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Studio lighting advice - Part 3 setting up your lighting

Chris Burfoot AMPA shows us how to set up studio lighting.

|  Studio Lighting and Flash
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Studio Lighting - why you need it. Part 3.
By Chris Burfoot A.M.P.A.

Last month we looked at how a flashmeter worked and the use of different types of umbrellas.
In this month's session we are getting to the good bit - actually setting up your lights and taking your first portrait.

Studio lighting - On-camera flashgunOK, lets ask the question - 'Why might I need Studio Lighting?' This can be answered very simply, - versatility and control. If we put an 'on-camera' flashgun onto the hot shoe of our camera and take a picture of our model, this is what we will get.

Very harsh direct light, probably 'red-eye', certainly a hard and un-flattering light with a big black shadow behind the head, which, on a darker haired subject will merge with the hair to give a strange shaped head! You will also end up with a very unhappy subject!

The other problem is that this lighting is very flat. It shows no shape or substance to the subject whether it is a person or a product. To show that something is 3 dimensional on a photograph it has to have shadows, not big hard-edged ones but soft gentle ones. By moving our light source around to one side we have immediate advantages. Firstly the shadow has gone from the background. Secondly, we have a lit and an un-lit side to our subject. Even though we have 'over-done' the contrast between the two sides of our models face it tells our brain that the subject MUST be 3D even though we are looking at a 2D image.

Studio lighting with one light

One light diagram

To relieve the density of the shadow we need also to put a bit of light into that side. If we have one, we could add a second light. We would need to be very careful with the amount of light we used as a fill light. Too much and we would be back to flat lighting plus the complication of two sets of shadows! A good friend of mine who also teaches lighting says that the only person who should have two nose shadows is a person with two noses!

Lets forget the second light for now and use instead a simple reflector panel. By adding a Prolinca Silver 'pop-up' reflector on the shaded side we can bounce some of the light back into the shadows. Simply moving the reflector closer or further away will vary the amount of reflected light. Silver reflector panels are very efficient; a more subtle effect can be obtained by the use of a white one. But it is quite amazing how much light can be bounced back. In our example we have placed the reflector quite close but even so we have retained some very attractive modelling on the subjects face.

Studio lighting with an umbrella
Umbrella diagram

So far we have just used the flash head on its own. Now lets add a silver umbrella to diffuse and soften the light. Silver umbrellas are, like the reflectors, very efficient and give a 'sparkly' light suitable for young people with good skin and glamour type pictures.

Studio lighting with an umbrella and reflector
Umbrella and reflector diagram

For a more natural, softer look, a white umbrella and reflector could be used.

We have seen that by moving our light to one side we can make our subject more three-dimensional. The pictures, however, can still look a little flat especially if you are using a low contrast background. So lets now unpack that second head and add a bit of extra depth to our portrait.
By placing a second head behind our model we can put a pool of light on the background. Both Fabric and paper backgrounds absorb light and unless they are lit they can look quite boring. We have to be careful where the light from our second head goes, so to control it we can fit either a snoot or honeycomb grid to the front of the head so that the light only goes where we want it. By adding a splash of light on the background we have livened up the whole picture and given it more depth.

Studio lighting with backlighting
Backlighting diagram

But now lets try something else. We can also turn our second head around so that we are backlighting our model. As you can see a little light from behind gives great separation from the background and brings the hair to life showing its true texture and colour. The splash of light over the left shoulder further emphasises the shape of our model

Studio lighting with two back lights
Two back lights diagram

Of course if you are lucky enough to have a third light you can light the background as well, or you can back light from both sides.

Next month we will look at using a front fill light and Softboxes.

Further information on many of the products mentioned, can be found at

Chris Burfoot A.M.P.A. holds lighting workshops regularly for the Royal Photographic Society, for more information contact Liz Williams at the RPS on 01225 546841.

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sparklep 12 146 1
These all have been so useful and helpful.

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its really hepfull..aprt form d potraits how can we arrange the lights 4 full length poses....can i expect more light on this pls
I,m from India my ID is

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