Sylights: Lights, Camera… Diagrams!

A few months ago I found myself in Paris. Walking along the Seine river, enjoying the mystique of a culture not my own, imagining the deep history behind the architecture- it was beautiful.

Paris at Night

I spent a week there, enjoying the food, the ambiance, and well, the food. For those who haven’t been to France it’s worth the trip if only to indulge in one regale of French cuisine. The only food more sumptuous is that which you don’t taste at all. And this food comes exclusively in the company of your romantic interest. To that end, Paris held true to its reputation as a place for those who are in love. Everywhere you went were those lost in their own world, together.

During my stay I realized there were in fact two types of people in Paris- those who had lovers, and then those who had cameras. Although the number of lovers did not astound me, (what better place to be than Paris in the spring time, right?), the number of people with cameras did. I’m not talking about your standard digital hand held camera, slightly bigger than your phone. We’re talking about huge camera systems. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, sometimes stored in the trunks of cars worth much less than that. They had tripods, flashes, the occasional light reflector- all tools to help create the perfect shot. It’s called “snapping” in photographer lingo, though that term does no justice to what some of these picture takers were doing. I’d call it delicately crafting a still framed shot.

Photographers all around the world attempt to do just that. They manage every aspect of angle, perspective, light, shadows, background, foreground, and then subject matter, to try to get the perfect, memorable shot. Of course, once the picture is taken there are many digital tools to further improve the quality. But as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” To whatever degree possible, photographers need to manipulate and control all the factors they can. This primarily includes making adjustments to the lighting.

In the studio there exists a complex set of tools to affect the lighting. From backdrops to umbrellas, reflectors, strobes, hair lights, GOBOS, and don’t you forget beauty dishes, the amount of tools available to photographers is vast. Setting them up, tearing them down, rearranging them, taking a photo, then rearranging them again, would take oh so much time. It’s such a tedious and complex process that when you learn new ways to set up the equipment to get a good result, it is truly a find. Being able to record various configurations and demonstrate the result is key to not having to continually reinvent the wheel. Sylights provides a website that does just that. You can create a lighting diagram with all the components arranged as they were, and then upload the pictures that were taken with them.

Sylight’s tools consist of an architect-esque grid, and a series of components that can be added. By right clicking you can add an umbrella, subject, strobes, and so on. Once the item is added to the page it can be rotated, moved, and its size can be adjusted. When all items are added to the page you can save your work, effectively freezing it. Then you can upload pictures you took using that diagram and demonstrate the effects. The main goal of Sylights, in their words is for photographers to, “document their photos through lighting diagrams.”  See my example here, which is probably of no use to any photographer ever.Sylights Demo by Steve

Another saying within the industry is to create a picture that tells a story. In this case Sylights gives the photographer the ability to tell the story for all who wish to learn. Each diagram has its own page, to which the creator can add their description about how and why the configuration works. There is also a comment board for general discussion. The diagrams can later be reviewed by photographers learning new lighting techniques, or downloaded to be used in other projects.

Sylights is a website designed by photographers, for photographers. It’s a great place to learn how the experts are configuring their lighting systems. It’s equally a great place to demonstrate one’s own expertise in the area. And to all the camera lovers in Paris, it’s where they can record their lighting techniques for times to come.