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Studio Lighting Tips: Three-Point Lighting Setup

If the photography bug has bitten you hard and you want to start doing some serious shooting, you might want to think about kitting yourself out with some lighting gear. If you’ve never used your own external lighting setups before, it can be a learning curve but the rewards are rich. See below for some great tips on getting better photos with controlled lighting:

1   Okay, first things first. Great lighting can be let down by poor composition and posing, especially when it comes to portraits. Take the time to set the scene properly. Watch for shrugged shoulders, stiffness, slouching and striking features hidden by poor positioning. You can also make use of props and accessories, and be sure to pay attention the background of your photos – it is better to enhance than detract from your subject.

It can be a little overwhelming playing director and having to guide your subject so specifically, but the results can be stunning. Try and breath some natural life into what can be seen as quite a rigid situation – tell a joke to get natural expressions of happiness and laughter, or give a totally left-field direction and you might just strike a gold pose. 
Just remember to keep snapping and try different things.

     There are many lighting setups, and once you learn the ropes you will be an unstoppable lighting machine that will have many ideas on what works for you. Portraits tend to be shot with a three-point lighting setup, and that is what we will focus on.

The Three Points:

1.       Main (or Key) Light:

This is your main lighting source, and is the primary point of illumination of your subject.  You can use a speedlite [ADD LINK] for this or a studio lighting kit [ADD LINK], sometimes referred to as flashes or strobes.

If you are using a speedlite, get it off your camera! On-camera flash can cause flat lighting, whereas you can use it to much greater effect off the camera with a flash trigger.

By using an off-camera light source you can use shadows and highlights to enhance bone structure, skin tone, eyes and other features of your subject’s face that you may not normally achieve.

No matter how good you get, with lighting comes testing and repositioning until it looks right. This can take an indeterminate amount of time! Be patient.

2.       Fill Light
This light will help soften harsh shadows caused by the main light. This will improve overall results and give your shots a more professional edge, though it is optional and if you are starting out and only have one light you can try reflectors to soften hard edges.

In terms of positioning, if the main light is to one side of the camera, the fill light is typically placed on the opposite side.

3.       Background Light

As you might have guessed, this one lights the background.  It will light up whatever happens to be in the background, which is essential if you have gone the whole hog and put together a set with props and the whole shebang.

The light is placed typically behind the subject, and is pointed at the background. Again, this is an option depending on your exact shooting situation, but if you don’t have a background light you can get away with using a dark backdrop in its place.

And there you go! As with anything in photography, it will take practice and you will be sure to have a ball while improving your skills. You won’t believe the difference some controlled lighting can make, so do feel free to check out our extensive range online, or pop into one of our stores to ask our knowledgeable staff.

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