Lighting considerations for the bathroom

Bathroom lighting is an integral part of the home lighting considerations. Unless you live in a studio flat, where the bath and shower unit are then subsumed within the living area, then the demands on lighting the separate bathroom will require some additional thought.

The first point to note is that bathroom lighting requires a mixture of ambient lighting and spot lighting. You need a certain level of ambient lighting to brighten the whole area, unless you are the sort that prefers to have a shower in the dark, surrounded by candles, every time you use the bathroom! You just need a small amount of general lighting so that you are able to see what you do. It is a good idea to use lights that do not require much electricity, so that the running costs are minimised. Some people simply have a ceiling light running on a energy saving bulb, and find that it suffices for them. Energy saving bulbs, however, take a bit of time to warm up to produce the required wattage of light, and if you were merely doing a quick visit to the bathroom you might find you might even exit it before the light is sufficiently bright, when it is still in the firing up process. For some people, however, they find this minor inconvenience negated by the fact that the running costs will be lower compared to a normal bulb.

You also need a bit of spot lighting in certain areas, particularly around the mirror. Why? It is so that when you are getting ready in the morning, you can see your face clearly in the mirror as the light falls on it to brighten it up. The light around the mirror should be of higher intensity than the ambient lighting provided by the ceiling light, so that the image in the mirror is more visible compared to the background. It is likely that without the mirror lights, your reflection in the mirror would be darker, because the light from the ceiling light would cast your shadow into the mirror.

Ideally, the mirror lights should be either above or to the side of the mirror, and angled slightly towards the middle, so the reflected light off the subject is diverted across to the other side of the face. If the mirror light is directly in front then it was cause direct glare; it is similar to watching a concert performance and having a backlight shoot right into your vision.

It is unavoidable that the mirror light be sites in close proximity to the user so it might also be a good idea to use translucent fixtures around the lamp so that the direct glare is cushioned.

If your bathroom is larger enough and you have certain decorative objects you wish to emphasise – or perhaps it is the bath itself – you may wish to focus some spotlights on these points of focus. These should be small focussed lights with higher lumens.

Bathroom lighting follows the same principles as other areas of the house. Consider the general lighting demands in addition to task specific lighting, and highlight points of interest. Consider also the light levels increased by reflective surfaces and glare as a result of siting. Selecting the fixtures for these may depend on the running costs. But if you get the balance right, your bathroom will be the perfect blend of function and design.

Lighting for the theatre: spot, flood and fresnel lighting

Lighting is used in the theatre and the stage lighting can really make a significant impact on not just the effectiveness of the scene, but in the production in general. There are many types of lighting and they vary according to the function within the scene.

Spot lighting is a way of focusing the audience’s attention on a character or object. We often see spot lighting used to bring out the characters in a scene, you will notice that they are bathed in brighter lights than the background, or perhaps in larger scenes, those who have parts will be spot lighted while the others work in general illuminance.

But you do not necessarily spot light the actors who have speaking parts in the scene. You spot light those who have impact on the scene. For example, if a group of characters are investigating a crime and are examining the evidence, while behind them the responsible criminal is slinking away, the latter will also be spot lit as he withdraws. If some people are hunting for an object hidden in the background, the object gets subtly spot-lit too.

Flood lighting is another kind of lighting seen in the theatre. As the name itself suggests, the lighting is used to illuminate a wide area strongly. If a scene requires characters to be simultaneously brought out, such as if they are in group conversation, flood lighting is used. But if one of these characters leaves the group and walks to a corner of the stage, then he is picked out by spot lighting which follows him around until he returns to the group.

How can lighting influence our views subtly? Imagine this scene on stage. A man is leaving the family home against the wishes of the elders. If we use a spotlight of lower intensity on him, and flood light the rest of his family, we influence the audience into thinking the decision is wrong. But if we spot light him in higher illumination, it makes him out to be heroic, brave and influences the audience to support him.

