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Lighting with Constant Light

Lesson 12 of 18

Lighting Setup: The Key and the Kickers

Mark Wallace

Lighting with Constant Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

12. Lighting Setup: The Key and the Kickers
Kicker lights are great for adding depth to a portrait. They can be soft and delicate or hard and dramatic. In this lighting setup, Mark uses soft and hard light to illustrate the differences.

Lesson Info

Lighting Setup: The Key and the Kickers

the key and the kicker, this is not just a lighting set up, this is a lighting style of lighting philosophy and it really matters that you have a key light of any kind, we're gonna use butter uh clamshell light like we had before. And then we are going to add to lights behind Theresa to give us a kick to our image. We're gonna start out with soft boxes with grids on them, but we can also use hard light reflectors like this, so we're gonna do both. So you can sort of see what the differences are. And so if we go back here, you can see that we have our same clamshell lighting setup that we had before, and I'm gonna turn this guy on, we are going to kill our video lights, social bam boom. And now everything has changed. So remember the only light that's hitting Teresa is the light that is coming from our giant soft box here. So we're going to have that, this is at full power. If I go to my light meter and meter this light, I want this to be around F nine of 10, something like that. So whe...

n I meet her this, this is metering right at F nine, so it's at 2/100 of a second and it is at I. S. O At F nine. So let's start there, we don't have any kickers on we just have our key light on And I'm gonna bump that up to 10 because I think that is giving me a proper reading there. So this is going to pop in. There we go. So we have a nice reading. I change that to F10 because when I looked at this reading again, Yeah, that is often I meet or drawing, I had pressed a memory button on my meter inside changed it. So F 10 is the proper reading. Okay. What we are seeing here though, if we look, we see there's no detail in the shadows of Teresa's hair, that's okay. That is because I shot raw and the post processing. So all I have to do is take my shadows, open them up and you can see that we have all kinds of detail in the hair. It's just the way that my raw default is that's why we're not seeing that. So don't get too bogged down on that. So what we're going to do now is we're going to turn on our kickers and let me show you how these are working. So I'm gonna go turn on one of them and I'm going to turn the power down way down so you can barely see that I'm gonna turn off the key light and we've got a different reverse angle here and so you can see I've got a grid on this as I rotate the light, You can see that that grid is constraining the light so that we can see that it's that it is not exactly at the light. There you go. Yeah, stay on that camera, so I can show this. So I go toward the camera and away from the camera, you can see that the grid is really keeping the light in one direction. So, if we're keeping the light from bouncing on the floor and the ceiling and stuff like that. Okay, So what I want to do is I'm gonna increase the light. Overexpose a little bit. I want to get this to around 5.6 so I can increase or decrease the light And so I'm going to do that until I get the reading to 5.6. So, I'm using this light that says nine. That's too much. I'm turning down the light Down a little bit seven 6.3 6.356. All right, I'm at 5.6. So that is a couple of stops lower than F 10? That's okay. You'll see why in a second we turn on the second light. I'm gonna meet her that light. We've already metered it before. It's already at 5.6, but I have these pointed. So, they're just coming into the side. I'm gonna go look on the other side to see how they're falling on Theresa. They look great. And then what we're gonna do Theresa, can you put your hair back And we're going to have her use a little scrunchy there and this way we're gonna be able to see the light on her cheek and this will be great. So, I'm keeping my meter at F- 10. I'm not changing anything. And so we are keeping our exposure set for the key light. I'll take a photo and when we look at this next photo, you can see that all we're getting is this subtle highlight on Theresa's shoulders and on our cheeks. And so maybe, I don't know if you can get this the other side, this side, just a little bit more off of your cheek. So we're getting this nice subtle touch. That's all we want. That's why we didn't meet her. That to be F 10. We don't want it to be as bright as our key light. We want the kickers to be just a little kick of light. And so let's just take another shot here to see if that guy worked. Yeah, now this next shot, you can see just that subtle change in here. Now we have symmetrical light. Okay, now what we're gonna do, I'm going to turn back on the key light and we're gonna keep everything at the same exposure level. So we have F 10. I'll take a shot and when we go to the computer, you can see now we have this very subtle highlight on Theresa's face, it gives her this glow that we wouldn't have before. So to see that Theresa, I'm gonna try to keep you going to do to pictures in a row. So try to look exactly the same both times. So you're looking right at me. That's the first shot. Don't move, don't move, don't move, don't move. And here goes the second shot. Okay, now here's what we can do. We can look in light room. Here is the shot with the kickers. Here's the shot without with the kickers without. It's very subtle, but it is really dramatic once you notice that it's there, especially if you're doing a nice close portrait because it gives that really nice dewy glow that looks pleasing. Not the nice dewy glow that looks like you've been working outside in the barn for an hour or two. So that is a really wonderful shot, especially if you want to do like makeup or beauty shots, those kinds of things. So now what we're gonna do is let's see what happens when we add our hard light reflectors instead of soft light. And so just in your mind, think what you I think is gonna happen to these kicker lights, What do you think is gonna happen here when I changed from a soft light to a hard light? Is that gonna change how it looks on her cheek? Is it going to change the exposure? What's going to happen based on what you know, what do you think is gonna happen? So here we go, turn this guy on blame. Oh, I turned this guy on glamour, I'm gonna get my light meter. We're gonna meet her, those we want them to be at 56, which means we're gonna have to turn the power down because clearly they are much brighter. So that's F 11 were take that down nine, Take it down seven, Take it down 5.6. So these are 5% before they were at 22%. So that's a huge difference in power. So let me meet her, this guy, 5.6. Okay, so I went from 22% power down to 5% power. And now what I'll do is I'll turn off my key light just so we can see nothing but the kicker lights, I will take a shot and the kicker lights are gonna come up and notice how these are speculator. Look at Theresa's skin, you can see the pores in her skin. If I go back to that soft light kicker, see if we can go back one. There we go. You can see that the pores and the texture of her skin is not quite as dramatic, but really the difference is not much, it's just that you get more power out of those hard light reflectors. Now, we'll go back to F 10, we will shoot one more time and we will use hard light instead of soft light in our kickers. And here is our final results, you can see that these are a little bit more pronounced, but just barely. The other thing that you can see is like the border right here from the highlight to Teresa's hair. It's a pretty hard line. So you'll see that we have a little bit harder light, but it's almost imperceptible. So the bottom line with that is that if you have uh hard lights, then you would use them. You don't have to worry about having fancy grids and soft boxes and all that kind of stuff. You will start to see subtle differences when you dial it in and try to get some really, really finite things. But for the most part, nine times out of 10 when I use kickers, I just use hard lights. Why not? It works okay on to the next lighting setup.

