maybe a gadget infinity. But pocketwizard it is!

April 09, 2008 12:50 AM  
Anonymous Bazzen said...

I've just discovered your blog. Thanks a lot for these tips and tutorials. Helps me a lot

May 05, 2008 8:38 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Great tutorial. Thanks.

One thing... please turn the background music down as it is hard for me to hear your voice.


May 08, 2008 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Barry said...

David - ok, I'm officially a convert! I have a D80 and an SB600 and like so many others, I blindly flipped through the manual, slapped everything on auto and snapped away with "less than optimal" results. After finding the blog, I just spent an hour playing with my camera, flash and a poor abused little wooden box that has now been photographed in a multitude of flash settings.

Wow! Thank you so much. After reading the blog, understanding 1) what I was trying to accomplish in my playtime and 2) what the heck the settings could do, it really was an hour well spent. Now I can't wait for my next opportunity to use a flash!

May 12, 2008 11:26 PM  
Anonymous alex said...

I love you man. Don't let those nasty peeps put us down. some people still don't believe in these methods but we know the truth. that's all that matters. Sorry you have to deal wit harsh nay sayers, but they will always exist. I guess we could just ignore them. They probably haven't tried half this stuff anyway. Thank you for the lesson. I just don't have the right words to share my gratitude for this information.

May 22, 2008 5:15 AM  
Blogger Mark n Manna said...

Thanks for putting this up for folks like me, Mr. Hobby. This blog has helped me understand things that I have noticed in other's photography,but was never able to achieve.
Now I need to get BUSY doing the things you have explained so well!

May 27, 2008 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Onno said...

David, I was looking at the photosites I enjoy most and I found out that there were new posts on This one was very inventive and could maybe be on lighting101:

Strobist reader Ozine

June 07, 2008 6:22 AM  
Anonymous Alan Coon said...

Thank you for sharing this information. Found it very helpful for what I am trying to do.

June 10, 2008 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Sony Alpha said...

Thank you very much for Lighting 101. this site has provided me with an understanding of lighting, It's just what I was looking for!

June 13, 2008 6:50 PM  
OpenID mcwatersfly said...

Awesome! Thank You for sharing!!

July 01, 2008 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found a site with some pretty inexpensive prices. I am on the other side of the camera (the model) but I know how important lighting is. This site has many tools (lighting, filters, clamp mounts,Gels, Digital SLR Remote and such) I wish I knew more about lighting to experiment but I leave that to the Pro's. Go to the other categories too like: Flashlights, and DIY tools they have some neat gadgets I am sure someone would find useful. Just letting ya know and wanted to tell ya to keep up the good work! =}
This is the home page and the other go straight to camera categories which is I think under hobbies:

.........oh you get rebates also depending who you tell about the site and what they buy which is kinda cool not much but hey every little helps =]. They have other stuff besides camera equipment too.

July 07, 2008 11:36 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

There is a ripoff site in the UK called strobistonline, or strobist online or something, but this is the original Strobist and everyone knows it.

July 14, 2008 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, it seems that the youtube video is no longer available :-(.

July 17, 2008 12:39 AM  
Blogger Kingsley said...

Hi David,

Firstly just a great big thank you. For everything you have done with "Strobist" I've been lurking in the background since the begining and have just been amazed and your generosity and wisdom. Thank you.

Now, the second reason is to share my first attempt at off camera manual shooting - and doing it in a funky way... the background was a straw cream.... the result...

Again thank you very much for the journey to date, looking forward to more.

With warm regards

Perth, Western Australia
PS just finished the DVD's and its awesome!

July 22, 2008 6:08 AM  
Blogger Barnacle said...

i have been reading and absorbing all this site offers and i don't think i have ever said thank you!
so,, thank you!!

July 31, 2008 7:26 PM  
Blogger Robert Miller said...

A great little video packed with information, you did a great job.

August 14, 2008 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Peter S said...

