Lighting is supremely significant in photography and has been so since the beginning of this art. In the past, professional photographers used to burn magnesium to produce bright flashes of light. As you can imagine, the resulting image was nothing like the sharp, edited images we get today. Thankfully, we have come a long way since then.
Now you can find a plethora of photography lighting equipment that gives you control over how you want to showcase your subject and produce previously impossible lighting effects. Keeping that in mind, we have put together a short guide to the different types of lighting control equipment available to photographers today. If you are getting started on your photography journey, it is good to be acquainted with the different terms.
The most common types of light source in photography are flashes. A flashlight is now built-in in your phone and any camera, but they are a separate, external flash unit as photography lighting equipment. If you hear someone use the word ‘Speedlight’ or ‘Speedlite’, they refer to flash. The difference in terms originates from the brands Nikon and Cannon, respectively.
Flashes are convenient, easy to handle, and are charged by a conventional AA battery. Almost every professional photographer has one at some point in their career because they provide the extra lighting needed in a simplistic manner.
Strobes or studio flash are the second most commonly used photography lighting equipment. They are very similar to flashes in functionality and purpose, except they are much more powerful. Strobes mostly need power plugs, although a few portable ones also come with a battery pack. They are often referred to as ‘moonlight’ or ‘mono-block,’ so you know what they are talking about if you hear someone say that.
● Flash and Strobe Hybrid
As the name is self-explanatory, hybrid flash-strobe or pocket flash is a combo of both photography lighting equipment. It is a two-in-one unit in the sense that the gadget is lightweight and portable like a flash unit but uses the bulb of a strobe. Hence, it offers the convenience of a flash unit and the power of a strobe.
● LED Light Panel
Led light panels are a great source of light for videography and photography. They are slightly less powerful than other light sources but are super convenient to carry around. Their flat shape also offers greater coverage than flash and strobes. It is conducive when you want consistent light on your subject.
● Flood Light
If you have attended a concert or been to an award show of some sort, you may already be acquainted with these. A fancy club with an ornate dance floor may also have floodlights to create the vibe. These crazy bright lights have various applications but always require a plug. Therefore, there are only used indoors. Most likely, you will not need one in your solo photography journey, but they can be useful for broad-spectrum shoots in a studio. ECHO600 is one the most powerful flood lights on the market and is commonly used in movie / TV sets.
● Reflector Cards
This lighting control equipment is super helpful in directing light in different angles and shapes. Reflector cards are made of a flexible material that can be bent and folded in different shapes to reflect light on your subject or their surroundings. They are usually attached to flashlights and are also known as bounce cards or ping-pong bats.
A snoot is a cylindrical lighting control unit– designed to focus light on a single spot. When light is shone through a snoot, it gives an impression of light coming through a tunnel. It is particularly helpful when you have to feature a subject against a dark background. You can make your own snoot by upcycling an empty pringle can or simply rolling your reflector card into a tube.
● Colour Gels
These colourful transparent strips are designed to add layers to your lighting by giving it different accents. They are usually used in a multi-light setup instead of a single upfront light. They help you add complexity to a scene.
One of the essential pieces of lighting control equipment, a softbox, is used to soften the light. As the name explains it, softboxes are used to prevent a harsh sheet white portrait. They come in different shapes and sizes, and so you may hear it being referred to as octobox or strip.
● Honeycomb Grids
Another lighting control equipment, honeycomb grids, is used for the same purpose that a snoot fulfils. They help straighten the light, focusing it in one place. The difference is that they are bigger in size and therefore provide wider coverage. They are not as extreme as snoots and lightly prevent the light from scattering in different directions.
Who knew umbrellas could be useful outside of the rain? Well, these umbrellas are slightly different than the ones you use on a rainy day. These are translucent white and are mainly used to soften the light, just like a softbox. The main difference between the two is, of course, that of the size. Umbrellas have more spread.
● Barn Doors
You may have seen barn doors attached to floodlights or flashes and strobes. Their main purpose is to control the angle of the light and comprise four pieces of moving leaves. When attached to a flash or strobe – they prevent scattered light, which will otherwise spread in a wide-angle fashion.
● Beauty Dish
A beauty dish looks like a satellite dish and is mainly used to create a ‘ring of light’ around the subject. They are primarily used in the beauty industry, where they provide a beautiful catchlight in the models’ eyes. Their more common version is the ring lights you see being widely popular among TikTokers and vloggers these days.
Well, this is a round-up on some of the most common and widely used lighting control equipment used in photography. We hope this short guide helped you get acquainted with the lighting essentials. If you are learning photography or hoping to make a career in this field, you may need some of these sooner or later. You can find most of these items on our website, so don’t forget to check them out!