Skip to main content

photo & video

Creative Studio Lighting

Lesson 4 of 12

Three Light Setup

Lindsay Adler

Creative Studio Lighting

Lindsay Adler

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

4. Three Light Setup

Lesson Info

Three Light Setup

This next element is how many lights people ask me that all the time how do you how do you know how many lights to dio here's how I think about it one light is more wouldn't use the word natural but it kind of is like a window light you know? But if you see a shot that's like highlight here and here and here and here it looks commercial it looks like fantasy um and so that's how I think of it fewer lights tends to be a little bit more a little more subtle, more rooted in reality the more light you have it's more production work what could be more commercial there's no right or wrong answer it just lets say that you have a girl with flowers in her hair and it's soft and quiet maybe like a single light soft box with the phil card would be appropriate whereas if you've got an athlete and you know basketball player and he's standing there with this basketball maybe its rim light on either side of his body and a light on the face you know, so that's three lights or for light so it depends w...

hat we're going to take a look at the difference is real quick and I'm gonna build up from one two and three and just show you a couple differences and I'll show you the difference between howard photograph a woman compared to a man and then we're going toe break out of this set up and just do something totally different so let's take a look at one light first I saw one light on her face perfect great there at me all right so just this light that's all that's there now there's nothing wrong with this it makes for a very quiet dramatic portrait simple quiet dramatic looks nice of course she's beautiful so it looks nice anyway you know how that goes? We talked about that um but if I'm going for a little bit more definition a little bit more pop I would add a backlight and so here I have a barn doors let's talk about the intensity weird already said socket intensity so I'm your, uh, meter these during the break and here's what you want roughly think about it if you want something with a little bit of pop but not too bright I usually try to match the power of this light to the power of the back lights when I'm meeting so let's say that the front light is f eleven then I usually if I want subtle but have a little bit of snap to them I make those back lights also be f eleven when I meet her so that's what this is set up and you'll be able to see what this looks like it's that sickle of great here and again, you guys know we're not facing off the screen looking at my my computer in my camera here perfect so we have a first light beautiful uh I gotta plug it in a little better backs pop it out and step back in there and give it a test. Perfect, great. All right. And so you will see those and then I went at a third, so for me the second life's definition my third light is what makes my living like that's what makes my living as a commercial photographer? Because right now, if you picture in your head um times square, any movie poster, any athlete, any celebrity, every single picture is three light set up it's a mainland on their face if they wanted more beaut they put it in the center they wanted more dramatic. They drag it off to the sign with too harsh lights on the john on the neck one on either side. I mean, any movie poster right now any athlete that's what you see, which is going to be this set up right here with their perfect so you're going to be able to take a look at these three side by side now the things that can very drastically when you can vary what your main light issue could make it a knocked a box you could make it ah soft box if you want it more dramatic you pick a more dramatic modifier so you would go to a silver reflector dish you could go to a snoot um we're looking at these dramatic and quiet that's got a little bit more pop and then that scott more of a commercial look to it so it's not a right answer just what are you trying to go for now if I were photographing woman for high key beauty I would leave those highlight subtle and I would come over here and I would add reflector so I'm going to do that I'm gonna add the reflector and just to show you let's see if I were doing kind of a high key beauty look perfect I'm gonna I'm gonna do is I don't need this one I just want a little bit of phil on the shadow side of her face so this isn't really going to do anything for me so I'm just gonna pop that off and I want silver for catch lights in her eyes for a little bit of pop so when add the silver underneath can hear and then I would add the white on the on the shadow side of the face just to fill in the shadows a tiny bit so this is what I'm thinking a brighter, softer feminine portrait when it still looks commercial because if I were truly going for soft I would use a soft box I'm just talking like a picture this as like famous maybelline model hands on her face pretty fingernails and pretty makeup like if you it's used on a black background with a beauty dish with two room lights like go look at a maybelline or cover girl like deaths this is how it's lit exactly so let's just like a little bit of phil okay perfect and because I've added some reflectors in there it's catching more light so this will be brighter so instead of shooting at half eleven I mean you should have thirteen of fourteen and you can meet her it to get exact let's take a look good and turn your head a little bit towards the light was still living right there and then I say back at me what was it again? Okay so you've got soft phil so his direction of light on her face too bright highlight something like that okay for girls looks great however let's switch up for guys let's do something a little bit different so can I have my lovely male model? I'm gonna have you step out for a minute hi lovely male model like embarrassing okay, so for our male model for girls we're going for brighter and hierarchy I have the light a little bit more in the front now for her I had it kind of something that they would call lou plating a name just little loop from the set over knows don't focus on it so I had a little bit off the sides of a little bit of drama drama I've filled in with silver reflector underneath white to the sign and then two highlights on either side okay for a guy I might switch this up let's think last one was cover girl this is going to be time magazine man of the year tough super awesome dude ok that's what you're going to pay all right, so um becky would you turn that back blade up what's the number it reads right now can you turn up to seven so I win increased these I'll increases from um f eleven f sixteen so I want to make my back lights much greater if you do the same on the other son uh take that number up one full stop okay, so perfect. So I'm both of these okay, I need you to do just for the backlight or for both. Okay? Perfect. All right, so now I've got my two back lights off a stop brighter so they're going to be much, much brighter no reflectors I'm going to make it dark shadows and now I want even more dramatic so I'm going to pull that light even further off to the side and make it even higher I'm going for super dramatic so let's do intense rembrandt so now what? That little movement is going to try to bring the shadow of his nose to meet the shadow of his cheek it's hard to see because of those lights but that's what's happening that's going to bring it off to the side and I'm