Thanks for the very informative video. This has been a great help in reducing the size of my location kit.

October 11, 2008 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Andy T said...

This site is what I have been looking for... Right on! Thank you! I Wish I would have found this site 2 weeks ago but found it now. I got all but the umbrella. I will have to order a couple of those... a couple of days ago I ordered a soft box. I will be getting that today so I will start experimenting tonight. yea!

October 31, 2008 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Sterling Hancock Photography said...

all this off camera lighting stuff is a lot simpler than it sounds. its a little daunting reading about it in all these tutorials with terms that are foreign to you.

my advice: go out, buy some pocket wizards, a nice light stand, flash bracket, and umbrella, and just experiment. youll get the hang of it. the best way to learn is to just do it and practice practice practice. when you experiment you discover new things. its really not hard at all.

November 05, 2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger kessler.aj said...

This is spectacular. Thanks for taking the time to publish this material. As someone whose never seriously used lighting, your efforts are tremendously appreciated.

November 22, 2008 10:08 PM  
Blogger fotografie.peter said...

This is amazing.
Many thanks for this information!
Keep up the good work.

Greetz from a great fan and also a professional freelance photographer from Belgium (Europe)

November 28, 2008 2:36 PM  
Blogger HBY said...

Thanks a lot for sharing with us all this informations.
Great video.

December 16, 2008 8:35 AM  
Blogger Tiger Cosmos Photography said...

Just received your Strobist Lighting Seminar. I read your site all the time - 101 & 102. But seeing the set-up, the progression, your discussion. Well worth the money! The bonus DVDs really pull it all together. Great work! I will go back to these a few times as they are so loaded with great techniques.

December 16, 2008 10:25 PM  
Blogger 1downfall said...

excellent read here. Look forward to trying some of the techniques out! thank you!

December 17, 2008 7:44 AM  
Blogger Oberazzi said...

I have learned more from Strobist than any other source.

The tricky bit for me is that I am visually impaired (legally blind). So I have had to adapt the Strobist approach for my eyesight. I have been posting about it on my blog. If you, or anyone reading this, has any interest or ideas, please come by and comment.

The folks on the Strobist Flickr group have been very helpful.

December 18, 2008 3:13 PM  
Blogger Sheralle said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Term Life Insurance

January 16, 2009 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Supermance said...

this for this, im a newbie to lighting, so much valuable article about lighting article here. keep it up :)

February 03, 2009 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahah nice one. with the female & male

February 16, 2009 9:44 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

David - I very much appreciated that short video, both for the educational content and for the excellent deadpan humor.


April 03, 2009 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just purchased and finished watching the DVDs from your seminar. Absolutely great stuff. I really enjoyed the tips and techniques.

Your sunflower and macro material helped me get inspired to stretch beyond the macro ring light.

Shooting with an A700 makes it a bit more of challange in the gear department as I will be looking for generic vs sony light solutions.

Thanks again

June 14, 2009 9:46 PM  
Blogger Shreyasi n Arindam said...


Like everyone else I must say the details you provided is just phenomenal. Now I exactly know what I can do with what gadgets.

Thanks a bunch

June 17, 2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger Morten said...

Thank you thank you thank you. This is just what I´ve been looking for. I can´t wait to get some new gear and start tryig with umberellas and reflectors

June 19, 2009 2:04 PM  
Anonymous AuBit said...

Thanks for the short but very informative video about lighting!

June 19, 2009 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Thankyou so much for creating this resource!

I couldn't get the video to work at first - but I found that if you're using FireFox on the Mac, try opening the page in Safari instead.

June 27, 2009 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Thanks so much! This is awesome and exactly what I'm needing.

July 03, 2009 2:09 PM  
Anonymous Cafe Marly said...

Light makes our life brighter and funner.

July 25, 2009 4:40 AM  
Blogger JonRyan said...

hey... i have an old novatron 500 plus set up... i need to know the best way to sync it with my 50d.... it did come with a slave... but im not having any luck syncing it... ideas?

