Friday Freebie #10 – Example Studio Lighting setups with Photos

As part of this weeks Friday Freebie, I thought I would share 4 different setups for Studio Lighting, with diagrams showing positions of lights, plus examples of resulting portraits.

Studio Lighting setup 1

Lighting setup for first set of shots is largest soft box camera left , coming in to model at approx 45 degrees. 2nd softbox is back right , pointing down on to model to provide that rim / hair light.   Back light was + 1-2 stops higher than front. Collapsible black velvet backdrop in place.

Lighting Setup

Lighting Setup

Lighting Setup - Resulting Portrait

Lighting Setup - Resulting Portrait

Lighting Setup - Resulting Portrait

Lighting Setup - Resulting Portrait

Notice how 1 light at the front & the model facing the camera, allows you produce some clear shadow definition on the face, whilst the rim light helps seperate the model from thebackground.

3 more Example Studio setups after the link

Studio Lighting setup 2

In this lighting example , the front light has been pulled back to allow lighting of some full body shots.  Note how by asking the model to face the main light & then only use the eyes to look back at you, how you can minimise shadow on the face this time.

Studio Lighting Diagram

Studio Lighting Diagram

Here is a photo showing the height of the rim light in this setup.

Rim Lighting

Rim Lighting

The resulting end portraits are :-

Studio Lighting Examples

Studio Lighting Examples

Studio Lighting Examples

Studio Lighting Examples

TIP :  Stand on a chair & ask the model to look up at you by only moving their eyees.  Their head should stay level.  The results can be seen in 1st shot above.  By forcing the eyes to look up, you reveal more white of the eyes, making the eyes look bigger, which as all ladies know makes for a more flattering look :)

Studio Lighting setup 3

We are now moving to a 3 light setup.  2 at the front at roughly 45 degrees to model, with larger soft box acting as main light, at 1 stop higher than 2nd light.   Now for some serious rim lighting, by placing a bare studio light directly behind the models head , about 1-2 feet back.

Example Studio Lighting Diagram

Example Studio Lighting Diagram

Example Studio Lighting Results

Example Studio Lighting Results

Example Studio Lighting Results

Example Studio Lighting Results


TIP: Try taking some portraits at an angle.   Different is good you know ;)

Studio Lighting setup 4

OK, last setup for you.  This one is know in the trade as the clam shell & is great for beauty shots.  Basically you place your largest softbox directly in front of the model, just above head height pointing down at model .  The 2nd softbox you place directly beneath the 1st , allowing just enough space for your camera lens to poke though.  This light will be pointed upwards slightly.

The top softbox will be 1 stop higher then the bottom one.

Studio Lighting Diagram

Studio Lighting Diagram

Clam Shell Lighting Example

Clam Shell Lighting Example

Clam Shell Lighting Example

Clam Shell Lighting Example

Let me know how you get on with any of these setups.  If you area Facebook user then consider “fanning” my page here, to keep up to date my latests posts   FACEBOOK

More Friday Freebies below :

Friday Freebie #10 – Example Studio Lighting setups with Photos
Friday Freebie #9 – How to create dramatic skies in Mono
Friday Freebie #8 – Shoot Upside Down for a change
Friday Freebie #7 – It’s all in the Eyes
Friday Freebie #6 – Child Portraits – How to get eye contact
Friday Freebie #5 – Diagonals & DOF
Friday Freebie #4 – Use shallow DOF for Portrait impact
Friday Freebie #3 – Sensual Couple Portraits
Friday Freebie #2 – Shallow DOF for Couples Portrait
Friday Freebie #1 – InfraRed Tutorial

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7 July, 2009 - 6:42 pm Simon - Very informative Dave - as your portrait lighting is excellent

30 July, 2009 - 8:09 am Jess - This was exactly what i was looking for thankyou so much for your simplicity yet great detail - extremely helpful!!

16 August, 2009 - 3:17 pm Jay Hoque - I've just started using studio lights and wanted to learn the basics. I've come across a lot of guides, but yours is probably the most easy to understand. Thanks for posting.

24 August, 2009 - 8:04 pm Stefan - How much Ws have those 3 lights? Thanks in advance

24 August, 2009 - 8:27 pm Dave - 400W for the main softbox lights, although 200W would be fine. I use Elinchrom D-Lite 4's if that helps. Dave

24 August, 2009 - 8:28 pm Dave - Forgot to say 3rd light in setup 3 is only 200W

28 November, 2009 - 5:08 am Ty - Dave Excellent tutorial! I have searching all over for a program to let me show case lighting setups. Could I ask how you created the lighting Diagram? Thanks!