going to raise that let off a little bit let me see if I can tell what that lights doing good chin down a little good see how that looks testes no, no, we're a little bit tired to see these lights overhead, right? Right they're not too bad let's do a little bit more. I'm looking for just enough catch light in his eyes try that perfect so that should be good. All right, so if you take a look at this now since we've taken those back highlights from equal to now a stop brighter now they look much more defined. It really shows off the jawline and I've added a little bit more drama to his face. If you want even more drama, you can take the bt dish and out of grid remember how I showed you the goods before they have grids for beauty dishes so the grid will make it more dramatic, make it more focused and more contrast e if you want even more dramatic on his face like you don't want as much light here or you don't want is much like here a couple things that you could do first thing you could do it switch your modifier and go to one of those little silver reflectors with a grid and put that on his face it's going to be really focused could I have a small black piece of foam core um something else if you guys ever heard of flags flags are basically things that block off like so what you could actually do is put a black piece of foam core or something to block off some of the light on his forehead and no focus you in a little bit here more so we're just going to do that really quick for a shot make a little bit more drama soaking his flag off the top of his forehead just a little bit and rate and it's come up from its above just a little bit more good see kind of hard to see in this take a look here ah little less you're gonna have to move it closer to his head by the way the line from that you're casting from it gets sharper the closer you move it to your subject is going to put that light right there and see how it yeah I can see it here good so that it's not on his head there it will let's try right there perfect perfect okay good so you will see now it's gonna put a little bit of ah shadow on his forehead and it's a little bit more dramatic. So it's like shadow on his forehead good lay on his face and then there's really dramatic carved out highlights. Um, those high let's do look blowing on the screen there just on the edge of being blown out for traditional portrait's. If I enter this in a traditional portrait competition, sometimes they'd say those highlights on either side of the face are too strong, too bright. And then I look at times square, you know, that's, that's, that's kind of the approach that I take depends on what you're going for. And so I go for really bright. If I need a more subtle, I'm not like, oh, it needs to be exactly a third of a stop. No, I'd turn it down. Does that look good? Okay, you know, I'll meet her, see if that was to break or to darker it's just about what looks right and that's. Why I want everyone to keep in mind if it looks right it's achieving the mood, you're going for its right. Don't stress out if it fits a you know, lighting diagram you were trying to replicate, and I think that's a problem a lot of people fall into is they asked for exact measurements it's great to know exact measurements, but the promise that when you can't get it exact people freak out. No, if it's close enough that's fine and that's what I do all the time, I look at fashion magazines and I believe that chucky is going to be covering this during his class. How to deconstruct an image to recreate that light in one of the things that's important for me is when I look at that image and try to deconstruct it and build it myself close is close enough, I don't need to have exact as long as that same mood is the same. I'm not trying to replicate the image I'm trying to replicate the mood that it created or the goal that it was achieving so same thing. If you're if it's close for those highlights, so expressing what you want, then it's fine. All right, so we just covered three lights set up one, two and three light how many lights, intensity, the distance in the angle on the quality and all that stuff. So I'm gonna step back and we're gonna do a full length so I'm gonna have you step off for a second I'm going to bring you back a dave, can you add the grid to this for me? I'm just going to show you what I would do for high impact low fuss, full length okay, so a full length shot that is super intense um is going to be adding a grid to that bt dish so when she stands up normally and she's lit by a beauty dish, the light kind of pits her whole body, but it gets kind of darker down her feet, but it's it's kind of subtle fall off like it's darker but it's not really, chris, I wouldn't add a twenty five degree grid by the way, I forgot my grades were taping someone else's onto it case you're wondering that's not how good's going they snapping, but I forgot money, so we're going to take um anyway, so what it will do is it will take that light it's adding the funnel to it and it's going to focus it around her face so she'll be lit here and then she'll have to room lights that carver out from the background, so if you picture athletes in an advertisement where they're posing all you know, really dramatic and graphic, they have to chris broom lights on either side a spotlight on their face you see that all the time? Um, picture like a swimmer he's turned turned towards the light it's dramatic got carving out the muscles the shape of the body it's the same thing, but you can also do it for fashion. And becky, I'm gonna have you assist me in a second so let's, take a look at what this looks like real quick and heavy. Step forward one step right there. All right, so we just the light on her face good and notice how the beauty dish has a sweet spot you mean I'll completely missed that sweet spot and something I didn't really mention too much in the beginning. It depends on your beauty dish, but checking the angle of the beauty dish, you can't just point it at your subject, you have to actually adjusted and moving side to side to see when you see the most contrast as I move this light, I mean still lighting her here, but that golden contrast is in the center, and more or less what it looks like is when that center circle lines up with her face but it's just a little awkward to kansai like this with your subject, so just look for the light look for where it's the right amount of contrast so got that nice contrast on her face see good right there dramatic late and when have you turn side with perfect and have you put that hand on your hip great and beckett when have you be my but he's going to be my dress flew for okay so I'm gonna do one shot uh can I have my twin for a seventy think it's right there and I don't know if it's going to mess up the tether but I'm switching thank you. Perfect. All right, so I'm gonna d'oh first I'll hide photographs the athlete no dress fluffing would be something like this. Well, you know and lean forward a little bit towards the light so just notice posing them around doing posing but she's leaning back like this so it was closest to my camera was this summit and so it wasn't the right curve mercifully and ford it's enhancing whatever's closest to the camera so let's put a little bit more great. So let's test this and could you tilt your head a little bit that way? So it's like it was a little bit too far to the side. So good. Just test make sure everything's looking good got one piece of once ler okay, cool, so if you look uh, I can't really see too much oh, dirty, dirty lens. Ik that's what it is? Can I