July 30, 2009 1:38 AM  
Anonymous Ed Leadership said...

nice lighting guide, thanks for sharing. This is what i looking for to my final exam.

August 04, 2009 1:22 AM  
Blogger Parkwa said...

Hi everyone. I recently started reading this series and am making all the purchases to really expand my off camera lighting. I thought I would share some info to make things easier for others who are shopping for items in the UK.

I've looked through loads of websites trying to find the equipment and at the best prices but please don't moan if the prices have now changed.

These are narrowed down to only a few options but this is after much research and thought.

Light stand: Interfit COR751
First Call Photographic - £37.99
Hilton Photographic - £39.99
Fotosense - £37.18 - £34.99
Studio Kit direct - £39.78

Light stand: Manfrotto Nano001
TeamWork Photo & Digital - £36
Robert White - £38

Umbrella Holder: Manfrotto 026
Calumet Photo - £18.99
Team Work Photo - £25
Robert White - £23
The Flash Centre - £27
Fotosense - £18.95 - £24.99
Warehouse Express - £18.59

There are cheaper umbrella holders available such as the Interfit Strobies version and the Calumet holder with hot shoe included, but apparently these do not have the umbrella holder hole at an angle so are not designed as well as the manfrotto option.

Flash Shoe: Manfrotto 143S
Fotosense - £8.05 - £9.75

Umbrella: Dual Duty Silver / Black / White
Calumet Photo - £37.98
Team Work Photo - £33
Karlu - £29.35

Now, which to shop from? I compared the prices for various stores including the delivery charges and finding out how much the prices change once the VAT is actually added on (a very annoying feature of some websites).

I originally ordered all my things from Crazy but I have not listed them above because everyone should avoid them like the plague. They seem to be a Philipino company shipping items via California (if they ever do ship). I have read numerous bad reviews about them and am currently trying to get my money refunded. They also take the money from your card the moment you order, regardless of whether they have the items in stock, and even if they don't dispatch for up to a month.

The best company that I found - for prices and customer service is

The staff were very helpful and the prices are up there with the cheapest. I'll let you know if things change for the worse, but at the moment, I just wanted to share my experiences to save other people the time I spent in searching through loads of different sites and wasting time with a terrible company.

Best of luck everyone with the strobing and thanks very much to David for this awesome informative blog

August 20, 2009 4:33 PM  
Blogger Florida Strobists said...

Hey David, I would love to get more strobist starting up in South Florida, but with the commercialization of the strobist movement, prices are sky rocketing to the point where going the ebay monolight route is cheaper. If there's ANY way you can put together a fully functional kit (2 lights, wireless) for under $150, and pitch it to a sponsor, it'd sell ridiculously.
I assembled a basic one here which should get the job done with JUST enough power.

Let me know what you think (I now use the yn460 as a backlight, it's reliable and it seems they fixed all the kinks out)

Thanks for everything you do,


November 16, 2009 8:06 PM  
Blogger Jignesh said...

Can't thank you much.. So happy I found this link from some Flickr Discussion. I am wanted to start taking pictures with my D70s and D90 with additional lights. Learning everything by experience and from online blogs. This helped me most. Thank you again. I will be reading lot more here now.

December 21, 2009 12:56 PM  
Blogger marc said...

This "lighting 101" might just go down in history. Classic resource that always has something new. Great job!

January 11, 2010 4:54 PM  
Blogger disjecta said...

I know I'll probably get shot for asking this because I have a feeling I'm far from the first.

I have a Canon ST-E2 and a 480EXII and I want to add another slave flash. I'm on a slim budget so the Vivitar 285hv looks like a good option. I realize I would have to use this in manual mode but what do I need to make it communicate with the ST-E2?

February 12, 2010 2:34 PM  
Blogger john said...

