Intermediate

Tool Talk

Glossary

The Building Blocks of Light

I can get the light there, no problem. I can bring in the Speedlights, the stands and all the accessories I'll need to take the pictures I need to take. I know the Speedlights will be versatile and powerful enough to handle the job. And then comes the more interesting and creative part: I build the idea of the image, and then I shape, control, direct and finetune the light to express that idea.

No matter how much I know ahead of time about the setting and the subject, I know I'm likely to run into the unexpected. Will I be lighting to match the mood of the room, or will I be creating a mood to overcome the limitations of the room? Because I don't know that beforehand, I come prepared with all the right tools.

The basic ones are my Nikon Speedlights—my SB-900s, SB-600s and SB-R200s and the color gels that come with them and the stands that'll hold them right where I want them. And the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander that allows me to use any or all of the Speedlights off the camera.

Then comes an army of light modifiers: diffusers, snoots, grids, umbrellas and more. How big an army depends on what I think I'll be facing, but at the very least there's always a snoot and a grid. The purpose of these invaluable accessories is to give me the greatest possible control over the light—control of where it goes and what it looks like when it gets there; control of how it makes my subject look. With these tools, I can choose the degree of dispersion and diffusion. I can make the light go wide or tight, get softer or harder.

The right tools for the job are vital, but what I've learned along the way is that the photos you take aren't the result of having the right tools; they're the result of knowing how to use them.

Mike Corrado's title at Nikon is senior manager, pro relations and marketing business development. His website, corradophotography.com, features the full range of his photography, from sports and action to portraits and performance. There's also a link to his blog, which offers tips, techniques and the stories behind selected images.

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