5 tips: Quick studio lighting setups to live by

10 March 2017 | Category: Stills

5 tips: Quick studio lighting setups to live by


Although studio lights offer you total control over the atmosphere, there are still many questions and obstacles you need to address. For instance, which lighting will you use, how do you set it up at the ideal angles and, most importantly, what gear is essential for the images you want to take. 

Many photographers will hire the specialist gear required for these types of shoots because it’s more cost-effective and simpler to manage. So if you’re going down this route, don’t hesitate to ask us what gear might be best for your shoot!

But to give you a solid foundation from which to get started, below we put together a short list of some of the most commonly used, versatile studio lighting set-ups that every portrait photographer has used. These are tried and tested arrangements that are guaranteed to get you good results, but they also serve as a nice baseline from which you can add extra elements and fine-tune the effect. 

Start off using one light, and you’ll be amazed at the range of effects you can create. But introducing a second light opens up a whole new world of opportunity! Remember: experimentation is the key to dramatic effects. So without further ado, here are our recommended set-ups to start off with...


1) Softbox close and level with head 
This is a simple one-light set-up that produces very soft and diffused light. The lighting will strike your subject’s face directly from one side, which creates long shadows for a very classic, almost painterly effect. 

2) Softbox positioned slightly above your subject
This is a very commonly used lighting set-up because when you place your light source at this angle it takes the same position as the sun if you were shooting outdoors. Light from this angle not only produces flattering portraits, but our eyes are used to seeing light fall in this way and it’s more natural to the viewer. 

3) Use two softboxes
You can take this effect even further for more natural results. Keeping the same softbox at a higher angle looking down, position another softbox at the same angle to your subject down low, tilted upward. Then, photograph your subject from the gap between the two softboxes. 

4) Add a reflector
Often a softbox on its own is good enough to do the job. However, sometimes a little extra light is required, and in these instances, a simple reflector is the perfect tool for the job. If you want to pull back some of those long shadows we mentioned in the set-up above, simply use a reflector to bounce light from the flash onto your model. A reflector can easily eliminate shadows and add much-needed light to areas that the flash doesn’t cover.  

5) Use a second light to create backlighting
Using backlight is a simple, yet effective way of helping your subject stand out from a dark background. An easy way to do this is to position one softbox facing your subject and place another light with a grid on the front directly behind your model’s head. Ideally, it should be positioned about four or five feet behind her. Fine tune your exposure with just the one softbox, then get creative and frame the shot so that your second light in the background is obscured by your model’s head. You’ll find that this creates a very pleasing halo effect and lights up the hair.

We have a wide range of flashguns, studio lights, continuous lighting and accessories available to hire here.