Just an unbelievable amount of info here. I'm taking a lighting class at college and this is a great supplement
and learning resource. Thanks so much. John

March 25, 2010 9:45 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Thank you so much for this! The presentation of your tutorials makes this a lot less intimidating for beginning strobist like myself. I've been into DSLR photog for about a year and a half. I started out with a Nikon D60 and upgraded about a month ago to the D90. I am picking up an SB-600 within the next couple of days and look forward to experimenting!


March 27, 2010 4:35 PM  
Blogger Linda Armstrong said...

Thank you so much for this terrific resource!

March 30, 2010 2:07 PM  
Blogger Food.By Mark. said...

Again and again, I find myself coming back here for reference. What a superb resource! Thank you.

April 28, 2010 6:24 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thank you. I know it's been said many times already, and probably not even close to enough, but thank you for posting Lighting 101. I jumped from a used D70 bought Sept 2008 to a D300s, purchased in Feb 2010.
In a very short year and a half I've gone from P - that means Panning, right? to shooting full time manual, and getting results. I've acquired a SB800 flash and am trying to get the hang of making event photography look as good as a staged shoot. Reading your blog has made me think and learn, and today was THE day, when I looked at a photo of a baby in arms, and thought, hmm, there was strong light coming from off camera right, and probably some kind of bounced light from the left, which is why there are gentle highlights.
Kind of an AHA! moment - and those come too seldom.
Thank you.

May 07, 2010 2:19 AM  
Blogger Japanese said...

Hello & Thank you for your very useful video.
I do have a problem though. I did followed (i hope) the guidelines but i still can not get my strobe to work.
I got the lamp tripod, the hot shoe, the strobe, the radio trigger and the umbrella but i think there must be something i'm missing because i can not get my strobe to work.. hmmm. Any ideas???? Your reaction is more than welcome!!!!

Thanks in advance.

May 10, 2010 11:26 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Hi. I shoot with a D-90 and have a SB-600. I've been considering buying a 300 w/s monolight with stand, umbrella, battery pack, etc. but wonder how much I'd actually use it. I enjoy stills and macro around the house but also enjoy attempting "artsy" shots and macro outdoors. My main issue is getting the lighting/shadows right with stills and macro.

I need help trying to figure out the best bang for my buck. Would I end up using the monolight more once I use it or would I get more use out of a second SB-600 along with a stand and umbrela? Thanks!

June 02, 2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Hi. I shoot with a D-90 and have a SB-600. I've been considering buying a 300 w/s monolight with stand, umbrella, battery pack, etc. but wonder how much I'd actually use it. I enjoy stills and macro around the house but also enjoy attempting "artsy" shots and macro outdoors. My main issue is getting the lighting/shadows right with stills and macro.

I need help trying to figure out the best bang for my buck. Would I end up using the monolight more once I use it or would I get more use out of a second SB-600 along with an umbrella and stand? Thanks!

June 02, 2010 7:20 PM  
Blogger ashley said...

Thank you so much for lighting 101!! There is so much great information and I can't wait to start practicing what I've read about.

July 27, 2010 7:19 PM  
Blogger Piper Williams said...

Gear Help / Advice.

I am fairly new to the strobist system and have little by little acquired most of the necessary gear. I am however at a stand still when it comes to a wireless triggering system. I have a fairly limited budget so 'top of the line' gear is not priority. I am currently shooting with (1)'Canon Speedlite EX II Flash' and am looking for a reliable, yet reasonably priced wireless system. My immediate idea was to purchase a set of *Pocket Wizards* but I quickly discovered that they are more costly then I can currently manage. Two alternatives were suggested to me as follows:
(A) The AlienBees-CyberSync. Transmitter and Receiver. When I was still in Photography school I used this system several times in studio and grew quite fond of it. I know it requires a sync port however and my flash is not equipped. Can any one advice the necessary attatchment(s) needed?

(B) The Canon ST-E2 Wireless Transmitter. I have read that the ST-E2 will not work unless coupled with a Master flash unit, using the 430 EX II as a slave unit. Is this true or will my 430 EX II work as a stand alone with the ST-E2?

