Tag Archives: Studio lighting

Beauty lighting – Two reflectors bouncing light back onto the model

Beauty lighting is similar to the lighting set up of the Butterfly lighting, but uses three light sources.  The key or main lighting is provided by the softbox lighting.  This positioned close and to one side of the camera between 20 degrees away to the side of the camera to introduce some contrast and shadow to the model’s face and raised above the subject so the light shines down at approximately a 45 degree angle on to the forehead and face.  The model faces the main lighting and then turns their head to face the camera, to the subject.  On the other side of the face add a reflector to provide some soft fill in lighting to the other side of the face.  A second reflector is placed low to bounce light up to reduce the dark shadows created under the chin, nose and around deep set eyes, but the bounce light will not be so strong as to remove the completely the shadows.  The shadows are needed to give the face definition and the photograph to have some subtle contrast.

In my demonstration photograph the main light was placed on the left hand side of the model’s face, a reflector was positioned low also on the left hand side.  The second reflector on the right hand side I feel could have been better positioned further round to the right and placed so that more light would be reflected on to the model’s right side of their face.  I could have reduced the ISO light sensitivity so that the left hand side of the face would not be so highly exposed, and it would show more skin tones.

The details of this photograph.  Camera Nikon D3100, ISO-3200, aperture F-Stop f/7.1, shutter exposure time 1/80 second.





An alternative to the reflector is the use of a fill-in flash.  The use of a fill-in flash is that it gives additional light to a subject that is not well illuminated or the subject is in it’s own shadow because the light is coming mainly from the side or backlit subject.  The ideal is to use the flash to throw light on to the subject, but the light not to be too strong that it removes the the shadows thrown by the sunlight or other studio lighting in a similar way that the reflector gives additional soft lighting.

The use of fill-in flash should not be so bright that it bleach the colour of the subject or generate unwanted reflections that dazzel down the lens or red eye of the model.

butterfly with lit background

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting is named after Rembrandt the Dutch painter.   The effect can be created using a single light positioned 1 meter away from the model. If the light is too far away the strong atmospheric shadows are not as defined.  The position of the light is placed higher than the model and approximately 45 degrees to the left or right of the face when looking straight at the face.


The Rembrandt lighting effect can also be created with two lights, the main lighting is above the face 30-80 degrees there is second light on either the left or right side of the face 25-60 degrees.  This gives  atmosphere and strong shadows on the face light and shadow patterns characterized by a small triangle of light that appears under the eye on the shadow side of the face, along with a nose shadow that nearly extends to the corner of the mouth.

My portrait demonstrating the Rembrandt lighting was taken in the studio using a single light source with a Nikon D3100 camera, ISO-3200, aperture F-stop f7.1, Exposure time 1/80 second, 55mm lens.





rembrant diagram

Butterfly lighting

Butterfly lighting, the name refers to the butterfly shape of the shadow created under the nose by an overhead light that shines directly down on the model’s face.  The light source is placed above the face (typically 25-70 degrees) in line with the direction in which the face is pointing.

To reduce the strong shadows beneath the model’s chin and harsh contrast on the rest of the face. A reflector is held beneath the subject’s chin, angled toward the face, will soften this shadow and give the model a glow.


Butterfly Lighting is a flattering and artistic way of lighting the face. Butterfly Lighting is created by the way in which you angle the light to fall on the face of your subject. Often used by celebrity photographers, this style of lighting can be achieved by a single off camera light and a reflector to soften the shadow under the chin and neck.

Butterfly lighting is sometimes known as Paramount lighting, it was a style of lighting often used by Hollywood studio photographers of the 1930s for Hollywood star publicity photographs.

My portrait demonstrating the butterfly lighting used a single light source placed above and directly facing the model’s head.  No reflector was used. Camera settings used was Nikon D3100, ISO 3200, aperture F-stop f/7.1 Exposure time 1/125 seconds, 55mm lens



butterfly with lit background

Studio Lighting Equipment

Softbox lighting

A softbox is an umbrella like hood that is attached around a light.  It is umbrella like in its construction, metal frame with light proof sides typically made out of fabric so that it is light in weight so easy to carry and support.  The inside of the hood is reflective to increase the brightness projected through the front.  The front of the softbox hood is covered by a diffuser, usually a white fabric.  Positioned inside the softbox is a lamp or flash that is the light source.  The lamp/flash unit with the softbox hood is mounted on a stand so that it can be positioned and adjusted to required heights.

