Understanding How to Control Light With Grids

When I was new to portrait lighting, I used to blast everything with light with reckless abandon. Although, as I grew as a photographer, I learned that the ability to control the spread of light on a multi-strobe shoot allowed you to not only create something with a more sophisticated appearance, but tell a better story. One of the most affordable ways to accomplish this is with the use of grids. The Slanted Lens put together a great video tutorial on understanding grids. Read below to learn more.

The great thing about grids is that not only do they do an amazing job at controlling your lights when used properly, but they are cheap and easy to throw in your lighting case. Barely a photo shoot goes by when I do not use a grid for something, whether it be to splash a beam light on a background or create a gradient, to bright out details on a portrait subject, or to even create a narrow focused beam to pop the subject out of their environment. For these reasons, I highly suggest that if you own strobes, you should also invest in a few grids and play with them. Oh, and the grid for my beauty dish is one of my favorite modifiers to use when doing moody single-person portraits.

Below are a few examples in which I used a grid in a portrait scenario:

A 10 degree grid was used to focus the light to the center of the subject's face. A softbox was behind me as I shot to create a subtle fill light.

Used a gridded beauty dish. Created a dramatic directional light with nice falloff on the edges on the wall

Used a 20 degree grid to subtlety create visual focus on his face. Large softbox was used for general fill

Gridded beauty dish was used on the subject to create a pretty but narrow moody portrait light.

Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called Notabully.org to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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Fantastic video! Never shoot anything without bringing my grids!!!

Amazing video, and love the portraits! I've recently invested in grids, and it really is a game changer for just about any situation. Being able to properly focus your light is just as important as focusing on your subject with your camera and lens.