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Studio Lighting - The Parts


A general introduction to lighting and the types of lighting can be found in an Introduction to Studio and Flash Lighting.

In this article we are looking at the parts of the equipment used for lighting, and have broken the page into a number of sections.

  • Lights and Stands

  • Modifiers - Reflectors

  • Modifiers - Diffusers

  • Modifiers - Light Coverage

  • Modifiers - Colour

  • Control and Exposure

Some items are also shown in photographs in the article Mains Flash.

Lights and Stands

The light - for photography is usually in a mount that is able to be mounted onto a standard lighting stand fitting or a screw equivalent to a tripod.

The types of lighting is covered in Introduction to Studio and Flash Lighting.

Lighting choices include:-

Holders - often designed for screw fitting bulbs or flash units, some will go onto lighting stands while some have clips or clamps to allow them to be clipped to a chair or other convenient item.

Light adaptors - used to fit one bulb type into another holder, for example a screw fitting flash or other light into a bayonet fitting.

Tilt bracket - allowing the angles to be changed, and in some cases also to allow a brolly to be held.

Stand - lighting stands come in different sizes, from those that allow you to have the light on or near the floor to very high,. Most are telescopic, having a 3 legged stand part at the base and a standard lighting spigot on the top, many also having the same sized screw that a tripod has on the end.

Boom arm - an extension that fits on the lighting stand allowing an arm with a fitting able to hold a light to be held over or in a different position. So it does not cause the stand to topple over there is a counter balance weight at the other end.

Reflector arm - another arm that can be fitted to a lighting stand, this one is telescopic and has clips allowing reflectors to be held.


Modifiers - Reflectors

Brolly - connects to a tilt bracket, and allows you to have a light (including flash) that fires away from the subject into the brolly and the light softened and reflected back. Brollies can be different sizes, there are also some really giant sized brolly shaped reflectors made that come with their own stand. Most brollies are very much like an umbrella with no handle and reversible material for the top. Typical brollies are gold on one side and white on the other or silver on one side and white on the other. The gold material often deteriorates with age, going sticky and so brollies are rarely a good second hand buy, but they are cheap.

Reflectors are panels in a variety of formats and shapes, some designed to be hand held, but there are also a variety of clamps and brackets available.

Bottletops/5 in 1 - usually round/elliptical they often have a diffuser panel and a reversible outer cover that zips on, the cover providing 5 coloured reflectors, often gold, silver, white and black. They usually have a spring rim and fold down to a third of their size.

Special reflectors - Special reflectors include devices like the Lastolite TriFlector which is a frame and three shaped reflectors designed to be used in portraiture to light the lower parts of the face/neck, and the Lastolite KickerLite and UpLite units that are ground standing wedge shapes providing infill from the ground.

Light Cubes are a form of tent on a collapsible frame and items inside are lit partly by diffusion and partly by reflection.

See also Home made reflector project.


Modifiers - Diffusers

Brolly type diffuser - like a Brolly but made of translucent material, so you use it with a light or flash with the flash pointing towards the subject and the light is diffused through the material. They come in a variety of sizes.

Panel diffuser - like a reflector panel, often folding down to a third of its normal size, and one option is the central part of a bottle top set. They come in a variety of sizes, many can be held using a reflector arm connected to a lighting stand.

Soft box - is a diffuser panel on the front of a frame that holds reflective material, and into which a light source is either built or can be fitted. The light shines partly straight through the diffuser, and partly reflected on the walls and out through the diffuser. Although you can get vented soft boxes for tungsten (hot) lights, they are normally used with flash and cool lights. A lot of soft box designs are collapsible. Some have a second diffuser between the light and the main diffuser.  One collapsible soft box that can be used with battery flash units, and has a two stage diffusing system is the Lastolite Ezybox.

Specialist soft boxes - these are panels and other specialist designs, many using flash units. The Lastolite KickerLite is a large wedge that allows light to be reflected on an internal panel and diffused to filling shadows from below, while the Lastolite HiLite is usually used as a background but can also be used as a very large soft box, nearly identical smaller versions are available as soft boxes. These all collapse and can be used with most light sources.

Light Cubes are a form of tent on a collapsible frame and items inside are lit partly by diffusion and partly by reflection.

See also Home made diffuser project.


Modifiers - Light Coverage

Barn doors - usually only fit onto mains flash and theatre style lighting. They come in different sizes. Usually the design involves 4 flaps that can be used to block out part of the light, they can also be used to support filter material using clips added to the doors.

Flags - are something that can be used to block light, it can be as simple as a card and a clip.

Snoot  - a funnel shape that cuts down the light to provide a pool of light, they cannot be used with any light source producing heat.

Honeycomb - often fitting to the end of a snoot, its a block with a number of holes drilled through it, producing a very straight beam of light. Most often used for lighting hair or putting a splash of light across the eyes.


Modifiers - Colour

Gels - material that fits over a flash or other light source that changes the colour. It may be moulded into a product to go with a lighting kit, but can also be a thin sheet of filter like material that can be clipped to a barn door set or some other convenient part.

Battery operated flash gels/filters - allow you to change the colour of the light to produce background effects but also there are colours that convert flash, which is daylight colour (blue), into tungsten (orange) or strip light (green) allowing the flash units to be mixed with available light better. This comes with some units, and some have special holders, while others don't have them provided but are available as extras.

Filters - to add to flash units, are discussed above as gels, and battery operated flash gels/filters.  With film cameras it was necessary to use filters on the camera to convert the light from your light source to the type of film if the two did not match, you can still do this with digital if you wish, although white balance settings allow this to be achieved without them.

White balance - is set on the camera, allowing you to take photos under light that is different colours and get the results you expect. Where mixed lighting is used you need, where you can, to get all these sources producing light of the same colour.  See white balance in the photography topic index or in the alpha index.


Control and Exposure

Sync cable - Used as one means of connecting a mains flash unit to a flash meter or camera. We suggest you don't connect older designed mains flash units directly to your camera as the camera circuits may not take the current without damaging the camera. With most mains flash systems you trigger one light and the others are triggered from this one going off. You can trigger one by using a radio trigger or by firing a smaller flash, set manually in your camera this can be set to just produce enough light to trigger the flashes but not enough to show in your photo.

Radio remote trigger - used with mains and some battery powered flash units when no connection exists.

Commander - built into some Nikon cameras and into some Nikon flash units or available as a separate Nikon unit. It is a part of the Nikon Creative lighting system allowing a number of groups of Nikon flash units to be controlled from the camera/commander. As the commander unit uses pre-flashes to communicate between flash units it cannot be easily mixed with other makes of flash units. This is a very effective system.

Remote flash trigger - usually a photocell in a case, that is connected to a flash unit, that is set to go off when other flash units do. The remote trigger may just be more sensitive than the built-in one or it may be able to be positioned where it can pick up the flash from other flashes. Often a reflector, even a piece of white paper, can be used instead so as to allow the flash units own sensor to pick up the flashes.

Flash metre - a device that measures a pulse of bright light. You press a button on the unit and it then looks for a flash for a period before timing out. When it sees the flash it gives an indication of the strength of the flash and this is used to set the exposure. Not needed with Nikon Creative lighting system.


See Also:-

Introduction to Studio and Flash Lighting

There are many articles on flash, lighting and reflectors in the Lighting and Reflectors Section.


By: Keith Park Section: Lighting and Reflectors Key:
Page Ref: Studio_lighting_parts Topic: Flash, Studio and Reflectors Last Updated: 04/2014

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