What happens if you want to illuminate a large area but without the brilliance? That is to say, you want to softly illuminate a large area. If that is the case, you use what is known as Fresnel lighting. Fresnel lighting covers a wide area, but in soft focus. For this reason Fresnel lighting is always used as a background lighting method, for general purposes.

In the previous example scene, the man would be spot lighted, the family flood lighted, while we could use Fresnel lighting for the background.

Lighting can communicate to the audience on a subtler level. It can move together with or against the stage. If a protagonist claims he will act for a just cause, but the lighting on him is lower than the general lighting, leaving him less illuminated, then any faith we have in his abilities is challenged.

Lighting can make a significant impact on screen. The next time you are at a theatre, analyse the scene, and how the lighting is used to convey meaning and intention subtly. It will help you become a better lighting engineer.

Wireless Controlled Lighting Systems: a sign of the times?

In the last post we looked at sensor lighting for homes, where the lighting is controlled by timing devices which come on or off automatically. The limitation with sensor or timer-related devices is the accurate of the delay or the sensor. For example, if you are deep in concentration at a task, you don’t want the lights to go off because they cannot sense you are in the room.

Imagine you were trying to repair a laptop or something requiring your focussed attention. At the most inopportune moment you’re left hiding a screwdriver in one hand, a pair of pliers in another, while trying to wiggle one leg in the hope of triggering a sensor.

Another lighting feature that is growing in importance is wireless controlled lighting. In this form of lighting, the lighting is controlled via wireless means, so you could adjust the lighting from a smartphone. As most people are often glued to the phone or have it close by, to the point that it is described as their third hand, or a leash, using this as a lighting control is not unnatural, it is a seamless extension of the device.

The primary push behind this sort of thinking – controlling lighting wirelessly – is undoubtedly lifestyle. In the modern age, turning on lights from a wall socket is seen as outdated and backward. In fact, many new build homes now come with wirelessly controlled lighting as the norm. Young first time buyers, all of whom will have grown up with a smart phone in their teenage years view this as a sign of status. The use of wirelessly controlled lighting may make a positive impression of a property and its asking price. Some home owners install it prior to sales, upgrading their old lighting systems, because the increase in the asking price a property could fetch would outweigh the lighting cost.

But wirelessly controlled isn’t just growing on the younger generation. Older citizens are installing it too, to save on the physical effort to adjust lighting, especially if they have mobility difficulties. Having to brighten or dim the lighting without having to get up may be a benefit to some.

There are other advantages too. If you are leaving on a long holiday but in your haste to get away you forgot to turn off a set of lights, those lights are going to announce to the world, especially those who see them lit continuously, that your property is vacant and ripe for a break-in. If you had wireless lighting you could turn them down on your journey. And while you are away, too, you could turn the lights on and on to give the impression of occupancy. Wireless lighting is a boon for security, not just a status symbol! Of course, it means you have to choose a really good password, as you won’t want someone else running your household controls for you.

Wireless lighting can be preset to adjustable levels, such as with the brightness on your television screen. It is a quick efficient way to adjust lighting controls without adjusting individual lights, and can bring about valuable time-saving.

Bill Gates has a remote controlled house where he could call in on the way home for it to prepare his bath, or to get the kettle boiling to prepare a cup of tea. Will the average house be like that? Probably not in the immediate future, but perhaps wireless technology will make its impact elsewhere. For now though, it seems that wireless controlled lighting systems will become more commonplace in the future and every household may eventually adopt one.

Sensor lighting systems and their limitations

A simple lighting system in the past consisted of an overhead lamp turned on and off by a wall switch. Nowadays you could easily into a room and find no switches at all. How do you turn on the light? Actually, by the time you consider that question, you may find that the light has already come on for you. And when you leave, the light will automatically go off a little while after you exit the room.