I would greatly appreciate any help/advice/suggestion that may be offered.

August 02, 2010 10:44 PM  
Blogger victorholmes02 said...

Wow Impressive! Your blog is very informative. However, it is pretty hard task but your post and experience serve and teach me how to handle and make it more simple and manageable.Thanks for the tips… Best regards.

September 23, 2010 6:55 AM  
Blogger LilyPetals said...


Thank you doesn't even begin to cover it. I would have considered myself a pro before. Your site is life changing (like thrice already). Things that I never thought of - things I never knew to think of - this I wish I'd known to think of. WOW!

September 29, 2010 2:19 PM  
Blogger Miller said...

Your blog has been extremely useful in learning all about lighting for photography. Just wanted to say "Thank you"! If you have a chance check out my work and let me know what you think. Thanks!

October 12, 2010 8:27 PM  
Blogger Connor Walberg said...


In the 2nd comment you mention "spending several years not knowing this stuff when you first started out". It's awesome that your educating photographers on the subjects that you didn't know up front. I do a similar thing on my blog, and have an article with the top 20 things I wish I had known from day one. I thought readers here may find it helpful, so here's a link to the post:

October 20, 2010 6:30 PM  
Blogger Sharna said...

I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you are doing to help the newbs! No words can describe the gratitude I feel for all your help and all the help I've gotten from the strobist group on flickr. It's truly amazing to me that there are still people out there who are willing to help without getting paid for it. Thank you! Bless you!


October 29, 2010 9:58 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this information with the world. I just watched your short intro to lighting video, and already know I am going to learn a lot from your posts.


November 18, 2010 6:01 PM  
Blogger Lillian said...

Thank you for this post. It was fantastic. Very well explained and easy to understand. I appreciate you taking the time to show us all this information. Thanks again!

January 08, 2011 8:27 PM  
Blogger Raquel said...

Hi, it's my first here and an amateur in strobe. It would be nice if you can install a search button here. It is much easier to find a specific topic. I have so much questions and I know most of the answers are all here but it's a waste of time to dig the whole archives. To be specific, I am looking for family group lighting tips.

Thank you for all the tips.

January 09, 2011 8:05 AM  
Blogger allled said...

thanks for the video.

April 27, 2011 9:28 AM  
Blogger Corporate Nomad said...

Hi -

I've read through the 101 series, and I've learned great deal of in techniques and knowledge about strobes.

As I am about to put together my kit, I found that a lot of the products mentioned are not compatible with Sony's Alpha cameras. Now I'm frustrated and overwhelmed.

Are there resources on Alpha compatible flash gear?

May 14, 2011 3:26 PM  
Blogger C J said...

Love this blog!!!!!!!!

June 01, 2011 4:19 PM  
Blogger Param Aggarwal said...

101st comment! Yay, great tutorial. Very nice.

June 06, 2011 5:05 AM  
Blogger Tam Steele Daly said...

I would like to link you to a easy-to-follow tutorial on how to cross-light AND overpower the sun....with one speedlight

The link is -

Kindest regards

July 08, 2011 4:25 AM  
Blogger T.bias said...

Your Lighting 101 has made me explore an entirely new aspect of photography as I have nearly avoided all flash photography.

That being said, I would love to have the entire Lighting 101 as a PDF for when I don't have a net connection (e.g., flying or in the field) to read and reference. Any plans to compile this into something we can download or purchase? If not, I would highly recommend it!

October 30, 2011 9:42 AM  
Blogger Kharen said...

This site is amazing! Photography is not a simple thing, but with techniques & information provided by Lighting 101, it surely is fun and wonderful! I'll keep updated!

December 28, 2011 9:03 PM  
Blogger Elle said...

THANK YOU! I did indeed have my umbrella/flash set wrong (but not the spectacularly wrong one, thank goodness) - much appreciated - and I am looking forward to watching more.

