Adding Lights To Your Photographic Assignments

by William Lulow

Most really good images are enhanced by good lighting. I’ve often written on the topic of how learning about artificial lighting can make you a better photographer, even if you do all your shooting outdoors with available light. You can make decent images with just a simple flash-on-camera setup, or in broad daylight with no artificial light at all. But when you are in a situation that needs the addition of some light, providing it from more than one light really improves the quality of your images.

Here’s what I mean. I was asked to document an art class and some of the students who attend it. I decided to bring an extra light, in addition to a soft, bounce card rig I use with my on-camera flash. This is one of the examples:

Here the kids are involved with painting, but the directional light coming from behind them added a little extra “kick” to the overall lighting scheme. You can notice that the shadows produced are very transparent so that any details are rendered totally visible. Here’s another example:

You can see the highlight created on the girl’s hair from that same accent light. It just gives the image an extra dimensionality that wouldn’t have been there with just the on-camera light. In addition, the on-camera bounce light rig that I use keeps the light sufficiently soft and reduces the exposure so that it is basically one f/stop less than the accent light. That’s what makes the accent light reproduce as white on the subject.

Sometimes the additional light can be used to give some added brightness to the scene:

Sometimes it creates highlights that make the image really shine:

This is the bounce-light rig I have been using to keep the mainlight soft and about one f/stop less than the direct accent light:

You can see that this contraption acts like a white card off of which I bounce the on-camera light. It doesn’t take the place of a photographic umbrella, but it is better than bouncing the light off of a ceiling, say, because it directs the bounce more toward the subject, while still keeping it soft. And it is really handy when you need some portability to your lighting scheme. The accent light I use can remain stationary, but I like to move it around during the shoot to try to get some different effects.

Using at least one extra light in addition to your mainlight will give your images some extra “pop” and make them a lot more interesting.