Increasingly sensors are being used as the primary trigger for lighting devices. These sensors were originally for security purposes, such as to trigger an intruder light in the porch, or to start a recording device. But as with all technological things, the lifespan of such things is lengthened when more uses are found for them, so it is no surprise that these systems, which consist of a motion detector, an electronic control unit, and a controllable switch (relay), have made their way into interior lighting.

How do these light sensors work? A motion detector detects movement, and sends a appropriate signal to the control unit to close the circuit, which would allow light to come on. If there is no activity after a period of time, the circuit is opened again until movement is detected.

The detection of an occupant in the initial entry to trigger the lighting easy, it is similar to entering the field of view of a PIR detector. But how do detectors know when a person has left the room, or is sitting still in the settee?

Imagine if someone has entered the room to read, fallen on the settee, and woken up in complete darkness!

Another problem that current sensor lighting systems cannot solve is that if the delay between the circuit reset is too long, then if you are entering a room for only ten seconds to retrieve an item, then light and energy are wasted while the circuit remains closed before it resets again.

The current technology is being enhanced in all areas, including cost reduction by maximising the efficiency and lifespan of parts, as well as the increased capability to detect occupancy by means other than movement, so that if you are still for a while, the unit is aware of your presence despite your lack of movement.

Some current products being trialled include heat sensing technology, but it may be awhile before improvements in technology lower the cost to a level acceptable enough to be implemented in household units. But even then, these heat sensing units may not even address the problem. What if you are ready to fall asleep and the unit refuses to let you turn the light off? Another kind of sensor being trialled is one that gradually lowers the lighting level in the room if it senses no movement. But it would require the use of dimmable bulbs, instead of energy saving ones.

Sensor controlled lighting was implemented so that lights would not be left on overnight and waste electricity. But there are still improvements to be made. But perhaps it may be fair to say that instead of relying on automation, everyone should just make the effort to make sure energy is not wasted. It appears that the more advanced the technology is, the more it has been designed to make us stop taking responsibility for ourselves.

How to design lighting for interiors

Lighting can really make a difference to the way a room is presented. If you looked at the way a room is presented on one of the property shows on television, you will see that the best ones are almost always lit when the prospective buyers enter the house. Or if you glanced at an estate agents sales brochure or website, the properties that are advertised always use lighting to their advantage. I’ve known a few couples to be slightly disappointed when they visit properties because they’ve seen for themselves that the property they thought looked light in the sales brochure or website did not really materialise in its actual state. And one individual even decided not to sell, after seeing how his own property could look like with a bit of clever interior lighting in the estate agents’ sales brochure!

Getting interior lighting right requires consideration, but it is not beyond the lay person, unless you have really specific requirements for what you want to achieve. Otherwise it is a simple matter of considering these few easy steps.

Consider the focal points of the room first. The focal points of the room are the ones you want people to notice. They can be structural or decorative. A structural focal point is one that is part of the building itself. Perhaps it is the low beams you want to emphasise. Perhaps it is the fireplace. Or it could be a specific historical feature that has been carefully preserved. These are all structural focal points. A decorative focal point is a piece of furniture or art, an internal decoration, that draws interest. It could be a nice Ming vase, or a framed picture. Whether the focal points are structural or decorative, bring them out from the other areas of the room.

How can you bring them out? The point to remember is that the local lighting to these areas has to be higher than the general lighting. You have to get more light focussed on the areas. Direct lighting may be suitable in some cases, especially if the reflected object or surface is dark or non-reflective. But if there is the likelihood of glare, then consider diffusing the light around these features, or using small focal lights to emphasise them.

After the features of the room have been considered, the next thing you want to do is consider the specific functions for the activities in the room. Perhaps you have a writing desk in a corner. You’ll need to put some focussed local light there, but be sure to consider the impact it has on other areas of the room. If you have a wall-mounted television, decrease the amount of lighting around the area to minimise glare.

