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3 Simple Steps For A Basic Portrait Lighting Set-up

Lights, camera, action — and here we go… for making an awesome portraiture. This reminds me of a lovely quote:

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.
— George Eastman

Be it natural light or studio light getting to know the most of it — the light, definitely pays you off.

Especially when working with the model in the studio set-up, choosing the appropriate lighting set-up is like half the battle won. The arrangement of lights play an important role in accentuating the shapes, form, contours, facial details and expressions; the very essence of portrait photography.

So, let’s get started with a simplistic lighting set-up to create mood with your portrait photographs.

Step One — Placing An Accent Light

Accent light comes in handy for adding dimension to otherwise flat pictures. Accent light also known as the highlight lighting is used for accentuating or emphasizing some specific object or area in the photograph. In case of portraits, the most common used accent light is the hairlight. Place the accent light slightly above and behind the subject so as to light the subject’s hair. This helps in separating the subject from the background.

Accent Light: The hair light separates the subject from background

Step Two — Positioning The Key Light

Next step is to place the key light. Key light is the main light used for illuminating the subject as well as the scene. For adding depth to the scene and selectively illuminating the subject place the key light just opposite to the accent light so as to shine directly upon the subject.

Key Light: Main source of illumination

Step Three — Adding A Fill Light

While accent light separates the subject from the background and key light reveals the contours and textures, fill light helps in evenly illuminating the shadows produced by key light. The fill light illuminates the subject evenly, thereby adding a diffused glow which makes the photographs look more natural and appealing.

Fill Light: Lighting up the shadows

Setting up the lights in such a manner, is popularly known as the three-point lighting set-up. In fact three-point lighting method is  a standard method used in visual media such as video, film and still photography. However the strength, color and angle of the lights determine the final shot. So, what are you waiting! Get ready to try your hands at this basic lighting set-up for some awesome portrait photographs.

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1 comment… add one
  • dualdflipflop May 5, 2012 @ 2:35

    Thanks for using my photos! They work well for illustrating the techniques described.

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