Photography Studio Lighting Techniques
In this article I will reveal a popular Photography Portrait lighting set up for female portraits that you can use in a portrait studio or on location.
There are several different variations of this photography studio lighting technique but this example should provide you with pretty good results and it is often referred to as clam shell lighting.
Also make sure you watch the video below for more clarification of the light positions… The key lighting ingredient is size and placement but let’s first cover the size of the light and then we will get to where you can position your modifier.
Check out this video for an example of some effective Photography studio lighting techniques…
Of all the Photography studio lighting techniques to remember here is one you should strive to keep in mind… “The closer the light and the larger the source in relation to your subject the softer the light will appear.” Which basically means soft even lighting with less harsh shadows…
Lighting is a personal choice but when it comes to lighting female Portraits I prefer soft even illumination, it will also save you some time on your Portrait retouching as well.
For the position of the strobe modifier, I like to use the flat lighting position or the butterfly lighting position for the main or key light. If you are not sure what those terms mean you should check out my interactive video training site called Image Classroom.
The strobes I like to use in the studio are Paul C Buff Einstein e640’s, I feel that they are a good quality strobe for the price and very versatile and reliable.
Here is another image taken with the Photek 60 soft light with diffusion and a Mola Demi for fill. The Mola Demi had the Opal Glass Diffuser installed as well as the diffusion sock.
You can also use speed lights to achieve a similar result. The size and position are more important than whether you use a speed light or studio strobe. One of the main modifiers I use and recommend and the one I used in this series of images and video is the Photek 60 Soft Lighter with diffusion.
It is affordably priced and provides a very smooth, soft and flattering source of illumination for portraits. You should place your key light anywhere from 2 to 4 feet away from your subject for the best results but the actual placement will require a little tweaking in order for you to get the catch lights and shadows just right.
Now for the fill light, in this example I am using the Mola Demi white 22” beauty dish with diffusion and I also have the optional opal glass diffuser installed for even softer and smoother shadow transitions. You can use an umbrella or soft box as well if you don’t already own a beauty dish, I just find the size and the white interior of the Mola Demi complements the 60 Photek Soft Lighter quite well.
When it comes to lighting ratio’s, I suggest you start with your fill light 1 and a 1/2 to 2 stops darker than your main or key light. For example if your main flash was metering with a light meter at F 5.6 then you would set your fill flash to meter F 3.2 or F 2.8 for a starting position and then adjust the lighting ratio by eye from there.
The light meter can not make a creative decision so it’s up to you to refine things until you achieve your own personal master piece.
Now the third strobe is optional for this Photography studio lighting technique, here is just one option you may want to try. For the hair light or rim I was using a Paul C Buff medium strip bank with a grid for more control. The rim light was positioned camera right aft of the model so that it would not spill on to her face.
This gives her a little more separation from the background and helps to give the image some depth of field. Be careful not to let it spill too much onto the background unless that is the look you are going for of course.
Now let’s quickly go over your camera settings… Shoot in raw instead of jpeg and that will give you more control of your white balance in post production. For example if you shoot at 5600 Kelvin and you feel the image look too warm when you open them up in your raw processor. If you’ve taken your images in raw format you can easily cool your images to 5200 kelvin or to whatever color temperature suits the image.
Also keep in mind your shutter sync speed when shooting with flash, you’ll want to keep your shutter speed around 160 to 200. In the studio a good starting point is your lowest ISO setting. On the Canon 5D MK III you will want to set your shutter speed to 160 with certain strobes like the Alien Bee link but with the Paul Buff Einstein you can get away with setting your Shutter Speed to 200. Primarily because the Einstein e640 strobes fire slightly quicker than the Alien Bee line of strobes.
Here is another video revealing roughly the same Photography studio lighting techniques as the previous video.
If you have any questions you about these Photography studio lighting techniques you can ask them in the comment box below.
Here is another image with the same Clam Shell lighting set up as the first video. Camera Nikon D810 with the Nikon 85mm F 1.4 G at F 5.6.
Like with any new skill you will have to practice these Photography studio lighting techniques until you find what works best for you… If you would like more information on portrait lighting and retouching you should check out my Portrait lighting and retouching training course. You can sign up for it right here!
Or if you are looking for more in-depth and detailed tutorials I have over 90 retouching and lighting tutorials inside Image Classroom.
Before you move on here’s another article on Studio Lighting Tips for Portraits.