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Lighting 301

Lesson 15 of 26

Three-Point Starburst Lighting Setup, Pt. 1

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 301

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

15. Three-Point Starburst Lighting Setup, Pt. 1
Pye shares a three-point lighting setup for creating dramatic images that feature a starburst lighting effect from flashes used to backlight the image. Post-production instruction is included in this lesson.


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Lesson Info

Three-Point Starburst Lighting Setup, Pt. 1

in this video, we'll be doing a three point styled lighting setup to get to this dramatic image that you see here. Now keep in mind that really for this shot, we're actually doing a five light setup because we already have the sun, which is our primary light source. We already have the fill coming in from the sky and the ground around us. That's too. And then we're adding in three additional lights. On top of that, there's gonna be a great exercise to not only see the effect that we can create in the star burst patterns, but also the level of refinement we can achieve. As you see, the final raw file is extremely close to the actual result and final edited image. Let's dive in in this video. I want to do a simple three light setup. It's a very useful setup that you can use to create really dramatic images that edge out the subject. So here's what we've done. We've placed Seth and the bike kind of right in the Shadow. You'll notice that if Seth stands up, we actually have him just on thi...

s edge where the light will actually create that nice hair, light and everything for us. So whatever I can use in the existing light, I will, because it will make our job a little bit easier. But what we're gonna do is I want to light him with a butterfly light, just kind of straight down. And we're gonna put two other lights on the outside to edge out the body against the background. So let's get started. We're gonna go ahead and start with composition again, thinking camp all the way. So you're gonna notice that we're shooting low again? Giving set. That kind of presence over the frame were shooting up into the sun as well. So we get this nice little starburst effect at F 14. So 102nd F 14 and I so low I so low 100. No, we get our baseline exposure, which I'm gonna go ahead and take a quick shot and just make sure that we have enough data. Yeah, that's nice. At 14, we have nice, kind of like edging and let's just go ahead and see. So if we were to slow down the shutter speed and get like a natural light image, Seth, hold still for one sec perfect. And do a slow shutter just to give us a shot. Okay, so one or 202nd is going to be nice and dark around that scene. Now, we're gonna go ahead and set up our primary light first. The only trick here is that the primary light is going to be a butterfly light. So we're gonna be lighting top down and so I'll probably have you can do this if you're out solo. Most of the stuff that we've done thus far you could really do on your own just with stands, as you've seen us do because the butterfly light you're gonna need an arm for It's a big rig to bring out a big stand with with an L arm. I'd rather just have, like, an assistant hold it. And so that's a little bit easier setup. You don't have to bring sandbags, but if you're shooting solo, you can bring out an arm and then bring down sandbags to place the light. So let's go ahead and get this guy on first. Carla, why don't you hop on the mag box? We're gonna go ahead and pump this up to full power, actually. Know what? Because we're gonna be so close to Seth. Let's go ahead and start at quarter power. So quarter power is going to be 1 100 or sorry. 100 watt seconds and 100 watt seconds through the soft box. That's like two flashes through the soft box. It's a little bit more than one flash. It's like 1.5, depending on the flash. All right. Okay. Let's go ahead and get this guy. So the trick here is that Carlo has to get this into a straight down position to get a butterfly light effect. So hello. How? Bring it back down. I'll show you what I need. So you can hold this close to your arm if you want. And use this as your counterbalance. And it has to go directly like this, right about just like, straight down. Yep, yep. Do we need a 2nd 2nd box? Get a quick test? Yes. Okay. We're a little bit hot, so I'm gonna go ahead and dial this back to, you know, Let's see it real quick. Hello. It looks great. What I'm gonna have you doing, um, different a little bit is Just bring the bring your box forward, so come down. So go ahead. Now we want that light coming slightly angled, but it has to be straight. You know what I mean? Like, it has to go straight level tipping slightly in. Yep. There you go. That's more stable. Right there. There, there, there. Okay, you got to get the back end up a little bit higher right there. Drop the front end a little bit, so it's kind of straightens out. Carlo, you're tilted right now. No. There, There, There, there. Okay, let's check it out. That's a hit. Okay, so l o Relax. It's worth pausing here for a little talk about refinement, because that subtle change in movement and getting that light in the right position has a huge effect over the quality of light over the face. Look at the difference between these two shots. And really all that's happening here is in one shot. So on the left side, we have Seth right here. And the flash is just a little bit too far. Kind of pushed over his head. This is my beauty dish shape. Yeah, it looks good to me. Uh, so here's Seth and his shoulder. And it's just a little bit too far back and behind him on the right side. All we have done is we've taken Seth. And we basically just moved this light. So you know, what should I do? The whole Yeah, I'll try that shape again. Okay. And we moved in front, and now we're tipping it towards the subject. Okay? So if you're looking at it straight on, all you're going to see is if Seth is standing right here, the light has gone from directly above his head to out in front slightly and tipped back towards him. That's the change. And that's the effect that it has over the face and over the body. We get a much better and more pleasing butterfly light shape. So take your time, watch the shadows, watch the details, and make sure that it's right before you get your shop. Okay, so l A is gonna relax. So we have that