After focal points and functional uses have been considered, the last thing to consider is the lighting for general ambient purposes. How much light do you need for general usage of the room? It goes without saying that the general ambient lighting should not exceed the specific local lighting in the other areas, otherwise you end up with a room that is extra bright, or one where the specific lighting has no significant impact.

The fixtures you use for various lighting purposes vary. For focal points, a very general rule might be to used diffused lighting to minimise glare. For purposes such as writing, or perhaps small focal points, use direct focussed light but be mindful of reflective glare. The needs for ambient lighting can vary according to the time of day and the seasons as well, so it may be worth considering fixtures with dimmer switches so the surrounding lighting is within control and more manageable and adaptable to the needs.

Using the correct interior lighting doesn’t require a lot of mental agony. Just consider the layout of the room, what you want to emphasise and what your needs for the room are. Then plan the lighting with these in mind. And your interiors will look a million dollars, without costing that much!

Why horror films are good debut films

Lighting is great and can really bring out meaning in a scene. But what happens if you want to make a film and have a limited budget? Do you just blow it all on a set of lights?

This is one of the dilemmas facing amateur filmmakers. You want to make a good debut film, but don’t have the money to buy all the ideal equipment. You’re just going to have to improvise.

The budget available does affect the kind of film that is made, to state the obvious. If you have a small budget, you can’t really make an action film with lots of explosions.

Unless you take a close up of a lighter, film a group of people jumping in the air, and have a loudspeaker.

You need to be creative.

Many film makers start out doing horror films as a debut. Why?

Remember that lighting is used to create three-dimensional width on a two-dimensional screen. A lack of fill lighting creates a two-dimensional look which looks unnatural.

Ever wonder why, when you watch the news on screen, or presenters on programmes, they are always shot from the side, rather than head on? It is because if that happened, they would look flat on our screens. Filming from the side creates a three-dimensional look without the need of much additional fill lighting.

Lack of fill lighting creates an unnatural look. Which is perfect for horror films.

But that still doesn’t mean you don’t need to be creative. Here are some ways you can be inventive with lights in typical horror scenes:

To create a scene of a spooky forest or wood, hang a light overhead and let it shine down. This mimics the natural moonlight. Add some dry ice for suspense.

To create an evil silhouette, place the light source behind the subject rather than the front. The glare from the back causes unease, the lack of definition of the subject’s face amplifies the uncertainty.

Hiding in a closet? Cut up some cardboard and again shine the light from behind. Do everything the people at film school tell you not to do in a typical scene!

Lighting and its function in cinematography

Cinematography is the art and science of recording moving images. Through lighting we can create in these images a visual language that indicates time, place, and three-dimensionality. Lighting can do a lot, but it has several major functions in photographing moving images.


Just as light allows us to see, lighting allows us to record the image. Obvious, right? But we need to consider the following. Our eyes register light through rods (brightness on a gray scale) and cones (color values) and transmit images to the brain. They are very sensitive and have a tremendous amount of latitude in what they can perceive and what the brain can then process or “record.” At the writing of this book there are a lot of very excellent high-definition cameras being used in the profession. They range from the ARRI ALEXA and the RED to the Sony F55. There is also a wide range of “prosumer” and low-budget professional cameras being used for a wide variety of digital cinema and video production, which includes the Sony NEX-FS700, the Canon EOS C500, and a slew of digital single-lens reflex still cameras that can also record video and that all boast 35mm sensors and high resolution rates. They can record an image under almost any form of available light, even under streetlights outside at night or by the light from a computer screen. Amazing! Yet none of them come anywhere close to what our rods and cones can detect. The human eye can see detail in the darkest shadows in a room with only a single candle. It can see details in the texture of the snow on a sun-drenched mountaintop.

