I don't have a studio so I mostly shoot outside on locations, or for practice in my small room. I see some pictures that they have shaped and directed the light so well. For example a violin where half of it is in dark and half in light, or a face where the two sides are in dark and the middle of the face in light (see example below).

How can I do those things and shape the light? As for light modifiers and some tools here is what I have. Is it gear I am missing or is it skills and practice?


  • Flashes: Two SB-910 for TTL and a LumoPro LP180 for Manual
  • Radio Triggers: Pocket Wizard Plus III
  • Light meter: Sekonic 478 DR


  • Two shoot through umbrellas, small size I think 20"
  • One snoot grid, Rogue 3-in-1 thingy. ( I don't like it, hard to aim and use, do you have better recommendations for this?)
  • One Joe McNally EzyBox HotShoe SoftBox
  • LumiQuest SoftBox III
  • Some color gels.

Sample I would like to be able to produce

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Some example photos would be good. It may well be you are seeing examples of light painting: a long exposure in a dark room, with the object being lit with a flashlight in specific areas. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ no it is not light painting. I'll try to find examples but with some imagination power you can imagine the type of pics I am asking about :) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 15:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Is that photo yours? Or a example of what you want to achive? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rafael quick Google image search of an example I like to achieve. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


Just me, but I'd say, you're missing the skills and practice, not the tools.

Your gear is a pretty good basic three-light setup (assuming you just didn't feel like listing the stands and swivels). You have umbrellas, and a 24" softbox, and while they might be a little small, they're still pretty decent-sized.

The main thing you have to learn here is that lighting is as much about where the light doesn't go as where it does. Spatial separation is tough in a small studio space, but it's often required to keep lights from "polluting" each other. And you probably really need to practice a bit more with gobos/flags/grids/barndoors to limit the light spread. And maybe a bit more reading to begin to learn how to reverse-engineer lighting and how to read the light placement from the shadows.

The basic textbook on lighting is Light, Science and Magic, now in its 5th edition. And the main website fount of off-camera lighting knowledge is the Strobist. You may also be able to find a good class or workshop in your area. David Hobby also has his video course on line at Lynda.com, and Zach Arias sells downloadable videos on off-camera lighting basics.

Lighting is not a subject everyone can instinctively figure out on their own. Some folks are phenoms and can. But the rest of us need some help. I read the Strobist for more than two years, bought all the gear, and it never "clicked" for me, until I took a local hands-on workshop. Consider getting some instruction.


Well I don't know if that is what you want to achieve or a result of a photo of yours you want to improve.

I will only comment that for low key photos probably the shoot through umbrellas are not the best option because they spill a lot of light.

I'm imagining the violin and the face photo, and I suppose you want more contrast, like the dark side of the face as pure black.

As you probably have some light spilling, and therefore bouncing on a far wall you probably need to have a black matte cardboard or a black cloth to absorb that light. Here is a diagram.

Or try to buy a softbox, probably with some grid. The bigger the softbox, the better. But the size is relative. There are some interesting shapes: thin, rectangular, square. For portrait photography I would aim for a 30x20in. For close ups you can use a smaller one and for full body you probably need a bigger one.

The power of your flashes is affected by the size of the softbox. As I think you are using speedlights, probably need a smaller one, or an array of flashes inside the softbox.

Another way to "sharpen" the light is moving away your source of light.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks, so no strip lighting needed? I have that SoftBox from Joe McNally series called EzyBox SoftBox HotShoe so I think I should get a "grid" or "strip" than can go on top of that softbox... \$\endgroup\$ Jul 1, 2015 at 19:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, good. Play with the distances, play with the position and play with the angle. If you need mask your softbox with black cloth. You dont need to have a striplight, you can make one if you need. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Jul 1, 2015 at 19:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.