shot. So that's where we're gonna place that butterfly. Like, get a really cool kind of dramatic image. Um, and now what we need to do is set up our other lights. I don't want Carlo to be up there holding that, like the whole time. So I'm gonna go ahead and set up. I don't think Seth wants that either. You know? No, no trust. No offense, but no. Okay, so you'll notice that these flashes are angled just directly towards Seth. I want them to be spaced out rather evenly on each side. So I'm kind of using the the building itself. And sometimes people will leave these in the frame like, stylistically. I feel like I don't really like seeing the lights in the frame unless they're part of the overall look that I'm trying to create. And here I really just want the edging to come out. So I'm gonna go ahead and look and see if these are about the same. We want them equidistant. Mm hmm. And equal height. Is that a thing equal Hate. You're the schoolteacher, man. So level levels. Good word. I like that word. You and your fancy words, Screw guy. All right, so I do see that one, but let's go ahead and just do a test. L A You don't need to light on this one because I'm just gonna test the shit just have that guy love to. Okay. Nice. Okay, So I'm gonna leave these in frame for a shot so you guys can see what it looks like. And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna pull that one out just a little bit. Leave this one in where it's at because it's in a good place. I just want those starburst effect to kind of show and frame, and then we'll move them out of frame as well. So let's just bring this just out a little bit more. And Sonia, are they the same height right now? Yeah. Friends. Perfect, Clarkson. Okay. Remember that. Their ones. Different angles. Mhm. How is that mofo still in? You know what's funny? Why don't you go help me move that? No, that's it. There you go. Yep. Yeah. Let's see it. That's it. It looks perfect. So that's great. Now you can see on each side we have that star burst coming in. Um, so we have a couple different options because we're gonna do a plate shot anyway. And because both the flashes are already out of the frame, we're just gonna see the star burst in the frame and That means that if I don't want the star burst, if I do want the star burst, I can actually use the plate shot to remove that. And I don't need to move the life stands again. It saves your assistant little bit of extra time. It saves you a little bit extra time from having to do that. So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna get everything 100% ready, and we're gonna actually pose, um, Seth Now. So, Seth, let's get into opposing into a stance. What do you feel like? I actually like the We should grab the helmet. Dude, I like how you have that helmet like hell. So, Sonja, would you mind grabbing his helmet like that? Skirt a tiny bit? This way. Right there. I like that. Lean to one side. So let's do the lien. There you go. Right there. That's rad. Scoot this way, and then do the lean to that side right there and then lean there. Let's see in frame. That's freaking rad. Okay, Now, are you ready? Light? Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Let's do that for us. For our private collection. Uh, your whatever is comfortable for you. I think you're right in the right spot. Because then you can use the back end as your counterweight as opposed to, like, reaching across. You know I'm ready for you. There it is. Chin up a little bit, Andrew. Kind of looking down on the camera there. Take off the glasses for one shot. You see my bloody eyeball? I do, or you sell it really good. I just got in a fight. Okay. Hello. Bring the light a little bit further away from him. Thanks. Relax that down and looked back in the camera. Let's see it. That's it. And then glasses back on. You don't want to fix the Thai, so it's right in the center for years. You can't be funny. Dude. You're supposed to be badass. It's worth pausing to reiterate attention to detail. Now, we've been discussing this throughout this course and will be in lighting for as well this concept of refinement. What I want you to pay attention to is as you take the next step in your lighting career and in your photography skill set, you are now controlling multiple variables. You went from natural light to a single off camera light along with your subjects to now. It's multiple light sources, your subjects, environmental things that you have to pay attention around you on top of compositional elements. So just slow down and notice that we are still making adjustments and adding insects helmet and tweaking the composition, getting the right facial expression before we move on. This is the biggest single issue that I see photographers making when they step into advanced levels is that they begin to rush things. Stop rushing, slow it down, cock the head a little bit. A little more. There you go. Yeah, a little less. Actually. You got to write the first time to sassy your sassy hips. Don't sell biker photos. That's it Right there. Perfect. Now take the glasses off real quick. Let me show you now how the final light positioning is set. So here we have Seth. His motorcycle is directly behind him, and our primary light source is that one that's directly above his head and tipped in just a little bit. And obviously our camera angle is coming straight up the center from kind of a low angle. So the other light, if we had the gas pumps kind of like right here behind the other light source is coming from outside. So we have one on this side that's just outside of the viewable frame. So if this is the camera's frame and what we're seeing here, that light is just outside that frame, firing into the scene. And that's what gives us that starburst effect in that pattern. Same thing on this side. We have that light just outside of the visible area, and it's firing in. Both of them again are at that distance where there's the same amount of distance between each side and the light. This is to ensure again that are light. Brightness remains identical, that the pattern and shape of the star burst is identical, that everything looks symmetrical. And then we have the sun directly up and overhead. That's kind of adding that third star burst effect from the top of the frame, once again remembering that every bit of light that's kind of coming from this side is coming from well, we have the clouds in the sky. Those are my clouds. We have