Tuesday’s Tip: Studio Lighting

Studio Lighting Tutorial

by Beth Forester

In my most common lighting set up, I use four lights and a reflector.  A good portrait lighting set up will create form and depth in an image.  In order to show off the features of the face you want to show lights and darks as well a texture to the skin.  You also want to separate the subject from the backdrop because you surely don’t want your subject to look pasted on the drop.  Here are the key ingredients to my lighting set up.

1. The Main Light:  My Main Light is a Photogenic Powerlight 750 with a 4×6 Larson Soff Box.  I love the consistent quality and color of all the Larson Soff Boxes.  The main light is placed at a 45 degree angle and a little higher to the subject.  I want to make sure to create lighting that will create a shadow under the chin and give definition to the jawline while getting great light in the subjects eyes.

2.  Reflector Fill:  The Reflector Fill is placed on the opposite side of the main light in roughly the same position.  I use a 42″x72″ Larson Silver Reflector.  The purpose of the reflector is to fill in the shadow area a bit so the the ratio of light to dark isn’t to dramatic.

3.  The Hair Light:  The Hair Light is affixed permanently to the rafters in my studio.  It is placed above and behind the drop skimming over the subject’s head to create separation between the subject and the drop.  I also give a nice shine to the hair.  Trust me blondes will like their images much better with a hair light…otherwise the hair will look dingy and lifeless.

4.  The Kicker:  The Kicker light is placed opposite of the main light and a 45 degree angle to the rear of the subject.  I use a 10″x30″ Larson strip soft box.  The kicker will really start to define the edge of the subject and create separation form the drop as well.  When you start using a kicker you will see new life breathed into your images.

5.  The Backdrop Light:  In the image above the background light is very subtle.  The intensity of the background light will change with different backdrops.  I usually just light it up and take a test shot to see how intense I want the background light to be.  It’s like cooking…..add a little to taste.

Here you can see my pull back of my lighting set up in the studio.

I have also added a shot of each image as I added each of the lights so that you a see the building process of the lighting pattern.  Hope you enjoyed the post and happy lighting!

THANK YOU Beth!  I am a visual learner so step by step tutorials with images are perfect for me!  Not to mention short and sweet … Just how I like it.



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Tammy - August 2, 2011 - 1:07 pm

Perfect! Studio Lighting scares me to death because I have no idea how to set it up and no idea what is “good” lighting. I am also a visual learning and all I’ve wanted is for someone to pan back and show me their set up. This is what you’ve done. Thanks so much! Just what I needed to see.

I’ve never been afraid of the dark and now I won’t be afraid of the LIGHT either!

Mary - August 2, 2011 - 1:16 pm

I received two stand up lights that have the white umbrella things that go on them. I am just starting out doing photography and have no idea how I should set these up. Thank you so much.

Bobbi Frahm - August 2, 2011 - 1:26 pm

Wondering what a good web site would be to research and purchase a good lighting system. Any suggestions for a first time purchase, what is the one thing you should have when it comes to lighting. I am new to all this and live in MN so I am trying to set up a studio in my home for the colder months that will be here before I know it. I do have two big windows for natural light but just not enough or in the right places.

Crystal - August 2, 2011 - 7:45 pm

Thank you Beth! This is a great! Where did you get the awesome background?

Julie Cuevas - August 5, 2011 - 1:27 pm

Super cute props ! I love this blog :)

Ashlee Rindone - August 10, 2011 - 11:10 am

Great article! Would love to know where she got the backdrop? Anyone know?

cayce wegman - September 23, 2011 - 7:36 am

this is a great article thank you! Just one question about the background light…it looks as though it would hit your subject? shouldn’t it be behind your subject or is the barn door on the right side to keep the light from hitting him? it’s hard to see…

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