January 03, 2012 3:15 PM  
Blogger Elle said...

THANK YOU! I did indeed have my flash/umbrella set up wrong! (but not the specactularly wrong one, thank goodness) Your videos and time are much appreciated! - Elle

January 03, 2012 3:17 PM  
Blogger Casey Wise said...

Oh boy, that was the best 7 minutes I've spent in months. Stacks of thanks for making and sharing this video!

February 07, 2012 1:15 PM  
Blogger pattij said...

I want to thank you for your info on using a D70 which I found on your DVD Lighting seminar copyrighted 2008. Old I know but very useful to get back to the beginning. I have an old D50 which I was on the point of giving away when I saw the DVD. It shoots using speedlights up to 650s. Here is the link to the shot I took trying this out. Masses of sunlight pouring through a window in a basement flat (English for Appartment).
The reason this is so fantastic is I am going to Myanmar and I was going to buy a good compact, as well as my D300s to be less conspicuous. Now I can take out the D50 and use speedlights in bright sunlight, which there will be lots of. So thank you, thank you.

February 16, 2012 4:02 AM  
Blogger C. Elenbaas said...

Thank you so much for putting this together! After purchasing a flash and never having my pictures turn out by looking over these posts I have learned so much! Thanks!!

April 13, 2012 3:00 PM  
Blogger Mike McClelland said...

i've been a strobist for about half a year, and i still love telling other photographers about this "house built by david". others have blogged about it, but nobody makes it as non-threatening. thank you for making off camera lighting such an approachable, fun subject!

April 19, 2012 11:18 AM  
Blogger Clark Schierle said...

What happened to the video? Am I crazy or is this where the little video intro to speedlights, umbrella adapters, snoots, grids and gobos used to live? Is there another source for it? I have directed many friends here for the quick intro to the equipment. The flickr slide show is pretty spectacular inspiration, but I think the video served a purpose as well.

April 20, 2012 4:13 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


You're not crazy. (Well, you MIGHT be crazy, but not because of this.)

L101 gets updated periodically. And I felt it was long time to point some energy back at the readers. The video you are looking for can be found here.


April 20, 2012 5:10 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


p.s. FWIW, I am gonna reinsert it a little later into the L101 stream, closer to the relevant info.


April 20, 2012 5:14 PM  
Blogger C. Elenbaas said...

Thank you so much for putting this together and breaking everything down into easy lessons that clearly demonstrate how light works and that it can be an option to photographers on a lower budget!

April 24, 2012 9:47 AM  
Blogger said...

Hello David, Thanks for sharing all your lighting knowledge. I learned a lot from you.

April 29, 2012 4:41 AM  
Blogger dbdigitographer said...

I think I've found the cure for my strobeophobia in your Lighting 101 course. Thanks!!

I'd love a single page with links to each lesson so that I can go directly to a lesson that I want to review. If such a page exists, would you please post the link to it?

April 29, 2012 11:37 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Check the drop down menu on the sidebar.

April 29, 2012 5:33 PM  
Blogger Clark Schierle said...

@DH Thanks for the pointer to the vid. Thank you so much for the world that has been opened up to me and countless others by this site. Glad I wasn't going crazy... although my wife might beg to differ since she keeps coming home to find me taking countless photos of our dog/ orchids/ random shoe while handholding a gridded SB-800.

May 01, 2012 12:04 AM  
Blogger Cynthia L. Hofmann Orsetti said...

Hello All,
I would like to know what flash could I buy for my Pentax Kr camera, so I can take professional pictures on discoteques or very dark places.

Thanks a lot for your help


June 15, 2012 5:57 AM  
Blogger fl said...

Thanks for this into to lighting. I read it. and then read it again. and then headed outside to take photos of trains at night:

July 20, 2012 10:19 AM  
Blogger Davidson Meds said...