2 December, 2009 - 4:15 am Leo - I like the color of your pictures. What camera are you using and what is your favorite settings? Leo

2 December, 2009 - 6:33 am Dave - These were taken with a Canon 5D MK1, shot using RAW. Knowing the colour temp of my lights, the only tweak I apply in Photoshop is to adjust the white balance accordingly.

4 December, 2009 - 8:47 am Dave - @Ty , try this for lighting diagrams :-

14 December, 2009 - 3:07 am Eran - Thank you Dave! This exactly the type of information I was looking for! MUCH appreciated!

7 January, 2010 - 4:55 am mobile marketing - This is great! Thanks for the information, I ordered my lighting kit today.

12 January, 2010 - 1:51 pm Dave - No problem. Hope it provides some inspiration for more photographers to try out studio lighting :)

15 January, 2010 - 12:42 am utoy - this is great! thanks for your excellent info in setting up photo studio lights... just in time for my shoot, graduation photo shoot... thanks, dave

15 January, 2010 - 8:02 pm Dave - Glad it is of use & let me know how the graduation shoot goes

17 January, 2010 - 11:29 am Mandy - Thanks for your tips, I've just started a studio course and this will help a lot. Mandy

26 February, 2010 - 6:44 pm Kelly - Quick question... new to studio lights, and using digrams to get ideas for how to position lights and why.. but one piece of info is missing, is there a standard or guideline distance from subject to lights and subject to camera? Thanks again for great information

27 February, 2010 - 5:02 pm Dave - Hi Kelly. Good question. My simple advice is if you want the osftest most pleasing light, then place the lights as close as possible to model. Usually I have them just out of shot when composing photo. The further away from the subject you place the lights, the harsher the light. You may use this for example if you want crisp shadows for a dramatic look. As for position of camera from model this doesn't matter in terms of exposure, but purely from a composition you want to achieve. I have shot at 200mm some 12 feet back before, or just acouple of feet away for tight crop with a 50mm lens. DOwn to personal preference. Hope that helps. Dave

18 March, 2010 - 3:47 am Mychael - you are GREAT!!!! I learning more about studio lighting and this is GREAT

30 March, 2010 - 2:02 pm Trev - thanks so much for sharing your set ups, have just started with photography and these are so helpful. quick question, on the clam shell did you use continuous lighting or flash? if flash how did you retain the wonderful colours you have?

31 March, 2010 - 8:29 pm Dave - Hi Trev, I used flash. As for colours I always take a test shot up front with model holding a "grey card". This allows you to set your white balance perfectly in Photoshop or Lightroom (use white balance dropper on grey card), then apply same change to all shots from your shoot :) Voila perfect colours

7 May, 2010 - 4:20 am Edd - Hi Dave: Thank you for your expertise and for this great techniques. I am in the thought of buying my first studio lighting. For the studio space you used in your lessons, what would you recommend in regards to wattage power on the monolights? What do you think about the Interfit Stellar X 650 watts/second? Thank you again! Edd

13 May, 2010 - 8:22 am Dave - Hi Edd, apologies for delay in responding. To be honest there are days when I find the 400W too powerful. Reason being is when I want to do a real "low key" shot , the 400's don't go low enough in power. The D-Lite 2's at 200W would have been better. I rarely get above 50% the power of the 400's. That said if you are looking to light a really large space, or large group shots (10+) then the 400W or above makes sense. In ideal world you would have 4 lights anyway, to do high key. In that scenario you could buy 2 lower power lights, plus 2 stronger, giving you maximum flexibility. Re Interfits, have never used them, so worth chjecking how low you can set power on them. Hope that helps. Dave

13 May, 2010 - 8:23 am Dave - Forgot to also say that if lighting outdoors, trying to compete against the sun, then more power also makes sense

10 June, 2010 - 10:17 am anamit - Excellent tutorial! a fan/user of small flashguns (Vivitar 273/283/285)), I'm wondering which setups would be possible...Clamshell yes, but the others, perhaps not...what say you?

10 June, 2010 - 7:24 pm Dave - You've only got to look at what McNally & Tejada produce with small flashes to see what is possible :)

22 September, 2010 - 10:39 am Kevin wildish - Hi Dave,after reading this I gave it a go. Using myself, as the subject. Used 42" TV as monitor and while my strobes are only 150w, go a great result. Thank you so much for your tips. Even newbies like me, can get the results.