The intention is to modify the light from the lamp or flash to give a smooth and even light spread across a wide area.  This has the effect of producing soft shadows and often used when taking portraits or photographs of people because of the softer lighting produced on a subject.


Photographic Continuous Lamp

Lamps provide a steady constant light source rather than a flash.  These can vary in strength of light and the colour or quality of the light depending on the light bulb.

A photographic lamp can be simple with just on/off switch, or can have additional controls to adjust the intensity or brightness of the lamp.  The lamp can have a reflective shade to help in focusing the light on to the subject, this can vary from being very deep or narrow to minimise light spilling out in to the whole studio, to wide and shallow shades that are intended to flood a wide area with light.

Benefit of continuous lighting is that it is easier to set up and position the lighting in the studio, you can see immediately the effect of moving or positioning the lights has, how the light levels change, the mood created, where shadows are going to be generated.

Downside of continuous lighting is that they can require a lot of electricity, require long power cables so that the lights can be positioned without the cables getting into the frame.  These cables can present potential trip hazards.  The lights can generate a lot of heat and get very hot, this can be very uncomfortable for models, and also objects being photographed can be adversely affected by the heat generated by the lamps.  There is also a burn risk.  Also when the lights are hot there is a risk that the elements can break and blow with tungsten filament bulbs.  With model and portraiture photography the bright lights will cause a model’s eye pupils to constrict and appear small, this can be an undesirable effect.  The continuous bright lights can also cause people to move their heads or partial close their eyes or screw up their faces in attempts to avoid the light.


Regular tungsten filament light bulbs when used in photography produce a warm yellow glow to a photograph, even when the light appears white.

Photoflood lights  are similar to normal light bulbs that produce a bluer light to reduce to golden glow of a normal filament light bulb.

Quartz Halogen lights although brighter than normal light bulbs, they still produce a yellow glow in a photograph.

Fluorescent lights.  Depending which gas fills the fluorescent tube different coloured white light.  Regular florescent lights create a greenish light in photographs unless ‘day light’ tubes are used.Studio_Light

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) produce a good white light, but the photographs can appear to have a cold blue light created by the LEDs.led

Manual and information for Bowens lights, including the model Bowen BW-3610 (light model used at college) http://www.wexphotographic.com/webcontent/pdf/Bowens/Bowens-freedom.pdf

Flash units.

These produce bursts of light and are synchronised with the camera shutter so that the camera opening of the shutter the flash firing occurs at the same time.

Compact Flash gun units can be mounted on top of the camera.  The down side of this especially when taking portrait photography is that because the light is in line with the camera lens and the model is usually looking towards the camera there is a very high chance of ‘Red eye’ because the bright light bounces of the back of the model’s eye, the retina.  The flash positioned close to the lens can also cause dust particles to shine and sparkle because they are in the direct path of the light, and when the light hits the dust it reflects the light back and cause ‘white’ dots to appear on the image.

On camera flash for portrait photography does not allow the photographer to position the flash to either side of the models face, so the photographs can also look ‘flat’ and the face featureless when the model’s face is looking square into the camera, there will be little or no shadow generated by the nose or the area around the sockets of the eyes.

RHS gardens Wisley ring flash help me buy

A ring flash is a flash that is placed close around the lens. The ring flash will give even lighting, reducing directional shadows that makes 3D objects appear flat, ring flash is often used in macro photography because it throws an even light around the small object being photographed. The ring flash can be used to create unusual light reflections of reflective surfaces, or in the eyes of models.


1533306Flash units mounted off the camera on light stands can be positioned where ever they are needed in the same way as continuous lighting.  A trigger mechanism will be required to synchronise the flash with the camera shutter.  This can be either cables connected from the camera directly to the flash unit(s) or by a wireless or remote trigger mechanism connected to the camera that transmits the instruction to fire, and the flash units have a receiving wireless unit to initiate the flash when the signal is received.

Flash units can be adjusted to give off different levels of light intensity, and the

Benefits of flash are that the bright lights are not on continuously, generating heat, are very bright and using electricity.  For portraiture, the lighting is not powerful so the model’s pupil of the eyes will open more, eyes with wide pupils are generally considered more attractive.

