Sunday, December 4, 2022

5 lighting schemes for studio photography


If you’re one of those people who grabs your camera and goes out to photograph everything you find on the street, maybe you’re now thinking of trying your hand at studio photography ? If so, there is one thing you need to consider before you begin: you need to forget for a while everything you have learned so far. Looking for the blue hour or the decisive moment is useless here: total control is in your hands, with all the pros and cons that entails.

On the one hand, you can control all the parameters of your photo: light, composition, decor… But if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you won’t be able to blame the cloud that suddenly ruined your shot. life, nor to the dog who placed himself right in the middle of your beautiful compositions. You will be able to control everything and repeat the actions as many times as necessary, so the paradigm will change radically, compared to other types of photo. The first thing to know, without this discipline, is what are called lighting schemes.

The importance of light in studio photography

Light remains the main and necessary element of a photographer’s work, but now you can choose its location, strengthen it, make it bounce, etc. Which gives you a wide variety of combinations, so where to start? Here is a step-by-step guide to immersing yourself in the world of studio photography.

Mastering the light in a studio requires many hours of practice to achieve all the desired effects, so I advise you to start working on the simplest light combinations, then explore and test others. more complex lighting schemes. Let’s start already with a single light source and several reflectors to see the differences.

Basic lighting schemes: examples and explanations

At this stage, it remains to know what we want to photograph, so I chose this bust. He doesn’t complain about repeated tests, doesn’t ask for printed copies of photos for posing and best of all… He doesn’t ask as many questions as a real flesh-and-blood model!

1. Side umbrella and black reflector

On the first take, we have on one side a side flash and a reflector umbrella and on the opposite side, a black reflector to cut short any type of filling.

As can be seen, the umbrella manages to partially illuminate one side of the face but the black reflector prevents the light from bouncing. With this type of diagram, we can do various tests by moving the light backwards, so that we will darken the unlit part more and conversely, we will lighten it by moving the light forward.

2. Side umbrella and white reflector

We now only change the reflector by another white color to see what effect it produces.

Of course, the shadows have been softened, giving a more subtle and delicate feel. This is due to the white-colored reflector, which bounces the light from the flash to the opposite side.

3. Beauty dish frontal

Now is the time to break the rules. In theory, front lighting would be prohibited, but there is an accessory that contradicts this rule. This is the beauty dish, a circular window-diffuser which allows the use of a single homogeneous and diffused frontal light for close-up portraits.

The light passes a little above the model and as you can see, it appears quite natural. You can also test a white reflector under the chin to lighten the shadow produced by the upper light.

4. 45º umbrella and reflector

We will now follow the clear path of the most used diagrams. It involves placing the main light source at 45º, as well as a white reflector also at 45º on the other side.

This angle is generally very advantageous for placing our light source. A true classic. White, the reflector once again bounces light and fills in shadows. This results in a delicate and advantageous light on many occasions, especially for romantic images and children’s portraits.

5. Two side light sources

We end with one of my favorite schemes, to be used especially if you want to give texture and strength to the image. Perfect for portraits that you want to give more dramatization.

This is the only lighting scheme in this tutorial that requires the use of two lights. They are placed on each side of the model and set to the same power. As you can see, the shadow then remains in the middle, which gives a greater feeling of volume.

All shots were taken with a 70mm lens like DZOFilm Catta Zoom at a speed of 1/125 and an aperture of f/11. The 400W flash is set to half power.

What accessories do you need to get started?

Once you have decided on the space that will serve as a photo studio, you now need to know what accessories you will need to carry out the session. The possibilities are numerous but to start, we could take into account the following accessories:

  • Studio flashes: the first thing you absolutely need is a light source or even two, if possible. With one light source, you have the main lighting and with another, you can create various effects, such as filling in shadows or emphasizing textures (but also illuminating the background and many other possibilities that we will present to you in a future section on the subject).
  • Backgrounds: you can always use a wall, a sheet or even a homogeneous background that you will set up at the time, but at some point in the session you will need to bring two studio backgrounds, one black and one black. other white.
  • Flash Triggers: These are commonly used accessories to trigger a flash remotely, especially when using more than one at a time.

And of course, a little decoration is never too much. There are many interesting accessories to do this (we will see them in detail in another post), but my advice is to start with the minimum, then gradually integrate elements to obtain all the desired effects.


We have seen here some possibilities given by few lights and reflectors. And it must be said that with little, you can already obtain very interesting effects, for professional results that allow you to find a place in studio photography. We invite you to apply all these basic lighting schemes and, you know, to also share your results and your remarks with us in the comments or on the social networks.


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