23 September, 2010 - 11:33 am Dave - Glad you found it of use Kevin & remember 150w strobes are perfect for "low key" shots when trying for a moody them

26 October, 2010 - 9:44 pm barry - really helpfull only one thing what is the ideal camera setting? ive been shooting at f5.6,125th iso 100 or f8, 125th iso 100 how close am i with

26 October, 2010 - 9:47 pm barry - really helpfull. what camera settings should be used ive been using f5.6 100iso 125th and f8 100iso 125th with 2 lights reflective umberellas what fstop should i be aiming for thanks

27 October, 2010 - 4:26 pm Dave - Those settings are very much the norm for starting point. If you want to use a wider aperture for shallower depth of field you will need to lower the lighting advantage of lower powered lights. I can't really get under f/5.6 with my 400W's as they don't go low enough :( However if you were shooting a group of people with a reasonable depth needed in focus you might want to whack the power of lights up & stick to f/8 or even f/11. Glad the tutorial was of use.

5 November, 2010 - 10:56 am ADil - Very nice setups.

3 January, 2011 - 8:28 pm Maxpete - You are the most beautiful woman in the world!!!!

13 June, 2011 - 10:53 pm Mohamed - This is a very clear and simple demonstration. Thank you so much!

15 June, 2011 - 10:46 am Shamrat Hasan - Its a great post dear

21 July, 2011 - 3:15 pm Steven - Nice tips.. I mean very nice tips for beginners and/or advance photo enthusiast. great share man... Thanks..

12 September, 2011 - 9:55 pm Saliba - I know 2 people who recommended your site for this info. I am new to studio lighting as well & am very happy to have found diagrams. Thanks for sharing!

18 September, 2011 - 12:33 pm Essex Wedding Photography - Brilliant article very well explained and great example photo's - many thanks

18 September, 2011 - 7:02 pm Dave - Thanks guys. Glad it's of use. Dave

12 October, 2011 - 11:44 am Sameer - I wish i could find a way to thank you for this tutorial!! dude its excellent. I've gone bonkers in exploring this area of photography as i'm relatively new at it but the document is soooooo comprehensive that it easy to understand and practice. One thing if u could also include in this is the distance between the lights and the model for each kind of photogrpahy, the power of lights*bulb* used as main light, key light and back light last but not the least also the distance between the model and the back drop... You rock dude!! \m/

12 October, 2011 - 1:38 pm Dave - Well Sameer I've never been told I rock before, so I'll take that as a compliment :) Re lighting distances there is a simple rule. The closer the light to the subject the better quality of light. The further away the harsher it becomes. For women it's usually best to get light as close as physically possible, but just being out of frame of photo. I've literally had a 6ft lightbox 1 foot away from subject. For men, if you want to show up all their wrinkles, scars, pores of skin, stubble etc then harsher lighting works. The 2nd reason for putting light a certain distance is how wide you want the coverage of light. If you're doing a fully body shot for example it needs to be far enough back to cover light from head to toe. The 3rd reason is the power of the lighting. If at lowest power setting it's still too strong you will need to pull it back. If too weak at full power you need to bring it in. For single portrait shoots I believe 200W lights are best, as I shoot with 400W as sometimes it doesn't go low enough for my needs. Hope that helps . Dave

18 October, 2011 - 8:50 am Sameer - Hi Dave, hope your doing good mate! Thanks a lot for the reply as it has helped me big time in making certain decsions. I plan to start of with one main light and use a lite-disc *a silver relector panel* for the fill light. The budget is not the issue but the quality of strobe is. The kind of strobes that I get in my city are not of high quality but relatively very cheap, brands like SImpex and other chinese unknown branded strobes. I was lucky to find an official distributor for a better brand named RIMELITE hence I've opted for RIMELITE - STORM+ please reveiw the product here : The main issue I'm stuck with is - WHAT POWER TO FINALIZE? should it be 200w light or a 400w light? If you review the technical sheet on the website the "variable range of f-stop is 5" which means a 400w can go as low as 80w (i.e. 400/5). Now the issue: Since I'll use the strobes for the VERY VERY first time in my life hence I dont know if placing the strobes near the subject to produce the soft light at 80w is still a lot or is it ok? Please also note, that I shall use a 100cmx100cm softbox with this light. Can you please help me to guide which power i should go for? You might also want to know the area of my home is approxiamtely 12ft x 10ft which is not that big but not that small either. Moving the strobe back n forth is not a problem, I've the space. But since you said, closer the lights to the feminine models, the better it is then I want to know if 400w of this product turned down to 80w with the softbox will be ok? or should i get a 200W light of the same model with 5 fstop and the minimum power in that case can be 40w... by the look of question it must be obvious to you that I'm confused in finalizing the power? Pretty me! :)