have something to wave off my incredibly insanely awful lens right now. See that mess? I just went out on the, um a really nasty beach and shot. It was bad. You can look it up online. It's called dead horse bay because they used teo make glue their true story. Okay, so that's what? That stuff is on my lands. Just filthy lens. Okay, I thought I was like a lens flare. What? It why's it so much, which is a good seg way. Actually, if if you're getting lens flare in your pictures, okay, from a backlight like, maybe you have, um, strip lights or you have barn doors and you're shooting with them in the back and you're getting lens, flor it's a couple ways to combat that one way to combat that is you can put go, bozo, put things in the way so you can get the stands. Like I said that westcott has thes stands and you can put a piece of foam core in it. And what you're trying to do is make it so that late is hitting your subject, but not your lens, so you could just place them right here on a stand. And it will protect your lens you can use a lens hood which helps and the other thing is your angle of flights who have got a really small space and you have those lights like coming from right behind her if they're directly behind her there pointed straight back towards your lens and you're going to get lens flare so you might have to try to angle I'm just pull them from the side a little bit more and that will help you out so I think this will be better still really dirty remind me to fix that during break geek okay try this again that's what it was excellent okay so you will see clearly from this image you already see that this to me looks like professional athlete right you can see an athlete with rippling muscles standing there dramatic light on the face and ad for gatorade I've been hired by madison square garden to do a shoot before and that's what they wanted super dramatic aggressive game face on basically ok but she's a pretty feminine model where go on let's go for drama versus masculine game face okay all right we're going to do we're going to fluke dress and I'm going to sit basically in your lap right here okay awesome hope you don't mind all right all right ready bucky one two three let me do one more time we're here yep. I'm really going to sit on your lap hope you don't mind to care ready one, two, three perfect. Okay, so you'll see and I've got a little bit of lens flare in it, so what you have to do is kind of angling, but there's a little bit better said something like that, so normally, if you don't have anything moving there and you get those razor sharp highlights, but when I kicked the dress up in there like we did there, it's going to illuminate it from the back and it's going to add drama, that lighting setup is not super difficult. It's three lights I have barn doors on because I wanted those razor sharp highlights, but you can use foam core or sin a foil to focus it down it's abebe dish with a grid in the front and then you need a dress flu for like becky something like that? Um, one question I want to preempt forget the question is what's the difference between strip banks, the strip lights in the barn doors? Um, most strip lights the nice because they give you even illumination head to toe it's nice, but they're usually soft even when you add a grid sometimes it's hard to get them really, really focused, whereas these I can narrow them down to a sliver. And it's just it works better for my commercial photography than it does on photographing portrait like a bridal session where I want a nice highlight on the back of the dress in the subject that would be for me a strip light strip lights you can make them be more focused. Fuse gaffer's tape and gaff tape it so it's a little opening now on the strip light, it'll be closer to, um, a barn door effect. So, do we have any questions related to that? How about you guys that make a lot of pretty sense to you? Okay. Okay, that was a that was a cute thinking face was like, all right, but I do have a question. Okay, um, this is another question from a nuke dubai and anoop would like to know if you need the lighting set up to have even exposure from head to foot. What would you do differently? Okay, so what would you do that so first ball with this exposure for this particular image, I have the grid which it's very hard for you guys to see with these lights, but more or less, I can kind of see already lights on my hand, it's in my hands like in my hand, it's not by there, and only way I can tell that is the color temperature changes okay, because it goes from yellow to blue from these lights, but anyway, so the light is basically her chest in her face from this focus and that's on perfect perfect uh, purpose I wanted dark down her body I'm going for drama more shadow equals more drama, so I wanted that. Okay, now let's say that I have a commercial client who's hiring me to photograph that dress and they do not want the drama they want the dress to look nice very, very often what we'll do is take off the grid and we use a beauty dish on the subject's face so that lets their face gives them nice direction but now down the body it's it's not letting the dresses much is not as much focus, so to correct that we'll take the bt dish above and put a soft box underneath. And so that soft box, which nice is let's say we're trying to show off the texture of the dress well, if we're going for a happier shot, okay, you want the light on the subject's face to be half a year, which means more central like more focused less I mean more flat, less shadow, but you're trying to show texture flat light doesn't show texture it's what we do is we take abuse a boom beauty dish on the face from the front and that soft box instead of also being from the front, take it off to the side because it rakes over the fabric more so we'd have a beautician on the face a soft box below letting the dress and that's how you would light it evenly head to toe. And then we would still use maybe a probably in this case, with its commercial for clothing instead of barn doors, it would probably be a strip bank so it's nice and even and soft and then probably still card because the commercial is late and there's not really drama and commercial. You know something for clothing like that, um and that's something all the time using lights that's, way later on, we get into a little bit more complicated because sometimes you do need to go above three if it's for a very specific purpose is but I can say sincerely, I would say eighty five. Ninety percent of what I do is three lights or less that's even today still it's, just only specific purposes when I need to go above that. Okay, so, um, can you guys bring the, um soft box over and turn off those two? Okay, question another question regarding this from my gonzalez, um and are the soft box and beauty dish at the same power he depends on what you're trying to do. But, yes, usually, yes, that's he's. The easy answer if you want a little more focus on her face, and that soft box might be like a third or two thirds darker. But this is why you don't judge based on the powers of your packs. You have to take the meter readings for both, because since the saw fox and they say exact same power when they're plugged into your packs or whatever, the numbers on the back stays the same. But a beauty dish will be brighter than a software for the soft box has a diffusion material in the fusion material cuts down on light, so you've got to actually meet her for both. If you're trying to get them just the same, we'd actually see what's happening. You can't just judge by those numbers.

