3 Basic Principles That Will Teach You How to Use Light

As part of CreativeLive's Portrait Bootcamp the mad talent and knowledge of New York City-based portrait/fashion photographer Lindsay Adler are put to use as she breaks down the practical definitions of light. Lindsay points out that once you can describe light by these 3 basic aspects (intensity, direction and quality) then you can start to understanding how much light to use, where it needs to be placed and what kind of modifiers are needed to achieve certain looks. If you are getting paid to take photos and don't already know this, shame on you. If you are just starting out then you're in luck and in the right place.

Studio Lighting can be tricky and in this clip from Portrait Bootcamp, Lindsay Adler shows images of various lighting setups and explains how you can create each look and how to avoid common mistakes. -CreativeLive


via [ISO1200]

Wait... New York City-based? Lindsay, how have we never seen you around our professional photogs poker table? ;)

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Paulo Macedo's picture

I saw "quality of light" and i've stopped watching this...Sorry.

Paulo Macedo's picture

It's all selling crap. Yes they may have better "ecosystems" where if you use one unique brand, you'll be able to get more mobility and stuff. But other than that, it's all crap...i don't believe in the "quality of light" hype.

Exactly! And when you dumb it down by using a catch all phrase to describe a variety of things, it's more difficult to learn.

Paulo Macedo's picture

This is how I see the term "Quality of Light".


She refers to softness/hardness.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I call those Types of Light, not Quality of Light. There is no premium light, like "hey sir, here's these premium photons, created in the guts of Aldebaran, with an intense and soft scatering". Man please..if you want to teach, do it with the right terms.

She also confuses direction of light with size of light (again softness/hardness). This video is kind of misleading.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Still you voted me down. ;)

I find the terms "direction of light" and "directional light" ambiguous. Since the direction of something is always relative to the position of something else, there needs to be a general agreement about what that something is when it comes to the "directionality" of light. Is it the subject or the source(s)? I've heard it used in both contexts: "this light modifier produces directional light" and "the light hitting the subject is directional". It seems that there is no consensus within the photography community.

Olafs Osh's picture

I enjoyed this video. But not for the info, but for ms/mrs Adler's wish to look uber-professional and in "teacher's mode" - that looked oh-so-funny.

mark millar's picture

Clearly, based on her portfolio Lindsay is a very successful photographers. Her portfolio has some great images. She is very good at picking her team and what she does. Took a long look at her portfolio, love most of it. Thanks Kenn.

That being said, this idea that all photographers have to be teachers is driving me crazy. In another life, public speaking was a small, but important part of my job. In the life before that teaching was the most important part of my job.

I'm having a hard time taking people seriously who may great photographers (or marketers - not talking about Lindsay - but about a slew of other photog / teachers in a different genre of photography) but can't take the time to learn to teach or speak. I'm not singling out Lindsay with my comment, she is by no means the worst of the bunch. Nor really all that bad (ignoring a few phrases and mannerisms) to tell my truth.

Would I pay to watch Helmut Newton stumble over his words and use short hand like quality of light from a particular modifier in talking about his career, Arbus talking about the quality of natural light coming through a particular window, sure. But they were giants. GIANTS.

To get to my point, why is there a proliferation of 'get rich' quick sites like Creative Live? I realize that at some point there was an attempt to give back to the community, I realize that there is often a publish or die mentality, but why so much of this type of middling tutorial.

Is it the dream of being a pro-photographer that is being peddled like the dreams of 1000s of real estate agents or day traders that we've seen in the past?

Justin Berrington's picture

I believe Lee Morris just wrote a very in depth article about this last week. I'm pretty surprised Kenn Tam would submit this garbage after Lee made a very strong statement against the "quality of light" term that's getting tossed around as if it's a real thing.

Brendan Baker's picture

Sorry- but I think I'll continue to use Dean Collins theory of "quality of light": Specular, Diffused and Shadow manipulation....