If you want to take your photography to the next level and are thinking of introducing studio lighting to your professional photography studio, you’re in luck. Studio lighting is more affordable than ever before making it within more photographer’s reach!
Why Use Studio Equipment?
Studio lighting is a great way to have a consistent light source for your photography sessions. Studio photography can be a bit overwhelming at first, so we have written this introduction to help you understand some basic fundamentals in studio lighting.
Basic Lighting Set-up
Studio photography can be accomplished with a simple set-up of one light to the left or right of your subject. As a basic guideline, you will need at least 200-watt flash heads for portrait shooting. For groups of two or more people, it is recommended to have a minimum of 400-watt flash. For very large groups of individuals it is best to use 800-watt flash or more.
Various Light Sources – Continuous Lighting or Flash
If you want a “what you see is what you get” approach to studio photography, a continuous light source is a good option. Continuous light sources are used commonly in videography. This type of lighting tends to make pupils look smaller yielding an unnatural result in portraits.
Studio flash is advantageous to continuous light as it results in a more natural lighting effect and freezes the motion, as flash is less sensitive to movement.
Adding More Light
Additional lighting can be used to light up your background in addition to your subjects.
Using four lights will allow you to evenly light up your background as well as illuminate your subject with a main light and fill light.
Sometimes you will need a third light in portrait photography to act as a hair light for your subject. This can be used to add a special effect to your portraits. At other times it is necessary when your subject has dark hair and you are using a dark or black background. A hair light assists in providing separation from your subject’s hair and the background.
Light meters are available to use to assist you in selecting the appropriate aperture setting to illuminate your subject appropriately.
Your aperture setting will affect the lighting of your subject. Your shutter speed will affect the lighting of your background. Using a slower shutter speed will result in a lighter background. Using a faster shutter speed will result in a darker background. Adjusting your shutter speed can be used to make a white background appear black. Using studio strobe and adjusting your shutter speed can provide you with a vast array of background choices for your photography.
What is a Modeling Lamp?
Turn on your studio flash-modeling lamp to see where your shadows will be in your portrait. This is helpful in composing your image to know in advance the placement of shadows and reflections.
It is not necessary to have the modeling lamp turned on. The modeling lamp is separate from the flash tube that produces the light from the flash.
Using a reflector can replace the need for a second or third studio strobe. For example a reflector can be used in lieu of a fill light. By placing a reflector adjacent to the direction of your main light, light will bounce off of the reflector and onto your subject filling in shadows.
Reflectors are a widely used tool among photographers in studio set-ups and are an inexpensive alternative to purchasing an additional flash unit.
Not only can reflectors be used to minimize or lighten shadows, they can be used to reflect a hint of colour onto your subject.
For example, a white reflector will yield a neutral soft reflection of light. A silver reflector will produce a stronger contrast and more reflection of light on your subject. A gold reflector will produce a warmer feel and simulate a sunset light onto your subject.
A black reflector is used when you want to prevent light from reflecting onto your subject.
There are a variety of colours and sizes to choose from when selecting a reflector.
If you are working with natural light, reflectors can be used in a similar manner to reflect more light onto your subject or diffuse harsh light.
A good option is a pop-up 5-in-1 reflector, which is easy to carry and light weight. This option usually comes with a gold, silver, white, black reflector and diffuser.
Diffusing the Light
There are all sorts of light modifiers you can purchase to diffuse the light. From beauty dishes to traditional soft boxes, you can experiment to find the lighting that suits your preferences and needs.
The purpose of a soft box or diffusor is to evenly disburse the light onto your subject. Diffusors also work to reduce reflections onto glasses and faces, which can have the effect of making your subject look sweaty.
Most soft boxes are lined with a silver inner side. The light bounces off the inside of the soft box before it is emitted through the diffuser.
A simple umbrella can be used to diffuse the light and can be quickly set-up making a good portable studio option.
Most soft boxes have optional accessories that can be purchased. Disks that adhere to the inside of your soft box can provide further diffusion before the light is bounced around the inside of the soft box and discharged through the diffusor.
To lower the intensity of your flash wattage, neutral density filters can be placed in front of the flash tube.
What ISO Setting Should You Use
Different camera brands require different ISO settings to work with studio photography. A Canon brand camera requires an ISO setting of 100 and Nikon brand camera requires an ISO setting of 200 for studio lighting. Check with your camera’s manufacturer to find out the appropriate ISO setting.
What is Flash Sync?
As a starting point, use a shutter speed of 1 / 125. You need to ensure that you are using a shutter speed that does not exceed the sync speed for your camera.
Depending on the type of camera you are using, a shutter speed of more than 1 /200 or 1 / 250 will result in part of your image being obscured by the falling shutter curtain.
Connecting to a Studio Flash Strobe
A sync-cable connects your camera to your studio flash. Most cameras have a “X-contact” connector that allows you to connect your camera to your flash head. If your camera does not have a “X-contact”, you can use your camera’s hot shoe to equip your camera with an X-contact.
Another option is to use a wireless trigger connected to your camera’s hot shoe. This is a great option for those who want a wireless studio option. Wireless triggers are the most commonly used method for triggering studio flash units.
Unlike other flash options, connecting with a sync-cable or wireless trigger option will not result in a barrier of an infrared slave signal. This can occur when using flash in slave mode. When studio flashes have built-in slave sensors and the remote button is selected to trigger a flash, the master flash unit needs to see the other flash sensor in order to be triggered.
Combining Various Lighting Modules
This image displays a variety of lighting techniques described above. Your main light is always near your subject and provides the most light for your subject. From here, you can add a reflector and/or a fill light at a lower setting from your main light. Background lights can be added to light up your background, add special effects to your background or eliminate shadows in your background.
Advanced Lighting Options
It is possible to use techniques with studio lighting that will produce dramatic and unique results. The possibilities are endless allowing your creative imagination to run free.
A common lighting technique used for photography is “low key lighting”. In this scenario, only one light or a few lights are used resulting in a dramatic portrait with lots of shadows. This technique is key when you are looking for a moody and mysterious photo.
The example here shows low-key lighting. Just a small portion of the subject’s face and stomach is illuminated adding a dramatic and emotive feeling to the portrait.
What Equipment Do I Need?
Any camera that allows you to manually enter the aperture setting, shutter speed, and ISO is appropriate for studio lighting.
Most of the lighting effects described above can be achieved with a standard flash kit. Most studio strobe kits come with two strobe heads and two stands and two basic soft boxes.
There are many options you can accomplish with an introductory lighting kit. This is a good starting point when you are just learning about studio photography. From there, you can begin to add new pieces to your inventory of equipment.
To learn more about studio photography, Chandra Lee Photography offers classes and workshops for in person learning. To learn more about studio photography, contact Chandra Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905.449.2200.