OK, so you've got your first studio lighting kit, and you're not sure how to get it set up.
This blog is intended to get you started quickly, with a simple 2 or 3 light studio, with either soft boxes or brollies (white or silver) on the main subject lights. I'll also assume that you have yet invested in a flash meter. This information will also be handy if you're setting up lights away from the studio without a meter.
We will start with getting the exposures right on the subject.Start by positioning the lights to the front of the subject on either side, at
about 45 degrees (on a diagonal to the eye). They should be raised slightly above the subject's eyes, pointing down. Position them at least 1 meter away from the subject, and further away
depending on how powerful they are. A lower power flash unit will be about 200 W/s, a
higher power from 500 to 1000 W/s (500 or 600 W/s is typical for a medium sized studio).
You need to get the correct exposure with one of the lights (turn the other
one off). A flash meter is by far the most efficient way of doing this and I'll cover it in another blog post.
For now we'll work without a flash meter and try to achieve the lighting shown in the image above.
1. Start, by putting the camera into manual exposure mode (M),
and setting the shutter to one stop SLOWER than the camera's flash synch speed
- you need to check what this is in the camera manual. Typically it will be 1/200th of a second. If so set the camera shutter speed to 1/100tb of a second, one stop slower.
The reason for doing this is that more powerful flash units may not fully discharge all of their light at the faster sync speed, which is designed for smaller speedlites.
2. Set the aperture to f8
to start with and take photos, changing the aperture (in 1/3rd stops, up and
down) until the exposure looks right. Slightly under exposed is safer than over
3. Note the aperture that gives the best exposure. You have now set the exposure for the main ("key") light.
4. Turn that light off and the other one on. This time, you need to set the light ONE STOP
LOWER than the first one. So, now set the apeture ONE stop WIDER than the
correct one for the other light. So, if the correct exposure for the first
light is f8, set the aperture to f5.6. This will be the exposure for the "fill" light.
To do this, CHANGE THE POWER SETTING ON THE LIGHT (not the camera aperture)
until you get a good exposure in the camera. Keep adjusting the power up or
down, and taking shots, until it looks the same as the first light. You may
need to move the flash backwards or forward too, depending on how powerful it
5. Turn both lights on and set the aperture on the camera to the one that gave
the correct exposure for the first light.
What you have effectively done is set the 2nd light one stop lower than the
first one. So, when both lights are turned on, you will get slightly more
shadow on the side of the face with wider aperture.
This doesn't seem logical, but the fact is that you are shooting at a stop
smaller than the 2nd light is set up for - and so it will only take in half the
This gives more "modelling" to the face, than there would be if
both lights are at the same aperture.
You can adjust the lights - change the position to the left and right or
back and forth, to get the modelling just right, once you have got the basic
exposures set up.
In the image above, you can see the lightly brighter skin tones on the right hand side, due to the unbalanced exposure of the two front lights. I haven't used a light on the mid grey background.
In the second image, below, I have used a third light behind the subject and low down, pointed upwards. This has given a graduated look to the background. The light is set to the same level (on the flash unit) as the key light).
I hope this helps and have fun practicing.