Tutorial On How To Light a Room – By Scott Hargis

May 21st, 2007

I was about ready to ask Scott to describe his approach at using the “Strobist technique” he uses to light a room. Turns out he’s already done a nice tutorial with examples over on the Strobist discussion group. Scott describes this technique for building up this shot with 4 strobes. I thought the readers here would like to see it. Nice job Scott!If I haven’t mentioned it before the strobist blog is a great place to pick up a lot of good information and techniques on how to raise your lighting technique to the next level.

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14 Responses to “Tutorial On How To Light a Room – By Scott Hargis”

  • You should also check out the most recent episode of LightSource (podcast).

    In it, Bill and Ed talk with Interior and Architectural photographer Nathanael Bennett. Lots of really good information on how to light interiors, although using a bit more lighting power than advocated by the strobist guys.

    I’d also add in another vote for checking out strobist. It is the best resource for learning how to light. The book/dvd recommendations alone have been worth it. The Dean Collins DVDs are a good example of this.

  • where do I find details/specifics on what he uses to trigger the other flash units? I ‘ve seen ebay mentioned but there are many on ebay. Thanks.

  • Ted, specifically I’m using 16-channel triggers sold on eBay by a seller named “Magic Trigger”. Whatever brand/seller you go with, I HIGHLY recommend spending the extra $10 or so and getting 16-channel units as opposed to 4-channel ones – by all accounts they’re much more reliable.

  • At the risk of pointing out something already known to shooters here…

    One advantage that the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) offers, is the ability to trigger multiple slave flashes. So, if you have a D70S, D200 etc body, you can use the inbuilt flash to trigger off external speedlights. In this mode, the inbuilt flash does not contribute to lighting the scene… it just triggers the slaves.

    Alternatively, if you have an SB800 speedlight on your body, you can use that to remote command other slaves, and it helps illuminate the scene as well.

    This avoids the need for any remote flash control systems, and each speedlight can be assigned to a separate channel with different settings.


  • Great tutorial Scott. Looking forward to Chaper 2. Kitchens

  • Adam – I’d be very reluctant to go with CLS for architectural work because of the frequent need to place flashes in remote locations on set. CLS is designed primarily for line-of-sight transmission of the signal and really gets difficult to use when you’re trying to trigger a flash that’s around a corner in another room, or behind a couch. Dark painted walls especially wreak havoc with the Nikon system.

    The great advantage, of course, is that you can adjust the power settings of each flash without leaving your shooting position, which is really a boon. But in my experience, you end up running around anyway, making minute adjustments to the position of each flash, hoping to get the IR signal to work.

  • Nice Tutorial Scott – as a I have just added 5 new Vivitar 285HVs to my Alien Bee mix. I was using Morris slaves but they were unpredictable sometimes.

    M. James

  • MJ,
    I like your idea of getting new Vivitar 285HVs. The look like they are a better choice than getting used Nikon SB-26s on Ebay and they are about the same price. The Vivitar appear to be simple and sturdy.

  • Larry,
    They arrived today and I already dropped one with no problems at all. I was quite impressed with the battery life also and they are simple to operate. I used Pocket Wizards with them with no problems at all. They certainly fill in the holes nicely for me.

  • Hi,
    Could you use any old flash to do this? or only the new model flashes. As I often see old flashes from film cameras on ebay for around $20-$30

  • Any electronic flash will work, but most of them doesn’t have various manual settings (typically 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16), only an automatic sensor. It is posible to get a full power burst constantly by hidding it, but it isn’t very flexible. It could be a solution for an extra, but your main flashes ought to be variable. The cheapest solutions are Nikon SB-24s on eBay, but the strobist craze keep prices high (60€); or Sunpak 383 Super and vivitar 285s available new.

  • I like the tutorial for one aspect… It does the “step by step evolution” of lighting and what does it to the scene. When I use light I do pretty much the same thing but I use the bees. Spotting the “black holes” it’s easy especially if you are shooting to a laptop. I’m not too keen about the Vivitars or Sunpaks, they use tons of batteries if you are using them every day and if you buy quantum batteries for them, you end by paying what would you pay normally for a smaller bee. And you can’t remote adjust them, remote adjusting saves tons of time, especially if you are alone there…
    Back to the image presented, I assume it’s just a “demo” shot, right?
    I don’t want to offend anyone; I would just like to comment a bit the image.
    Smoothing the shadows would help the final image, some shadows are very harsh there. Also, a better composition would help alot… just a few quick points:
    – This living room is outstanding by the cathedral ceilings it features, right? Then Why don’t we really show them, with a portrait shot? I would compose the image the way the couch would angle in the left lower corner and the upper room in the right upper one. That would give a complete high ceilings look. If you do have a TS24 in your arsenal, this would be the place to use it (assuming you shoot Canon)
    – I would shoot without the stereo crap on the right… Those elements are simply distracting, totally senseless for a Real Estate Shot.
    – Backing up the left corner coffetable a bit will remove of some “clutter” in the image, letting the viewer focus of the really important aspects of the interior: High ceilings, fireplace with chimney, staircase and relation with the upper level.
    – Watching for the “white holes” – reflections of flashes in high reflective surfaces… in this example… the pictureframe, or whatever that is, on the backwall.
    If there are no modifiers available… bounce, but bounce out of view…. Anything can be used as modifiers, and I know sometimes it looks awkward to work with diy modifiers especially when your clients are watching you. But hey… you’re the wizard, aren’t you?

  • I am a creative, fine art,street shooter photographer looking to break into this market. Rather then forking out $$$ for a bunch of 580EXII for my Canon 5D, can you suggest a flash setup/kit that would be more than adequate, but affordable to do a shoot that you described?

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