Lighting allows film and video to record an image that approximates what the human eye sees. Without enough light, the image, or parts of it, will be noisy, blurry, burned out, dim, and lacking in detail, if visible at all. While a lot of things can be done to the image in digital postproduction, it takes a lot of time, talent, and money—and can degrade the image quality. Even with the most advanced postproduction coloring software, it is still preferable to begin with a full-range, deeply saturated image—something we used to call a rich negative. That means a picture with a defined contrast, full blacks, clean whites that don’t blow out, and a nice full range of in-between levels throughout. We can usually only accomplish this by judiciously adding some of our own lights.

With the new highly sensitive sensors, the need to add light for simple exposure has all but disappeared. That burdensome, nonartistic, technical requirement has been, thankfully, lifted from the shoulders of the director of photography (DP) and gaffer, who can now concentrate totally on the artistic use of lighting. In other words, we now concern ourselves with how much we want the viewer to see and how much we want hidden in the shadows or ignored in burned-out white. In lighting we put light where we want it and take it away from where we don’t want it. We now have more ability to be selective in what we allow the viewer to see—selective in the brightness, in the color, in the contrast, and in the detail.

By using this selectivity, we can direct the focus of the viewer’s attention to what we want the viewer to concentrate more on within the picture. The human eye is attracted to whatever the brightest thing is in its view. Magicians use this to their advantage all the time. A bright flash of light occurs off to one side and everyone looks at it, giving the stage crew enough seconds to hide an elephant and make it appear to disappear (yes, it’s been done). Directors, art directors, and DPs use the same concept. Art directors will give the actress that is the star a more colorful, brighter, or more sparkly costume than the characters surrounding her, thus making her stand out in a crowd. DPs do this with lighting.


Movies and videos are two-dimensional images. But everyone working on the project wants to suck viewers into the world being shown onscreen—we want them to feel as if they are looking into another world through a window. We want them to become so engrossed in the story that they feel like they are in the picture themselves. Lighting suggests a belief in the reality of what is on the screen. We use lighting to deceive the viewer into believing what is happening is real. We want viewers to forget that what they are watching has already happened a while ago and isn’t happening right here and now, and that who they are watching are actors, that the actors are just reciting written lines, and that they are in sets, not real locations. Good lighting renders an illusion of three-dimensionality to a flat screen, making it feel all the more real and making the viewer feel more present. Lighting does this by providing modeling and depth to an otherwise flat image.

The mind rejects pictures that are false and confusing, thus taking the viewer out of the moment and back into the position of sitting looking at a screen. This causes the viewer to separate from the story and examine the image as an image. When this happens, the viewer becomes detached from the story. While viewers certainly can become reengaged, they will not process fully what was going on or being said while their brain was preoccupied with trying to justify the “reality” of the image.

In order to avoid this, the lighting in the image must look “real” or “natural” or at least story-appropriate. Lighting provides logic. The light seems to be coming from natural or logical sources, making us feel we are in real locations. Lighting utilizes light, shadow, color, texture, and angle to give the audience a perspective on the scene taking place. Shadows must be consistent with the “source” of the light whether seen or unseen. We must be consistent to maintain believability. And believability is key to getting the audience to suspend disbelief and become involved in the story.

In order to maintain an illusion of reality, we will want to light the scene as if it were lit by a motivated light source—something that seems believable, such as a desk lamp, a window, or a fireplace. Thus, the lighting we use should be consistent with its source—in color and intensity, texture and angle. This helps the believability of the image, which helps the believability of the story.

These are only two of the functions lighting performs in cinematography. In the next post I will examine the others.

Types of photography lighting

Continuous Lighting
Continuous lighting simply refers to light that doesn’t flash. When thinking of in-studio photo shoots, people tend to think of strobe lighting, although as you’ll see, this isn’t always true. Continuous light refers not only to its non-flash qualities, but also to certain types of light bulbs. These include CFL light bulbs, LED lights, HMIs, and tungsten lights. As previously stated, all of these will emit constant light. As you will see, some of the types have some overlap, because the title refers to more specialized lights of the same family.

