It is much more important that you understand the basic principles of how light behaves than how a specific piece of lighting gear operates. I think this will serve your photography much more in the long run.
Lighting Principle 1: Separate ‘quality’ of light from ‘quantity’ of light.
– Quality of light is the ‘feel’ of the light on your subject. Soft or hard? Direct or diffused? Backlit or sidelight?
– Quantity of light is how much light there is; i.e. the amount of light, measured in f stops.
Lighting Principle 2: The hardness/softness (contrast) of the light is the result of the size of the lighting source, relative to the distance from the subject.
Example: the sun. It is the largest source so it should be a soft source but it is far away from the subject so it is a hard, contrasty light source. A cloud increases the size of the source relative to the subject so it softens the light.
– The larger the light source, the softer (less contrast) the lighting
– The smaller the light source the harder (more contrast) the lighting
– The closer you move the source to the subject the softer (less contrast) the light will become
– The further the source from the subject the harder (more contrast) the light will become
Lighting Principle 3: Only add a light if absolutely necessary or you want to override or change the look or feel of the existing or natural light.
– Ask yourself why you want to need to add a light
Lighting Principle 4: Always start simple.
– Use as few lights as possible to create the look you want
– Only add lights as needed do a specific task
Lighting Principle 5: Work your subject into the light.
– I usually have them turn their face towards the main or front light source
– Leaning into the light can be effective
Lighting Principle 6: Don’t over fill your main subject. You will suck the life out of your photo!
Once people discover fill light or reflectors they often tend to way overdo it just because they can.
– Overfilling will cause the image to look ‘flat’ (too low contrast)
– Be careful about positioning reflectors, additional lights
– Watch the ‘spill’ from additional light sources like background
©Douglas Beasley 2014