camera studio with white background

Studio Lighting Setup: Easier Tips To Make It

Many photographers fear learning about studio lighting setup. However, there is no photography without light. It can seem very complicated at first, but overall, if you take your time, it’s not so bad. It’s really all about learning the different types of lighting and what equipment to use.

The reason it’s so feared is because you need to have consistent results. If you can’t do that, then you have to keep trying until you get that result.

Understanding Your Camera’s Light Meter

You can’t master studio lighting setup if you don’t know your camera’s light meter. This device takes into account all of the different settings on your camera. Things like aperture, shutter speed, film speed, and more. It will tell you what type of exposure that the combination of tools and available light will create the on the image. If you want to master studio lighting, start with your camera:


This is an adjustable opening inside of your camera lens. It adjusts the amount of light that can get in. It’s used with other tools to control how much light reaches the sensor. 

Shutter Speed

This effects how motion is shown in the image.

Photo Exposure 

This is how much light is in the photo. Proper exposure is what the photographer wants for a scene. If you want to underexpose the scene, to make details in shadow, you would use the proper exposure for it. You just need to make sure whatever the exposure is, is what you want.

4 Studio Lighting Categories

camera studio

There are four basic lighting categories that you need to use as a photographer. Once you have mastered these, the whole studio lighting setup should be a lot easier. Let’s start here:

The Key Light

This does most of the work in a lighting setup and is considered the cornerstone of every lighting setup. Basically, every other light will work in relation to this main light.

The Fill Light

This softens the shadows on your subject, but doesn’t overpower your key light. If you don’t have a light, a reflector will do just as well.

The Hair Light

This is a slim slice of light that’s on your subject’s hair. This is also known as a separation light because it separates your subject from the background. It should be equal to or slightly brighter than your key light or else it will get overpowered.

The Background Light

This is exactly what it sounds like. It brightens the background. Depending on your needs, you many use a number of lights. It should also be equal to, or less than, your key light.

Studio Lighting Setup - Key Points

To make your studio lighting setup up as easy as possible, there are a few things you have to do first. With these things taken care of, everything else should be a breeze.

lady in the camera studio

Preparation That Needs to Be Done First

You need to set your lights on their proper stands and make sure they work. There’s nothing worse than getting everything set up and the light doesn’t work. Also, make sure you have a way to turn the light on and off if you need to. You can attach something to your camera or use a remote.

It’s always a good idea to keep your camera and light manuals nearby, just in case you need to consult them.  Your camera should be set to the proper setting that you want to try.  It’s also helpful to have a subject that will be patient with you as you try to figure out what you’re doing.

Position of Lights

Where you put your light will dramatically change a mood. Front lighting, or having your subject in front of the light, brings out details. This is because the shadows are behind your subject, meaning there is no shade concealing details.  This is the easiest to shoot, but it can be a bit bland.

Side lighting is placing your light or your subject so that light hits it from the side. This makes it a little more interesting than front lighting. It creates more shadow and depth.
This is still pretty easy to shoot. You just have to be aware of the shadows and where they are.  You don’t need clear angles, you can use any angle you want. Set it up so that you like how the shadows fall on your subject.

Backlighting is probably the hardest. If you don’t have the right skills, you will end up with just a silhouette. Beginners usually avoid this type. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t try it. Eventually you should try backlighting, because it can give subjects a lovely glow around them. Because the light is in the back, all the shadows are in the front. Though with manual mode in your camera, you can adjust the exposure so that you get the right details.

Soft Light Vs. Hard Light

Light source and light modifiers can affect how light or dark the shadows are in your photo. A hard light source gives shadows with little transition between light and dark areas of the image. It’s usually connected to creating darker shadows. It creates contrast.  However, if you use it wrong, it can create some harsh details. For example, highlighting the bags under a person’s eyes.

Soft light is subtler with its transition between light and dark. It has smoother shadows, which keeps details from getting lost. It can even disguise blemishes when you are taking a picture of a person. This is a good type of light for beginners because it’s more forgiving. 
What makes a light hard or soft is the size of the light source. Large light sources give soft light. Small ones create deep shadows. Camera flashes, without a modifier, will create hard light because it’s a small source.  Distance can also play a role. The closer the light is, the softer it will be. The farther away, the harsher it will be.

Light Diffusers

You can use these tools to control the type of light you’re using. Diffusers can be lights like flashes and strobes. There is also the use of a white umbrella. You simply put it between the light and the subject. This is known as “Shooting Through Umbrella”. It softens the light.

Soft boxes are another type of diffuser. Some can be small enough to use with a flash.  Using hard and soft light, and light diffusers, will give you an unlimited amount of options to use for your photos.

Color Temperature or the Kelvin Scale

Light may look like it’s only one color, but that’s because of how your brain sees it. In actuality, lights come in different colors. That’s why sometimes your photos may look too blue or washed out. A camera’s white balance helps keep colors correct in your image. That way your image is how you see it with your eyes.

The Kelvin Scale is how you can measure the different colors of light. Darker colors are around 7,500K while daylight is 5,500K. You can use your camera to manually control the white balance. You can do also skew the white balance to create more emotion within your image.

It’s All About Trial and Error

lights and cameras

You can do all the reading possible on the internet about making your studio lighting setup easy, but really, you’ve just got to start doing it yourself. This is just one of those things that will be easier to learn hands on.  You need to give yourself room to fail while you experiment with your equipment and personal style. Try to have fun as you learn what works and what doesn’t. You never know, maybe you’ll find a” happy accident” like Bob Ross always says.

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