Lighting Techniques for Portrait Studio Photography

For photographers like the edinburgh wedding photographer who are trying to set up their studios, one of the most daunting tasks in this process involves setting up the studio lighting. There are so many things to consider: the equipment to be used in the studio and how they would be set up depending on the subject and the theme or arrangement in mind for the studio shoot.

While there are a number of complicated setups that can be done, for those who are new in the studio photography setup, it is best to get started with the basics. We have compiled here the techniques you should know to help you get started and be acquainted with studio lighting.

Studio Lighting Setup 1 – The Rembrandt

This studio lighting technique is ideal for artistic shots with depth. For this one, you can use a simple reflector, especially if you’re only using one light. Just use it the same way you would with natural light which is to bounce light back onto your subject and fill in any hard shadow areas.

To do this, position one flash head with a silver brolly at a 45° angle to the model at about six feet high, to create a strong, hard, direct light from the side and above called key light. To even out the lighting, position a reflector on the other side of the model to bounce the light back into the shadow side. There should be a small triangle of light that would reflect on the subject’s face.


Studio Lighting Setup 2 – The Clamshell

This technique is used to capture every detail with even light, great for beauty images. For this one, place two softboxes on either side of your subject at the same angle and at an equal distance. Set the power so it’s the same from each light. Also, try using a reflector under the face to bounce the light onto the face; you can ask your model to hold it.

Studio Lighting Setup 3 – The Backlight

This technique is used to add some depth and drama with rear lights, using a honeycomb or snoot accessory on one of the lights which will narrow the beam of light. This should be placed behind the model, pointing back towards the camera so that it lights the back of her head. Also, this should not be visible in the camera.

Studio Lighting Setup 4 – Rim lighting

This technique is used to create an exciting style with good definition of the subject. For this setup, you need to place two lights slightly behind the subject, pointing back towards the camera. You’ll also need to watch out for lens flare though, as the lights are pointing back towards the camera, though this can be prevented by a lens hood or shield. If available, an assistant who can hold a carefully positioned reflector is useful to help fill in those areas of deep shadow.


Additional Tips on Studio Lighting

Tip 1 – The shutter speed you choose is less significant in a studio setup but needs to be fast enough to avoid any camera shake. Be careful though not to set a shutter speed faster than the camera’s specified sync speed.

Tip 2 – Switch your camera to manual and use the histogram and LCD to assess the exposure and effect of the lights. Use the dials to change the power of the lights and the aperture to alter the exposure.

Tip 3 – it is important that you have a sync cable or a wireless trigger to connect your camera with the lights so that when you press the shutter, the lights fire at the same time.

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