Wonderful update, now and only now I can understand why you said :"just walk through the lighting101 and you will see", now I see, wonderful job and I have finished the two parts 101&102 just two months ago, this new update is a very good intro to what will really happen in progress I'm in my 2nd tour of reading and deciphering the elements of how to light. Thank you very much

but the only a thing I regret in my learning curve is that I was directed to this blog over a year ago, but I preferred to read books , books and magz but this blog shortcuts many of things I spent a huge amount of my poor time after them. Now I can't stop checking this blog at least once a three days.

September 06, 2012 3:36 PM  
Blogger Frank Kruller said...

Lighting 101 is awesome. Your writing style is down to earth and is totally demystifying. Awesome!

September 16, 2012 4:20 PM  
Blogger Heather Nilson said...

I just noticed the 101 revamp on my umpteenth visit. This is great--even more clear and accessible. I'm once again amazed at your ability to deliver content that is hugely instructive, motivating, AND entertaining, twice (or more) per week for years. And then you go back and improve the older stuff even more! Bravo, and I can't thank you enough. I really am grateful for Strobist.

September 19, 2012 10:43 AM  
Blogger ABWC said...

This site is an off-the-charts, outstanding piece of work. A million thanks; I feel my mission now is to contribute something back to the community here... stay tuned !

October 08, 2012 8:41 PM  
Blogger Tommy Hammonds said...

Just bought my first real camera a Canon T3 Rebel. Looking for info on buying an external flash and found this amazing site. I look forward to learning as much as I can because my first grandchild is due Dec. 12 2012.Thanks for making this site available for beginners like me.

November 19, 2012 6:13 PM  
Blogger Bobs said...

I am not an avid photographer by any means, but studied and experimented with lighting and technique in college, with Nikon film cameras. I had a good eye and got published a few times but alas put the cameras down when another career in television tapped all my creative energy. A few years ago I was given a D7000 as a gift and have teaken up teh charge again, this time experimenting with off-camera flash. Hope to share some of my stuff here and get feedback...

January 05, 2013 8:16 AM  
Blogger Renz Alfonso said...


im new to using flash and my camera to manual.. i tried it yesterday when i got my yongnuo yn-568ex with my nikon d7000. i shoot different pictures with different shutterspeed but the ambientlight or even the background doesnt change exposure. when i change aperture the ambient light and the strobe light changes. i tried changing subject and light distance from the background so the background is 2 stop or 3 stops darker but it just doesnt change when i change my shutterspeed. i dont know what i am doing wrong.

i am using yongnuo RF-603n3 tranceivers. my max synx speed with those tranceivers is 200th so i wouldnt get the black bar on my picture.

January 08, 2013 7:05 AM  
Blogger thomasbbollinger said...

outstanding tutorial, this helps immensely.

January 20, 2013 12:24 AM  
Blogger Leonard Carter said...

Thank you very much. I usually carry a flash but I try not to use it much. Your tutorial got me excited about using strobes.

March 27, 2013 6:23 PM  
Blogger Leonard Carter said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. is an absolute life saver.

April 22, 2013 5:35 PM  
Blogger Raul Juarez Photography said...

Strobe made easy . WOW this great for new comers. WIll be tweeting about it.

May 30, 2013 11:00 AM  
Blogger Raul Juarez Photography said...

WOW this was a great starting article. I will be twitting about your site. This will help beginners avery where.

May 30, 2013 11:02 AM  
OpenID shutterbugshub said...

Thank you for this site David. You inspire a lot of new photographers around the world. Keep teaching.

July 31, 2013 1:48 AM  
Blogger Anderson Sutherland said...

I use my good old SB-28DX remotely or off-camera, as they say: a la strobist.
Thanks for the texts.
Hugs from BRAZIL
Anderson Sutherland

August 13, 2013 12:30 AM  
Blogger Anderson Sutherland said...

I use my good old SB-28DX remotely or off-camera, as they say: a la strobist.
Thanks for the texts.
Hugs from BRAZIL
Anderson Sutherland

August 13, 2013 12:30 AM  
Blogger Sajith Geetraj said...