Class Description

Creative Studio Lighting is part of our special bundle Lighting Toolkit.

Join award-winning photographer Lindsay Adler for an introduction to the essentials of creating high-impact studio lighting with minimal fuss or expense.

Drawing on years of experience, Lindsay will introduce you to the basics of studio lighting and give you strategies to apply these basics in creative ways. Along the way, you’ll explore unusual light modifiers, crafty ways for working with limited gear, tips for ensuring that light is flattering, and more!

This course will inspire anyone ready to take their work to the next level, whether you’re a veteran photographer or just starting out.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Justin Tui

This is my second course purchase from Creative Live amd im a short way in but already love it. Lindsay Adlers style of teaching is easy going and simple to follow along with. Her personal work is amazing too so i feel confident that im getting knowledge from a trustable source. Im definitely going to continue to invest in more content from Creative Live and I rock the podcast everytime a new ep comes out.

a Creativelive Student

I love watching Lindsay work, she teaches with ease as if it were a one on one session. Would love to assist her or at least attend one of her workshops soon. This course was very helpful as well as opening my eyes to a few things that were always there, but just able to see them, thank you Lindsay

Tracy Whiteside

Only 1/2 way through but I knew in the first module that Lindsay Adler is the best instructor!! So easy to understand, great demonstrations, LOVE HER!!!