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When it comes to learning off-camera flash, most people throw their light on a stand, place it at a standard 45-degree angle to their subject, and then that remains their go-to setup for the rest of all time. Not because there are no other great ways to light a subject, but because it’s hard for people to really visualize other setups when in the moment. You’re caught up with finding good backgrounds, posing, and communicating with your clients. So it’s easy to default to what you know. But below are some quick and easy steps you can take to start building a catalog of lighting setups. 

Step One - Look for Interesting Light

When I say look for interesting light, I don't mean while you are out shooting. I mean in everyday life. While you are cleaning the house, playing in the back yard, or even out grocery shopping. Anywhere and everywhere, look for interesting light. 

Step Two - Breakdown the Interesting Light

When you find some light that draws your eyes, especially when you’re not shooting, break down that light. Where is the light coming from? Is it hard light or soft light? What is causing it to be interesting? Is it the pattern? What's causing that pattern? Is it the color? Is it the direction? Once you have these questions answered, It’s time for step 3. 

Step 3 - How Would You Recreate That Light? 

Once you have an idea of what is making the light interesting, it’s time to figure out how you would recreate that light once it was no longer there! Where would you place your light? If the light has a color, what color MagGel would you use to duplicate it? What modifier do you need to recreate the look? A MagBox to soften the light? A grid to focus your light? Or maybe a MagSphere to spread your light? Does your light need to be fired through some curtains or window blinds? Or maybe that light is reflecting off a mirror or shining through a wine glass?  Whatever it is, take note of everything you would need to do to recreate it.


Step 4 - Recreate the Light and Modify the Light

Now is when you put things into practice as well as test how accurate your plan is from Step 3. Sit down and actually try and create some of the interesting light you have seen recently. This is where you cement the setups in your brain and see how close you were to knowing how to recreate what you saw. Did you put your light where it needs to be? Or was it too close or too far? Was the color right? The direction? What adjustments did you need to make and why? 

From here, ask yourself what can you do to add some flare to the light you just made? What happens if you adjust the angle? Change the color? Add a second light? Kill all the ambient or slow down your shutter? Use the light you are trying to recreate to inspire you to make something totally different. 

Step 5 - Grow Your Tool Belt

From here on out, all you need to do it rinse and repeat. Do steps 1 through 4 every chance you get. What you’ll be left with are two very valuable skills. The first being that anytime you walk into a room, you'll instantly be drawn to any available interesting light. You’ll just be drawn to it like a moth to the flame. The second skill will be seeing all the different tools at your disposal to create the light you had seen before. So when you are trapped in a dimly lit boring room, you won't be stuck. You’ll see the things around you and be reminded of ways you can use those objects to create interesting light. 


Bonus - The Flashlight Trick

Outside of recreating light that you see in your everyday life, there are ways to learn how to create light that most people never see. After the sun has gone down, turn off all the lights in your house, and just walk around with a flashlight. Shine it at things and through things. See how the light plays off certain objects. See what happens when the light gets close to objects and then further away. Once you see something cool, run through the steps. How would you recreate that light with an off-camera flash?

If you have any questions about how to use these steps, make sure to drop me a line on Instagram @vinsonimages_jason. I’d also love to see what you come up with by going through the steps! So make sure to share what you get to the MagMod Facebook Group and tag me so I don't miss it!