I've gotten lots and lots of feedback on the articles we've had so far on lighting techniques - so I thought we might go a little further into that and discuss different lighting terms and the use of shadows and more complicated lighting setups. Don't get scared off because I used the word "complicated" - when you see how easy it is to achieve really fancy, professional effects with your lighting, you'll be amazed!
Glossary of Lighting Terms
Following are some general lighting terms. We've gone over a few already, but this includes some new ones and will be a refresher on previous ones.
A reflector, usually white, silver or gold, used to bounce light back from the main light onto the subject.
Thin, translucent material used to diffuse light. Can be tracing paper, translucent plastic, umbrellas or even a bedsheet (as discussed in this lesson).
A light that is neither the key light or fill light. These are usually used as back lights to bright out a vivid "halo" around a subject's hair, or sometimes a "background light" used to create interesting patterns on the background.
Lights that fill in the shadows on the subject. Not as bright as the key light or else further away from the subject than the key light to cut the intensity.
The opposite of a reflector, these are sometimes used in studio lighting. They are dark and absorb extra light in order to maximize shadows. A piece of black foamcore board comes in handy for a flag, or if you're frugal you can paint the other side of a white piece of foamboard black and then you have a super-handy two-in-one photographer's tool!
Translucent or transparent colored material used to modify the color of light. These were super-common in stock photography in the late 80's and early 90's when most stock photos had vivid pink, blue, green and orange overall hues to them. If you use gels, you want to use vivid colors so people don't think you just forgot to set the white balance on your camera correctly.
A sheet with cutouts on it that creates interesting shadows when placed in front of your light source. Imagine a metal sheet with squares cut into it resembling those of a Belgian waffle. If you angle your light at 45 degrees to a background and put this piece of metal in front of it, you'll get super-funky geometric effects. You can make your own and they can be quite fun to play with!
The main light source, casting the dominant light and shadows in an image.
A "bounce" as mentioned above or a dish-shaped item that surrounds the back of a light source, ensuring no light "escapes" and it is all directed at the subject.
Heat-resistant fabric diffuser for softening lighting. This is like what we stretched over our lights in the lesson on do-it-yourself softboxes.
A cone-shaped item you can place over the front of your light. It intensifies the light and gives you the ability to direct your light source in very specific places. You can produce amazing results with these in still life photography. Snoots come in various shapes and sizes depending on whether you want stronger or softer lighting effects with them. Oftentimes you can buy "gobo" (see above) attachments for them.
Large, diffuse light source made by shining light through a diffuser. These offer the same soft, flattering lighting as a north-facing window in Rembrandt lighting.
One of the photographer's best friends, the umbrella can either be used by shining light directly at it and then using it to bounce that light onto the subject, or by shining light directly through it, creating a soft box, of sorts. Photographic umbrellas are usually made of a white, translucent material, and the larger the better.
Okay, now let's get to the fun stuff!