Downside of flash is that it can take longer to set up exactly where you want the lights to be positioned, because they are not on all the time, the beams and lighting effects are not always immediately obvious.  Also it is highly likely that the photographer will require a spot light meter that can take light meter readings of flash so that they can set their camera and lights correctly.

Lighting Accessories

Accessories can be attached to lights continuous or flash units.

Light stand to support the light unit.  They provide a stable support to allow the lights to be positioned where they are required and the height and angle of the light head can be adjusted.  They may have an additional boom to allow the light to reach in or across the subject.lightstand

Colour gels or filters can be placed over the lights to change the overall lighting of a subject or to change the colour of shadows cast by the subject.gelsGrills or Grids can be placed over the light.  These are intended to aid focusing the light in a direction and reduce light spilling into areas that you do not want the light to shine.gridhoneycombBarn doors flaps. These flaps are used to reduce light spilling out on to areas where you do not want light to shine and reduce flare.barndoorSnoot. A light attachment that steps down to a smaller diameter aperture for the light to shine out of.  This has the effect of producing a focused beam of light, but with soft edges.1017878Gobo A glass or metal plate which fits inside the lamp, or placed in a holder.  The Gobo has designs, shapes or words cut out so that the lamp projects the design.  Often used also used in club and disco lighting effects.


Light Bounce

Reflectors designed to reflect and bounce light when positioned under or around the model The reflector can be white, silver, gold or grey.  The choice of reflector can give the reflected light on the model different strength and light quality from bright white light with the silver reflector, white gives a cool less strong or bright reflection, grey reflector less bright reflection.  The gold reflector will give a bright a warm golden look.


Umbrellas.  There is a similar range of finishes and colours as reflectors (silver, white, gold or grey). They have a similar effect on the quality of the light and intensity that falls upon the subject or model. The studio light or flash is projected away from the subject in to the inside of the umbrella. The light bounced from the umbrella is aimed back onto the subject. The light from the umbrella softens and diffuses the light so that it is not as harsh or strong as the lights aimed directly at the subject or model.

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Light Barriers

Cookies A flat board or screen that has cut outs to allow some light to shine through to create light and shade lighting effects.  It works similar to a Gobo, but the light shapes projected are not so focused, for example they can give mottled lighting similar to light shining through the leaves of a tree, or the effect of light shining through venetian blinds.41gj1fly95l-_sy355_

Flags A screen used to stop unintentional stray spill light from getting to the camera and causing flare (unwanted light that is reflected in the lens, internal optics or the camera itself that show as light patches on a picture) or a screen to shield light from striking the subject where it is not required.  A method of keeping dark areas dark.  These can be as simple as pieces of thick card or fabric attached to a frame to more sophisticated panels that can be mounted on stands or movable or bendy arms.



Background or backdrops on paper rolls are seamless photographic background on a roll supported on two supports either side.  The backdrop paper can be pulled out and extended out on the floor so there are no hard lines between walls and floor.


Using 2 lights in the studio moving it around my subject

This series of nine photographs are to demonstrate the effect of using two types of studio lights when taking portrait photographs of a model.  The positioning of the lights were moved to show changes the lighting and the effects created.

These photographs are part the assignment theme of portraiture and lighting techniques.changing the light using 2 lights .jpg

Photograph 1
20° softbox, 220° spotlight
Photograph 2
60° softbox, 260° spotlight
Photograph 3
100° softbox, 300° spotlight
Photograph 4
140° softbox, 340° spotlight
Photograph 5
180° softbox, 0° spotlight
Photograph 6
220° softbox, 20° spotlight
Photograph 7
260° softbox, 60° spotlight
Photograph 8
300° softbox, 100° spotlight
Photograph 9
0° softbox, 180° spotlight

How I created these pictures.

The photographs were created in the studio using a white background. I set the camera up on a tripod, the camera did not move.  The camera and settings also remained constant for the series of photographs, Nikon D40X, Focal length 42mm, ISO-100, F-Stop f/16, 1/60 second exposure.  I used two lights directly opposite each other, a softbox light and continuous spotlight fitted with a honeycomb grid over the front to help focus the light beam on to the model and stop the light from spilling and splaying out beyond a narrow beam.  The lights were moved around in a circle placed at 40° intervals with the model positioned in the centre. After each photograph the lights were moved around 40° from the last point. This was repeated until the circle was completed.  Both the hard spot light and the softbox light was positioned above the model’s head shining down on to the models head and shoulders.