the clouds and the blue sky, and also just the general ground around them that's filling and pushing light up and into the scene. So with three additional lights, we've set up a very complex lighting, set up a five light setup using the existing light, and we end up with a really dramatic image as you're going to see. So let's keep going. Let it hang on the side, messed up my wing, Get your wings right. Okay, We're gonna take that plea shot and then let's go ahead and turn off the flash and get one shot without perfect Mhm. Yeah, Let's dive into post. Now, we've done quite a few shots of Seth from start to finish. This scene isn't gonna change that much. We're also gonna do another video, the next video from start to finish. So this go around. I want to actually show you are typical workflow by demonstrating the visual flow presets. Now we have a preset, which is you can either use HDR or flash. That would be my to go twos. But Flash is designed to not only dial in the look and the look that we're dealing with is that modern. Look right here. Right. Flash will dial that in, but it will also compensate for some of the bright blues and hard highlights that we might get in using flash. So it dials in the colour and dials and all the toning. And from here, all I'm gonna do is drop my exposure by a little notch. I'm going to add just a little bit more clarity for this particular shot. And I might just raise blacks a little bit more and honestly, that's about it. That's all I would do for this particular image. And I'm just gonna sink that now over to the next one. So grabbing both those exercise files, I'm gonna go ahead and go to the next file. I'm gonna click previous to sink that up. Now what you have between these again in the last composite videos you saw as taking out life stands this go around. I'm straight up removing Carlo from the entire frame. So here's what gonna do. Let's go ahead and do what we did before at it in open as layers in Photoshop. The key to making this simple once again is not only having the camera on a tripod, but also making sure your subjects not moving your backgrounds not moving and making sure that the person, the assistant or the stand that's holding the light is not overlapping with elements of the scene that you're lighting. Say, for example, the subject. Now we are spilling a little bit of light onto that motorcycle in the background, but we're gonna take care of that, too. So let's go ahead and inside of Photoshop, have both these layers loaded up. And check this out. Here is the bottom layer right here. And here is the top layer. Now I can hold down alter option instead of doing that. By the way, um, and click the eyeball. Okay. So, honestly, what I think is going to be easier just like before is to really rather than removing Carlo. And the light is to add in Seth, uh, you know, as lit up. So we're gonna go ahead and put the bottom layer on top. If you'd like, you can select both layers. Um, just for safety purposes, you can go click Auto line. Click. OK. And now we're gonna go ahead and add in our mask. Okay. Select the brush by pressing B. Go ahead and press D to reset the colors to default and then press X to select black. Now, with a brush at 100% opacity and 100% flow, we're gonna go ahead and just paint on Seth right there. Okay? Now, what I'm gonna do is actually feather this a little bit. So we're kind of covering a little bit of light on the bike as well and adding that in. And once I get close to this side, you'll start to see Carlo appear right here. So all I'm gonna do is just zoom in and flipping the brush by pressing X so that I get white. I'm just going to paint out his legs and we're gonna go down right around the base of the bike so that we can kind of keep the highlight on the little fender of the wheel. Is that a fender Carlo? What is that? Yeah. All right. Okay. Sweet done. That's it. Okay. Now, what I would do for a shot like this is I'm gonna go ahead and just merge all to a new layer by pressing all control, shifty or option command. Shifty. I'm going to zoom in, and I'm gonna get rid of some of those things that I find a little bit distracting, like I typically would using, content, aware and content Where is going to make quick work of them. So again, things like this I don't find fitting in the shot, these little lights. And so I would just nicks and remove these guys. Okay, let's go ahead and press control. Zero Just kind of zoom out a little bit and see if there's anything else we want to remove here. Now the only thing I kind of am feeling like doing is doing a little bit of spot healing. Um, just to kind of remove some of the imperfections in the building a bit if these little flare beads bug you, um, like I like the flare overall. But if the that bright one circle kind of bothers you, you can also remove those. Um, but that's really it. We're going to save this out and jump back to light room, and all I might do inside of light room now to get to that final look is that we really are there already. But I might add in one little thing. So let's jump back and let's find actually where that image dropped in at. Okay, so I'm gonna click all Here we go. Okay. There we go. There's are edited tiff. So you can see my previous edit Previous that I left a little more on the cool side. This one. I went a little more on the warm side, totally up to you. But the last thing I might do is just drop in that final radial filter, um, for a slight burn and just kind of burning from the center to really pull that attention in again. The natural light or not, the natural light The the light that we created a scene really works well with burning in because we created that bright point in the center anyway, so making a little more exaggerated and pulling it in a little bit more really works. That vignette works. It doesn't look like it's over the top. So let's go ahead and take a look at the final before and after just to see where we came from and where we ended up. So here is the original, actually, no, that's not the original. Let's find the original. There we go. Okay. I'm going to reset this guy so you can see that's where we were. And here's where we ended up with that shot. We're not making huge changes here, just very subtle, adding in our color toning, lifting the blacks and shadows a little bit to get to each of these different final versions of the shot that we have here. Hopefully you guys enjoyed Let's keep going.

