If you’re a studio or portrait photographer, you know that a large portion of your craft and creativity is spent coming up with effective and stylistic ways to light your subjects. Whether you use a simple pair of off-camera flashes or a full kit that includes studio strobes, softboxes, umbrellas, diffuser and reflectors, knowing how and where to position them is the key towards making compelling photographs.
Many photographers will probably attest that achieving the perfect lighting is like chasing the Holy Grail, it’s a lifetime pursuit that requires years of practice and the aid of learning from others.
Enter Sylights.com, the interactive website where you can create sample lighting diagrams, download them for your own reference, share them and learn from other photographers.
Once you create a free account at Sylights.com, you can create your own lighting diagram by selecting and placing any number of icons in your “studio” to represent different cameras, models and light sources. The Sylights toolkit includes, strobes, softboxes, umbrellas, both shoot through and bounce, speedlights, reflectors, diffusers and more.
You can drag and rotate, each element around your workspace and add notes that help further specify your configuration, such as lighting power output and position height.
You can also upload an actual photo that illustrates the real world effect of your lighting configuration (see below). Once you save your diagram, it is stored online for you and others to see. The site also gives you the option of downloading a .png copy to yourself, which you can store as a reference on your home computer or iPhone.
There’s even a Sylights iPhone app, which allows you to create, edit and save lighting diagrams or email them to yourself along with all of the additional notes and information that you added. The iPhone app is fairly new, so they’re still getting all the bugs worked out and asking users what features they’d like to see included in future versions.
If you’re new to lighting and want to see what others have done, it’s worth checking out the site. You’re bound to find some creative inspiration and see some new setups that you might not have previously thought of. It’s a great way to help you think about and plan some different techniques that you can try out in a future shoot. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with those new ideas when you’re right in the middle of the job and under pressure to get the shots done.
If you’re a lighting veteran, consider sharing your tips and helping out the newer photographers on the site. Who knows, you might even find a bit of creative inspiration there too!