Class Description


  • Shape light using specific light fixtures and modifiers
  • Understand the different types of LED lights and the benefits of each
  • Freeze motion to create stunning action photos
  • Mix RGB light to create interesting color effects
  • Work with different light modifiers to get the exact look you want
  • Create lighting setups that fit your style


For years constant lights have been reserved for video and film production only. But things have changed dramatically in a short amount of time. Using state-of-the-art LED lights, you can create stunning portraits, freeze motion, and create video content. You no longer need two lighting systems.

In this class, Mark Wallace explains the different types of constant light, uses hands-on demonstrations to show you how to control light, and creates many of his favorite lighting styles.

Mark explains the different types of light fixtures and light modifiers to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your lights. This class is perfect for anyone who wants to create interesting portraits and videos using LED lights.


  • Beginner to Intermediate portrait photographers
  • Anyone looking to use constant light for still photography as well as video
  • Photographers looking to expand their creative horizons by using new tools


Adobe Photoshop CC 2021
Adobe Lightroom Classic 2021


Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series Digital Photography One on One and Exploring Photography sponsored by Adorama.

Millions of people have watched Mark’s videos on YouTube, and the numbers continue to grow. Mark has a solid social media following on Facebook and Twitter, where he spends time with viewers and workshop attendees.

In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2-year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe.

In 2016 Mark decided to give up planes, trains, and automobiles and is now exploring the world on his motorcycle.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tether Tools Pro Kit Discount

Tether Tools Starter Kit Discount

Ratings and Reviews

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Great course very informative and a pleasure to watch love the way you teach so easy to understand and follow through. learned a lot about continuous lighting ty

Alessandro Zugno

This is a very useful class for who want to start shooting video or photo with constant light. Creative Live should make more class on videography.