The spotlight is very powerful and bright compared to the more diffused light generated by the softbox. The spotlight has a harsh blue tone compared to the slightly warmer light from the softbox.

The photograph 5 (centre) with the hard spot light aimed straight at the model’s face, with the softbox immediately behind the model.  The model’s face is very pale, bleached by the intensity of the light shining on the face, part of the left eyebrow is lost because of the bright intensity of the lighting.  The detail around the eyes, nose, mouth and chin appear flat.  The photograph 9 the model’s face is illuminated by softbox and behind the head the hard spot light.  The light from the softbox is not so strong and does bleach out the face, the light from behind highlights the shape of the head and hair providing a sharp outline with a halo highlight on the hair.  If the hard spot light lamp were raised higher and extended behind the model’s head so the lamp and the light stand would not be seen in the photograph.

When these are contrasted with the photograph 1, the softbox lighting is approximately 20 degrees to the left of the model’s face, the majority of the face is illuminated with warm soft tone lighting that compliments the model’s skin tones and hair.  There are some shadows that show depth around the eyes, nose and chin and the cheek bones.  The hard spot light from behind at 220 degrees gives a highlight to the top right hand side of the head and enhances the variety of colour tones within the hair are visible.

Photograph 6, the reciprocal lighting photograph with the hard spotlight at 20 degrees and the softbox behind the face at 220 degrees demonstrates the diffuse lighting created using the softbox compared to the strong light and the face that is half illuminated and half in shade.  The softbox lighting from 220 degrees gives a more gentle light to the models hair, but none of the light from behind shows on the models face.

Photograph 7. The spotlight is shining from the side of the face gives a strong illuminated left side to the face, left cheek and ear and left side of the nose, but the front of the face and, mid line of the nose and right side of the face is in shadow.  The diffused softbox lighting from the right is positioned behind the head, but some of the light catches the corner of the right side of the models face.





softbox spotlight + honeycomb grid


Using 1 light in the studio moving it around the subject

The exercise was to demonstrate the effect of positioning studio lighting when taking a portrait picture.  To show the change the lighting and the effects created when the light is moved around relative to the model.Untitled-1.jpg

20° 60° 100°
120° 180° 220°
260° 300° 340°

How I created this series of photographs

This series of 9 pictures were taken in a studio using a single softbox light with diffuser as the light source.  I placed the model facing square at the camera, her face looking straight at the lens.  The camera remained in the same place positioned on a tripod and the settings remained constant, Camera Nikon D40X, Focal length 42mm, ISO-100, F-Stop f/16, 1/60 second exposure.  I used one light positioned slightly higher than the model and moved the light around in a circle every 40° degrees to take the series of pictures.

The light positioned at 20°, 340° degrees either side of the camera gives full face illumination with slight shadows created by the nose casting a shadow, the chin creating a shadow on the neck because the light is higher the models head. The eyes in their sockets can be easily seen.  The colour of the skin flesh tones and colour of the clothes and hair are easily distinguishable.

The 60° and 300° degree light is still positioned in front of the models face.  The lighting gives a strong illumination on the side of the face putting half of the face in strong shadow.  The side of the face has highlights on the forehead, and along the centre line of the nose.  The hair is less effected by the positioning of the light because it is higher than the model projecting down. The colour of the models clothes are discernible.

The 100° and 260° degree, the lights are just behind the models shoulder.  This gives a very dramatic lighting effect, only the one side of the face part of the forehead, cheek, nose and chin catch the light and are illuminated, the remainder of the face is in shadow. The flesh tones are not very visible. There is still some ambient light from the softbox lighting that the camera has captured to show the model. The area around the eyes appear darker even with the face in shadow.  The colour of the models clothing on her shoulder can be seen.

The light from behind 120°, 220° degrees far behind the left or right of the models shoulder their face is in darkness.  The 120° and 220° degree puts a strong highlight on either side the models hair.

The light direct from behind 180° degrees puts the models face in silhouette.  The light softbox can be seen directly behind the models head.  The wisps of hair can be clearly seen with the light direct from behind.  Both shoulders show highlights because the light is shining slightly down from above the model.

In all these photographs you can see how the neutral grey background changes colour with the strength of light that hits the background and is reflected back towards the camera.