20 October, 2011 - 12:59 pm Dave - Hi Sameer, I run with 400W lights, which were used for all above shots. Only if you want to do some "low key" shots where you want really low power, or you want to open lens up for shorter depth of field, you may find the lights too powerful. If I was only shooting in your space then 200W would be perfect. However if you ever intend to shoot in larger space, especially with group shots then 400W+ is more suitable. Another way to look at it, is to go with 2 x 200W & then as your confidence grows in lighting buy 2 x 400W, so you can do shoots with 3 or 4 lights, plus have full scope of 200-400W available for main lights when required. Cheers Dave

14 November, 2011 - 8:00 am Mike - this is a great thread, will help me loads with my upcoming shoots. thanks a lot!

16 November, 2011 - 7:14 am Sameer - Dave, you are awesome man! I've got a 200w light and have tried it all possible power levels... it works absolutely fine! Thank you for the kind professional advice! :) *I'm really enjoying my time at my in house studio* I've actually taken my annual leaves to give this hobby some more time and its worth all the penny spent on it so far! :) I strated to practice with ur studio lighting set up #1 and have been trying different powers... the result is not as good as yours *lol* but some day... no questions this time...but just a thank you note! :) "Thanks you" :)

17 November, 2011 - 9:31 pm Dave - No probs :)

24 January, 2012 - 11:17 pm Tom - Dave, I have tried the clam shell technique and my lighting seems to be to harsh. I have the top box 400w set at 8 and the lower 400wt. set at 4. My camera settings are f8 at 125th. based on my light meter. Subject is 3 ft. from lower box and 4.5 ft. from the upper box. When I change y camera fstop to 11 is seems to take away the harshness but am I not then underexposing the picture? Any ideas. I am trying to find the softest soothing light for glamour portrait shots. Thanks for your help. Tom

25 January, 2012 - 3:22 pm Dave - Hi Tom. Light becomes harsher the further you move the lights away from the model, as the light source size diminishes. I would try getting softboxes as close as possible to model. I've had models literally only a foot away from a 6ft softbox before. Not knowing your light models, with my 400W I usually have them on lowest settings, but close to model. Might be worth trying lower light at 2/3 power of light above to see if that makes a difference. Good luck & let me know how you get on

16 February, 2012 - 12:33 am Boryana - Hello Dave. I sell mainly vinyl backdrops to photographers and I do wonder which set up in your opinion would offer the least amount of light reflection from the backdrop. I will appreciate your help.

7 March, 2012 - 6:19 am needos - whatever you guys say about the lighting, is insignificant. I am enchanted by the beauty of this model-girl. She is just fairy-like wonderful....FANTASTTIC

9 April, 2012 - 7:49 am aman - aman Sorout sai color lab gurgon

24 April, 2012 - 5:01 am Dinuka Herat - thanks.. early I had some doubts how to keep light sources to get some portraits... I really enjoyed this.. Thanks David.

12 June, 2012 - 11:47 am sameer - Hi David... there is one thing which I would appreciate if you could help me with it... though it is NOT entirely related to this forum but has got to do with lighting! The question starts as follows: I would appreciate if David or any one of my friends on this forum could help me out in finalizing another flash gun for my CLS set up. I currently own a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon SB 700 *flash gun*. I’m looking forward to buy another flash gun to be used together with my current set up of D7000 and SB700. I enjoy doing portraits both, outdoors and indoors. However, I enjoy outdoors more due to interesting backgrounds and playing with the ambient light at golden hours. Now, coming to the question. Can you please help me decide which second flash gun should I buy? *as i said i already own a SB 700* Should I go for SB-910 OR another SB 700? Later on, probably after 6-8 months I’ll add on the third flash gun too but right now which one should i go for my second flash speed light? Please post me your answer and if possible backed up by some reasoning. Thank you and have a great day! :)

3 August, 2012 - 3:19 pm narendra balasaheb jadhav - nice photo

3 August, 2012 - 3:20 pm narendra balasaheb jadhav - nice photo...

2 October, 2012 - 9:18 pm Hamid - Hello. the best for key light soft box or beautidish? thank you

14 October, 2012 - 1:13 pm rogerio - i like the light set, is very cool.

22 January, 2013 - 4:07 am diwakar borde - eassy & effective,understand common person who don"t know photograpy lighting just amaging

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