Tungsten, or Hot Lights
Let’s start with the tungsten light, since, as you will see, it is the most familiar type. Tungsten lights are also commonly referred to as hot lights, and this is what I find myself using most often, mostly because they are readily available. Hot lights often come equipped with their own modifiers, usually in the form of a rounded reflector shade. Tungsten light is warm in color, and this is why there is a tungsten white balance setting on your camera. Make sure you use this to avoid overly warm color shifts.

There are a few glaring (pardon the pun) problems with hot lights. They are called hot lights because they tend to use a lot of energy and thus get very hot very quickly. Therefore, if you’re planning a long shoot, you wouldn’t want to use hot lights for a variety of reasons. And it you were to fit it with any light modifier other than the reflector it comes with—particularly a cloth one—it might actually get too hot and catch fire. Not only that, but hot lights can be bad for portraiture, since they will make your subject sweat much quicker than other lights, due to the heat.

The only real advantage to tungsten lights (other than their color, if that’s what you’re after) is that they are cheap, and this, unfortunately, is why I end up using them if I don’t have access to anything else. However, they also give you a more accurate representation the light that’s going to be in your final image, whereas strobe setups and other continuous lights can require more guesswork and getting used to. Tungsten lights may also be referred to as halogen lights, or vice versa.

Fluorescent/CFL Lightbulbs
Fluorescent lights can be mounted either on a panel or they can be what is called a CFL: a compact fluorescent lightbulb. In contrast to tungsten lights, fluorescent lights use much less power and do not pose a risk of fire or injury. They also will not overheat your model as fast, so they are better for portraiture, as opposed to tungsten lights, which are better for product photography and still-life photos.

The downside to using fluorescent light is that it can appear a lot harsher and less flattering than tungsten. It can also wash your subject out if you aren’t careful with the set-up and don’t use modifiers. On the upside, though, fluorescent lights are much safer to use with modifiers, so you can make the light quality more pleasing with a little work. Because they use less power than the tungsten light, it is also possible that, depending on what you’re lighting, you’ll need to use more lights than you would when using tungsten.

LED Panels
LED panels are, to my knowledge, the newest to the lighting industry when it comes to continuous light sources. LEDs not only come in panel format, but also as spots and floods, although the panels do seem more common. Like HMI and tungsten lights, LEDs can be daylight balanced, which means they are still as warm as tungsten lights but without the weird color casts. They also have the advantages of fluorescents in that they require very little energy to run. Unlike a lot of other continuous lights, they can be color balanced as needed for warm or cool tones.

HMI Lights
HMI lights are also known by various other names, but are standard in the film industry. Like traditional tungsten lights, they give off a lot of heat and power, which, until recently, required frequent bulb replacement. Like LED, they can be daylight balanced. I would not consider this type of light as a viable option for any startup studio, due to the cost and frequent replacement needs.

Though some full lighting kits that feature tungsten can be as expensive as one HMI light, you end up with much more product for your money. In fact, some starter reflector floodlights only run from about $24-48. Of course, that is not to say that they can’t get expensive too. For example, if you purchase a high-end tungsten Fresnel, by Arri, you may wind up paying close to $400.

The cost of professional fluorescent lights is much the same, and except in a pinch, I really wouldn’t suggest using the fluorescent bulbs already present in your house. Professional lights, again, will cost a little over $100. LED lights are slightly more expensive than tungsten or fluorescent, in the middle price point. They tend to run between $200 and $500. Finally, there is HMI, which runs into the thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Search around and decide what type or brand of light you feel best suits you. Start out with tungsten and fluorescent, and if you find yourself really liking the tungsten, maybe try an Arri Fresnel. Keep in mind that there are so many brands and styles of these lights on the market, so do your research and price comparisons, determine what lighting set-ups you find the most pleasing, and purchase accordingly.

The good news is that if you end up not liking a light, you will always be able to sell it, as long as it’s in good shape, but I would try to avoid that route, as you don’t want to irresponsibly lose money on such expensive gear.