Position of camera and light softbox, with stool where the middle was positioned.

Example of a Softbox light on a stand


Fill-In Flash

A method that could be used as an alternative to the use of a reflector is the use of fill-in flash.  Fill-in flash is not a strong main light source, but a low power flash. The use of a fill-in flash is that it gives additional light to a subject that is not well illuminated or the subject is in its own shadow because the light is coming mainly from the side or backlit subject.  The ideal is to use the flash to throw light on to the subject, but the light not to be too strong that it removes the shadows created by the sunlight or other studio lighting.

Fill-in flash is a technique used to brighten dark or deep shadow areas.  The dark and shadow areas are usually created when the background is significantly brighter than the subject (object or person) of the photograph, particularly with strong backlit subjects by strong bright light from sun or bright natural sky or studio lamps, the shadows created occur where they are not required.    The use of fill-in flash counter acts this effect of the object being obscured by their own shadow.

Why use a Fill-in Flash opposed to changing the lighting or position of the model

In the case of people as subjects, it is not always desirable to position a person to face the bright light, there may be something in the background that is wanted to be photographed with the person.  Sometimes if the person is turned to face the light it will cause the subjects eyes to be closed, the pupils of the eyes to appear very small or the persons face to be screwed up trying to avoid the bright light.

The bright backlit could be the desired lighting to create rim light effect around a models head and hair, putting the face in shadow.  The use of a fill-in flash illuminates the face, but keeps the rim light effect.

Examples of the use of Fill-in Flash in the studio.

The exercise described is the use of fill-in flash and the effect it has on the subject. The photographs are studio work. The camera was set up on a tripod, the studio lamp was positioned in one place to the left of the camera and the fill-in flash was set up on a stand to the right.

The camera settings remained constant throughout the photoshoot. Camera Sony ILCE-7, ISO-200, F-stop f/11, exposure 1/25 second, focal length 70mm. A series of six photographs were taken, three of a male model (figures 1-3), three of a female model (figures 4-6).

Photographs for figure 1 and figure 4, the main studio lamp is illuminating one the side of the models face, the other side is in strong shadow, no fill in flash has been used. The background has no shadow.

Photographs figure 2 and figure 5 the main studio is illuminating the side of the models face. The other side of the face is illuminated by the fill-in flash. The fill-in flash is not as strong as the main studio lamp, but the flash has generated a shadow on the backdrop for both models.

The photographs in figure 3 and figure 6, the main studio lamp the power has been increased to generate a stronger bright light on the models face. The power of the fill-in flash has not changed. The models faces in both these photographs the side of the face that is brightly illuminated, the skin tones are very pale and harsh.

Photograph for Figure 1, the lighting for male subjects although quiet dark is popular lighting for male subjects. It makes the subject look masculine, moody and intense, a look widely held as attractive for male subject. To improve the lighting and to make the male subject stand out from the dark backdrop, a lamp placed low behind the model throwing some light on to the backdrop would clearly define the outline of the model from the backdrop.

Photograph for figure 5, the lighting for a female subject with the use of a fill-in flash is considered more acceptable and attractive. It shows clearly the face of the model, and the clothes they are wearing. The darker figure 4 photograph female models can look uninterested and sulky, traits that most people do not find attractive.

The well illuminated figure 3 and 6 for both male and female subjects, although the faces and clothes are very clear, the photographs lack an atmosphere, they are clinical and cold.

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Figure 1 Studio light from left, no fill-in flash


Figure 2 Studio light on the left, fill-in flash on the right


Figure 3 Bright studio light on the left, fill-in flash on the right


Figure 4 Studio light from left, no fill-in flash


Figure 5 Studio light on the left, fill-in flash on the right


Figure 6 Bright studio light on the left, fill-in flash on the right

Things to be aware of using Fill-in Flash

The use of fill-in flash has to be used with care so that it does not bleach the colour out of the subject, does not overpower the existing light and shade by the existing light and flatten or eliminate 3D features.  Fill-in flash can create unwanted reflections that dazzle down the lens from reflective surfaces or cause red eye when photographing a model because the fill-in flash is close to the line of the lens, the light reflects of the back of the retina of the model.  Fill-in flash is therefore not a strong, but a low power flash and whenever possible placed to the left or right of the camera, not on the camera.