Class Description


  • Master multiple off-camera flash setups for dramatic portraits.
  • Control light with flash modifiers such as softboxes, grids, and gels.
  • Master creative techniques like creating silhouettes anywhere, pin lighting. your subjects, backlighting rain, creating starbursts with diffraction, and much more.
  • Use various tools in Adobe Lightroom Classic to enhance the images created using the lighting techniques taught in this course.


This workshop is all about using multi-point lighting setups to consistently make any location look great and help you capture dramatic, creative portraits that will wow your clients every time.

Building on the skills learned in Flash Photography Crash Course, Lighting 101 and Lighting 201, we’re going to explore a variety of multi-point lighting techniques and look at different ways to further refine the way we light a scene. We’ll start with light stacking to create depth in our portraits before introducing rim lighting, backlighting, and other creative effects and applications. Then, we’ll incorporate motion into our environmental portraits via shutter drag and show you how to create composite images that would otherwise be impossible to capture. 

We’re going to demonstrate these techniques using a variety of highly portable lighting gear and modifiers. You’ll also find “power translations” with each lesson so that you can know the exact power settings used and recreate the same light using any flash or modifier that you already own. Follow along and see how we crafted all of the images featured in this course, from shoot to post, and learn how to fully realize your vision and bring it to life with your camera. 

The next class in this series is Lighting 401, where Pye teaches photographers how to create every natural light effect with flash, including golden hour, soft window light, and direct sun.


  • Photographers with a basic understanding of flash photography who want to elevate their lighting skills
  • Those looking to boost their creativity when shooting on-location
  • Any photographer who wants to stand out from the competition


Adobe Lightroom Classic 2019


Jackie Stewart

Lighting 301 is excellent! I learned so many new techniques throughout the class. Pye Jirsa is brilliant at explaining new lighting techniques in such an easy to understand way and his mastery of Lightroom is amazing!!! Loved the class and can't wait til implement the things I learned!!!!


I love the Lighting (101-201-301) courses; I have finally understood the concept of lighting and how it works. I have been referring to my notes and go back to all the courses with ease. One of the best courses I have done for myself and my biz; I am so impressed with my work and the lighting I can create.


Pye is a great presenter and is able to make understanding light easy. Now to practice and master the concepts taught. Thank you.