Hi, I am an amatuer and i am about to take an assignment on product photography. This will include both table top items and bigger items like furniture sets. I dont have any lighting equipment as of now. When i asked a couple of guys around, they recommended either elinchrom 200fx or 400fx. I am just confused as in which one should i take ? what would you recommend? a 200fx or 400 fx. Isnt 400 fx better than 200fx ? Thanking you in advance.

November 06, 2013 2:30 PM  
Blogger john said...

Buying the right flash.
Thought it might be useful to post my learning experience.
I bought a speedlite type flash but it is quite erm limited for a budding strobist.

first issue power output its high or low. that makes it very hard to position to balance the light. second issue it doesn't swivel ,using an optical trigger is difficult. If i want the flash in close. The sensor is not able to look at the camera for its cue and point the flash towards the subject.
third issue is triggering It doesnt have a pc sync socket so needs an addon hot shoe pc sync box of its own.

I've now bought a Yongnuo YN-560 II with 8 power levels + adjustments a built in pc-sync and it swivels, they have a bad reputation for reliability and colour balance can be a bit random especially when used with more than one flash. so some luck is involved.

While researching this I also found the hotshoe issues between brands canon pentax nikon and sony/minolta for the use as an off camera flash there are just two main mounts canon nikon and pentax essentially use one type and sony/minolta another. ttl / pttl doesnt matter you are going to use it off camera anyway in manual.

hope this helps avoid buying a wrong flash.

November 09, 2013 6:29 AM  
Blogger Jenny Cuevas said...

Reading the introduction of Lighting 101 makes me realize I finally found the right place to learn how to use my flash and doing so improve creatively my photography skills. I am so eager to learn and to let go my fear on how to handle this little equipment (speedlights). As a beginner I just started a 365 project, so I'll have lots of opportunities to put in practice what I learn here. Thanks you!

January 03, 2014 8:09 PM  
Blogger rudolph sommer said...

Great tutorial. But you could increase the usability by making an index. So people would not have to browse up to 25 pages, scrolling down each to the next link.

January 10, 2014 11:43 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

Dropdown menu; sidebar at right.

January 11, 2014 11:22 AM  
Blogger Michael Fairbanks said...

I agree with Rudolph above: please make a table of contents for Lighting 101 and 102.

I feel badly even asking, though, because it's free. Bit it would be helpful.

Also, thank you for the great info. Yesterday my new gear came in: wireless triggers, an umbrella and stand. I guess I'm now officially an OCFer.

March 16, 2014 3:03 PM  
Blogger Andrew Davies Photography said...

Hello and just wanted to say thanks for filling in some gaps for me ! As a pro wedding photographer i have been using available light and bounced flash very succesfully along with HSS and some light painting but also in the back of mind being honest want to find a way of incorporating OCF and using my flashguns. So the lightingstands brollies and a radio trigger set are on the way :)

Whilst shooting a wedding i take a very fly on the wall approach and as such speed is of the essence in some situations and may be hampered by manually setting flashes and camera settings , could i not just dial down a couple of stops of Exposure compensation on camera and as the camera is set to auto 1/200 with flash that will take my BG down quickly in ETTL mode enabling me also to control Flash Exposure compensation from the back of my camera if necessary.... actually whilst writing this it occurred to e that may take longer than just getting a reading and doing it manually haha sorry !

Anyway thank you again will be looking at 202 next :) Uk Wedding photographer

April 16, 2014 11:56 AM  
Blogger Photography Equipment by Owen's Originals said...

I just stumbled on your site. I just wanted to say thanks for all the info. There is a lot to digest.

June 20, 2014 5:26 PM  
Blogger Roberto Santiago Rodriguez said...

Am just saying hello from Indianapolis, Indiana; am not quite new to the site really but i guess am finally ready to balance the lighting in my photos.No better place than here to learn to do that. Thanks.
Roberto Santiago

September 08, 2014 6:10 AM  

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