Flash or Strobe Lighting
The other type of studio lighting relies on flash, and is what people readily think of when they envision professional studio lighting. Strobe lighting can be divided into two different types: power packs and monolights. When I do use a flash in-studio, I tend to use power packs.

These function with the same purpose as power packs, but are a lot simpler to learn on and figure out. This is because everything is located on the light itself. You don’t have a separate power pack, so you can just plug your light in, set it up on a stand, and go. All the settings are present on the light itself, making it easy to control.

You may think that now that you’ve got your backdrop, stands and lights, you’re ready to go. You’re almost there, but not quite. My favorite part of studio lighting is the modifiers. Modifiers allow you to more fully direct the light you’re using. With modifiers, you can make light softer, harsher, more concentrated, or more diffused. You can bounce it toward the subject to create highlights, or you can deflect it to control your shadows and the way they fall. You can affect the temperature and the look of your highlights and shadows or purposefully create and remove color casts as needed.

Let’s start out with the most common light modifier that people think of. This is the umbrella. Umbrellas can come in either black or white, and both do different things. Positioned above your light, white umbrellas allow the light to completely envelop your model. Umbrellas also help to produce much softer, diffused light, as a soft box does, but with less restraint. Due to the curved nature of the umbrella, the light will spill out along the sides, which will cause the it to bounce off all of the walls in the room. Umbrellas are excellent to start with due to the fact that they are cheap, light, and don’t require much exactness to work well. Black umbrellas, unlike their white counterparts, are used sort of like reflectors to brighten or throw highlights onto a subject. The silver (or other colored metallic inside of the umbrella) serves as the reflector, while the black directs the light inward to the reflector.

Since I’ve mentioned reflectors so much already, I figured that should be the next section. Be aware that, aside from umbrella reflectors, there are also metal reflectors (that function and look sort of like lampshades) and handheld reflectors. The lampshade reflectors often come with a basic lighting kit, and are fixed directly over the light, instead of in front or above like an umbrella is. Tilted down on the subject, the light will strike the silver metal interior and reflect on the subject, typically to provide more light on the face. Handheld reflectors are much more versatile, and can often be used in conjunction with other lighting reflectors that are directly on the lights.

These kinds of reflectors can be angled onto a subject’s face or any other portion of the body that needs to be highlighted, either by an assistant or by a boom arm (if it needs to be placed very high). Handheld reflectors come in all sorts of colors, and I have found that the most economical way to make sure you have everything you need is to get an all-in-one reflector.

For example, I have a six-in-one reflector, which can be flipped and zipped, inside and out, so you can access all of the colors it provides. It comes with: a white reflector, a black diffuser (which helps direct light away from the subject), and silver, gold, bronze, and rosy pink metallic reflectors. This way, you can pop whatever kind or tone of highlight you need onto wherever you need it with much more precision than an umbrella. Diffusers and reflectors may also be referred to as flags, and they are the same, except that flags are often larger and come on poles for easier handling. Soft Box Personally, my favorite kind of modifier is a soft box. Soft boxes are like large square or rectangular tents that can be fitted via a speed ring onto a bare light. A soft box is actually made up of two zippered pieces, an inner reflective piece and an outer diffuser.

If you leave the outer diffuser on, you’re going to create very soft, even, controlled light that is awesome for instantly flattering portraits. If you take the outer diffuser off, you’ll get a much harsher light, just as if you were shooting with a very large reflector. Soft boxes also come in a huge variety of sizes, and you’ll want to select a size based on the area you plan to cover. For most normal, small, one- or two-client shoots, one small or medium soft box will work just fine.

