Multiple Lighting Options in Studio

Working in studio presents a ton of lighting options, so how do you choose? Here are some examples of different light set ups that will give you variety in your work.

Working in a studio with both natural light and strobe light gives you the ability to use a multitude of different light set-ups, but it can also present a bit of a problem when you're trying to decide how to light a shoot. Should I use natural light? Strobe only? A combination of both?

In this video, I explain each light set up I use and what each one does.

1. Backlight from a window with bounce light from the front as fill

This set up has a very natural, casual, relaxed feel that is great for when you start a session as you get comfortable with posing and communicating with your model. It can also be done with a large octabox or strobe fired through a scrim from behind. Bouncing the fill light off the opposite wall (or a large v-flat) gives a large, soft fill that feels very natural.

Model Chase Watkins

2. Bare bulb through an open octabox

The hard light mimics sunlight, and is a great way to fake it on rainy days when you had planned to take advantage of the sun.

Model Chase Watkins

3. Strobe key light and natural light fill

There's no reason not to take advantage of natural light for fill when you have it, and it offers the added benefit of letting you control the fill with the flick of the dial rather than altering the power of the strobe if you want to alter the contrast. In this situation, the light ratio is low and bright so it's got a very catalog feel.

Model Chase Watkins

4. Window Light

Window light is easy and available, you simply shoot what you see! The trick is to make sure that the light is hitting your subject the way you want, and that it's bright enough so that you don't have to sacrifice too much in ISO, Shutter speed, or Aperture.

Model Chase Watkins

5. Experimental light

Experimenting with light can give you all kinds of interesting results. In this case, I wanted to create some interesting shadows, and maybe create light that looked like it was coming down through a high window.

Model Chase Watkins

6. 3 light set up

The model requested a specific style of light that we used the last time we worked together, which is one large key light and two rim lights. In this situation, the model is only getting the edges of the light from the rim light sources so they're fairly soft. This style of lighting has a very clean, commercial feel.

Model Chase Watkins

These are only a few of the ways light can be used, and each set-up can be modified in many ways as well. If you take nothing else away, I hope that seeing these vastly different light set ups reminds you that there is a world of lighting magic at your fingertips, so get out and start trying things.

If you decide to try some of these set ups, I hope you share the results! 

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Jon Miller's picture

Nice video and especially with the mix of strobes and natural. I do have 1 question in you last setup you used to smaller octa facing you and 1 larger oct facing the model, I understand the purpose as I use 2 x strip lights. What i did not see is a gobo to block the light from entering the lens were you using anything like that? thanks.

Nicole York's picture

I wasn't. I usually have the octas placed so that they're feathered and at a low power setting, so I don't have a problem with too much light hitting my lens.

Robert Altman's picture

To mimic natural sunlight one wants the smallest point source as possible- an un-modified bare bulb (though fill off walls/ceiling can be a problem in a small space)- or at least a small 7"reflector will produce sharper more sun-like shadows in a studio setting...

Nicole York's picture

Yeah, I realized that I should have altered the light set up a bit to get it more true to life after I'd finished.

Nicole York's picture

Haha, glad to hear! I'll get a lady in studio soon and see what we can do ;)

Walid Azami's picture

Like this, good job!

David Mawson's picture

Arrrrrgh! I worked so hard trying to come up with a way of getting (2). That's so useful - thanks!

Claude Laramée's picture

Sincere thanks for sharing this very helpful video ! So well done ! BRAVO !!!

Carlos Garcia's picture

Nice video. Very educational. But, 720p?!?! In this day and age, that's unforgivable, especially from a photographer.

Nicole York's picture

You have my sincerest and most humble apologies, sir ;)