Say Goodbye to Light Noise – DJ Lighting Interview With Steve Johnson

Today I am really excited to share with you a short interview I had over email with Steve Johnson, a DJ from Page, AZ who has really great lighting! 

Check out his company, Synthesis Entertainment here!  I actually found Steve’s work simply because he liked the Learn Stage Lighting page on Facebook, and was inspired to interview him today to begin a section of LSL about DJ lighting. 

Whether you’re a DJ or not, there is some gold in the way Steve approaches lighting.

Totally self-taught, Steve has a great understanding of how lighting can influence the mood of your show, and take it beyond sound-active mode.

Let’s dive in!

DJ Lighting
Thanks to Steve Johnson for these photos!

How did you get started with lighting?

I got started with lighting years ago when I would help my father at his job.

He was the director at a University performing arts center and he would design lighting for all the performances there.

As a kid I would tag along and while I don’t remember everything, I remember what a difference lighting made to the mood in the theater.

Once I started DJ’ing I knew that music and lighting absolutely had to go together to really create an experience for my clients.

How did you design such a good-looking rig? What did the evolution look like?

Thank you for the compliment on my current design.

The short answer is, I did hundreds of hours of research, both in person and online.  I talked to several other DJ’s who I felt understood lighting well.

Again I wanted to create an experience–not just light noise, but to create something that can work with music to change mood, keep interest, and change atmosphere.

The spin-n-flash lights just don’t do that. Ironically, my first couple of lights were exactly that! LOL!

How can other DJ’s start out with lighting? What’s a good first step?

The best place to start out with lighting is research! Go online and look at what others are using, their setups, and find one that speaks to you.

Then think about your focus.

Are you a wedding DJ, a club DJ, a school dance DJ?

Lighting needs are very different for all three.

If you’re unsure of your focus, or are doing all the above, then make sure you get lighting that actually can be used in all three.

Otherwise it’s a waste of money.

If you had one tip for DJ’s out there to really improve their lighting, what would it be?

Hmmm. If I were to give one tip I’d have to say be goal directed in your lighting.

If I were to look at your setup, could I tell why you did what you did? Are you trying to create a mood or are you just turning on everything you’ve got and letting it go sound active? (Light noise).

Think about what you want your lighting to accomplish and then change accordingly.

What’s your favorite piece of gear that you own and favorite piece of gear that you don’t own? My favorite piece of gear that I own has to be my Inno Pocket Spots by ADJ. They are just way too cool! And my favorite gear that I don’t own? The X-laser X4C MKII!

Thanks so much Steve! I really like the way you phrased “thinking about you mood and focus” as opposed to “light noise”.

That’s what makes your lighting really stand out! You could take that same gear that you already have and turn it all to sound-active mode, but it just wouldn’t look nearly as good!

DJ Lighting Design
Thanks to Steve!

One last question – how did you build your “set”? What’s it made out of?

I made the set myself using some wooden frames I found in a wood scrap yard.

It’s amazing what a little elbow grease can do. The backing is Lycra.

It comes apart so I can transport it easy.


I really enjoyed being able to interview Steve – he really get’s the “it” factor that sets some lighting above and apart from other lighting. The fact is, anyone can buy the same exact gear that you or I have and sell it to clients for less.

In fact, they can even buy better gear than us and sell it for less as a lowballer. But when you take the transaction from a gear-based sales process, you can provide your clients with superior lighting.

Anyone can buy the latest, greatest moving heads, lasers and LED’s, but only few people can create a mood with the lighting.

Like Steve said, this builds an experience for the attendees, and sets you apart from your competition!  It really is all about the experience, and that’s what sets apart good lighting from bad.

I think about the company I work for, which like Steve’s company, sets ourselves apart by the quality of work we provide.

The fact is, anyone can buy cool gear.  And in the production world in my city, there’s a “race to the bottom” by some production companies, lowballing their way into finding work.

The key difference and the thing that keeps me busy is the quality of production that my company is able to provide.  Like Steve, we’re not the cheapest, but we provide the best experience – and that makes the difference!

Buying DJ Lighting?  Grab the 4 Things You NEED to Know Before You Buy ANY DJ Lighting by Clicking Here!

About the author