The importance of good outdoor lighting

Outdoor lighting is used for a variety of purposes in modern society. It enables people to see essential detail so they can be active at night. Good lighting can enhance the safety and security of persons or property, emphasise features of architectural or historical significance, or call attention to commercial premises by means of area lighting or signs. Unfortunately, poor lighting practice is extensive. Much bad lighting can be blamed on the fact that the user is unaware of the issues of visibility and its usefulness. Careless and excessive use of artificial light in our outdoor environments causes extensive damage to the aesthetics of the night-time environment, while at the same time it often compromises safety and usefulness, the very reason for its installation. Bad lighting hurts everyone. The loss of the dark star-filled sky is of tragic consequence for the environment and for the human soul, akin to the loss of our forested landscapes and other natural treasures. On the other hand, quality lighting brings substantial benefits. Lack of glare and excessive contrast brings improved visibility, especially for the ageing eye. Elimination of wasted light saves money, energy and resources, which in turn reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions caused by energy production and resource extraction. Quality lighting improves the appearance of our communities, returning a sense of balance to the night and giving a more attractive appearance to our cities, towns and villages. So good lighting can make a significant contribution to the outdoor environment whereas poor lighting can damage it.

This positive contribution is not limited to the hours of darkness, as the reduction in crime effects are now known to extend to the daytime. In August 2002 the British Home Office published two research studies on crime prevention: ‘Effects of improved street lighting on crime: A systematic review’, and HORS 251 ‘Crime prevention effects of closed circuit television: A systematic review’. In international experiments one of the main points to emerge from the street lighting study is that where street lighting had been improved there had been an overall reduction in recorded crime of 20 per cent. In the British studies there was a 30 per cent decrease in crime. The lighting improvements increase community pride and confidence and strengthen informal social control, and that this explains the impact, rather than increased surveillance or deterrent effects. Furthermore, improvements in street lighting offer a cost-effective crime reduction measure.

The Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) study summarised the findings of previous studies from both Britain and the USA and concluded that where CCTV had been installed there had been an overall reduction in recorded crime of 4 per cent across all the experimental areas. It was found that CCTV had no effect on violent crimes but had a significant desirable effect on vehicle crimes. Both studies together demonstrate that improved lighting is between five and seven times more effective at reducing crime than the installation of CCTV.

In addition to facilitating the safer movement of pedestrians and vehicles during the hours of darkness and enhancing commerce and recreation facilities, lighting has a key role in preventing crime and reducing the fear of crime. Crime prevention practitioners have always advocated improvements to outdoor lighting as part of their strategies; for example in Scotland powers to install street lights, including on private buildings, were enshrined in the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act 1896, which remained statute for almost a century. More recently, and after a lengthy debate, the UK Government in 2002 finally acknowledged the key role of lighting in reducing crime, with the publication of Home Office Research Paper 251, ‘Effects of improved street lighting on crime: A systematic review’.

Over the past 100 years advances in technology and decreases in costs have greatly increased the ability of lighting practitioners to deliver more light and society to afford it. However, a downside has been a proliferation of inappropriate lighting installations, which create sky glow and light pollution, and waste precious resources by the inefficient use of energy.

Recognition of these issues has resulted in the formulation of light plans, an essential tool to achieve visual unification of the disparate night-time components of urban centres, to resolve conflicts between the lighting needs of different users, to aid the use of light as a commercial tool and to minimise light pollution.

Crime prevention practitioners have always included improvements to outdoor (particularly street) lighting in their toolbox and have repeatedly advocated its use. However, over the last 15 years, the view that improved street lighting does not reduce crime has emerged. This view has been attributed to the Home Office, with the result that many have taken it to be an official position. If left unchallenged, this view would have the effect of excluding or limiting the role of improved street lighting in the local crime and disorder prevention strategies that are required under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It was thus thought timely to consider afresh the effect of street lighting on crime. The Head of the Home Office Crime Prevention Agency, Chief Constable Richard Childs, thus asked Professor Ken Pease to review the most up-to-date research evidence and this was done in July –August 1998. That review effectively overturned the conventional assumption that improvements to street lighting do not make a considerable impact on both crime and the fear of crime.