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Seeing and Shaping Light

Lesson 1 of 17

Class Introduction


Seeing and Shaping Light

Lesson 1 of 17

Class Introduction


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I remember, not for a short amount of time, but for a very very long time, that I didn't actually see light. I don't know if anyone relates to this but, you'd be shooting and then you'd come back and you'd look at the picture and be like "Wow, that light sucks, "why didn't I see it? Why didn't I make that change?". And it wasn't like this for two, three, four, it was like six, seven, eight years into shooting. I've been shooting, I've had a business now for 16 years. But just for those of you- I started it in high school, okay, so I'm not gonna age myself that much more, alright. But anyway, so I just remember for the longest time that I just couldn't see light. Whether it was in the studio, whether it was on location, couldn't see it. And then, I would also look at these magazines. I would look at posters, magazine covers, other photographer's work, and I'd look at the light and go "That is absolutely gorgeous, I would love "to do it, no idea how." And what I love is, now-a-days when ...

I'm shooting I can walk into a space, I can look around, and I can see ten different ways to light in that one space because of the environment. I know it'll look like if I have them over here, before I even have my subject there. Didn't used to be like that. And now, I find every single day to be a lesson in lighting. And the reason it's a lesson is, I live in New York City, so when I ride the subway, as I'm passing all of those posters, each and every one of them anytime I'm inspired by the lighting I stop, I take a look, I take note, I might take a picture of it. Because now I can actually look at a photo, decode, and look at the secrets hidden within it, and I can teach myself a new lighting set up. So it's so different, because in the past to learn lighting, I had to watch tutorials, and read books, and granted, I still do that, but now I might see something a new lighting setup I've never thought of before, and I don't have to ask the photographer, I don't need to necessarily watch the behind the scenes. The answers are all right there in the photograph. So that is what today is going to be all about. It's those ideas. Learning how to see the light, learning how light can be shaped, and then how to read that light and be able to recreate it for yourself. It is an extremely extremely powerful tool and it makes me such a better photographer. 'Cuz I'm learning every single day, instead of just watching tutorials. So, if anybody wants to connect with me online, I've got my social links up there. If you have questions after this, the best way to reach me would be my Facebook page. Not my personal. It goes to some abyss of email messages that I never see. And then if you want to tag anything, Instagram's the place to do it. So, when I look at these three photographs, they're all drastically different. Drastically different tools. They have drastically different shape of light, and mood, and all of that. But I can look at them and know what to study in order to tell exactly how they were lit. Now, I'm cheating 'cuz these are my photos, but I can do it with other peoples photos as well. So this relates back to a story, a shoot that I did. I did this shoot maybe, I think it was about three and a half weeks ago now. And, my wardrobe stylist brought me these beautiful crowns and medal pieces and it was stunning. And she says "Okay, this is the clothing, "what do you want to do with lighting?" And so what I did is I went on to Pinterest and I just started looking at images. I went to all the photographers portfolios and I was just looking for something that had the mood of what I thought this clothing would be. And so, I found this one picture by this photographer and I think the edits were always in Harpers bizarre Japan or something like that. And I'm looking at it and it had this golden glow to the skin, but it was still dark and mysterious. Long story short, this is the picture I took, but it's identical to lighting I saw in another editorial. And only because I can read the light was I able to figure that out. And so the three things that we're going to talk about today, in depth, is how you will study the catch lights, the shadows, and the highlights. Those are the three things that if you study, there's so much in them, it's not just "Okay, let's look at these three elements." It's so many detailed things. So we're going to be going through all of that. And that's how I was able to figure out exactly how to do this light. And the also figure out how much was retouching, how much of it was in camera. So at the very end of the day, I will show you what the setup was, and we'll have broken apart these different pieces. By the end of this entire tutorial, we're going to have a checklist. Now, currently, this checklist I do in my head. I'm to that point where I do it in my head. But it's breaking down the catchlights, the shadows, the highlights, and everything I could be looking at and considering to figure out how it's lit. So, you'll have this and there's also some things similar to that in that ebook download.

Class Description


  • Recreate the light from any image you see
  • Work with traditional studio lighting patterns
  • Design your own creative, complex multi-light setups
  • Understand how to use a studio lighting kit
  • Work with several different lighting modifiers


Decipher the complexities of light. From working with studio lights to using modifiers, Lindsay Adler helps photographers develop the ability to see and shape light. By the end of this class, you'll be able to look at any image and determine how to recreate the lighting in your own work.

Using clues like catchlights and shadows, Lindsay demystifies photography lighting setups. Learn how to create classic lighting setups, from a single light to multi-light setups. Build the skills to be able to recreate the light from any shot you see -- and the ability to design your own creative lighting system. Work with studio strobes, light modifiers, window light, and natural light outdoors.

Stop fearing studio lighting and start using your light kit to design create powerful portraits.


  • Any photographer ready to learn light
  • Beginners ready to learn essentials like hard and soft light
  • Intermediate photographers eager to learn to create their own lighting setups
  • Advanced photographers ready to learn the clues to recreate light from any photo


Fashion photographer Lindsay Adler is one of the most respected photographers of the genre, known for a clean yet bold style. The New-York-City-based photographer has work in some of the most prestigious magazines, including Marie Claire, Elle, InStyle, Noise, Essence and more. The Canon Explorer of Light shares her knowledge on digital cameras, posing, light and more with other photographers through speaking engagements, books, classes, and workshops.


  1. Class Introduction

    In the first lesson, Lindsay shares how she learned how to light. Once you learn how to see and shape light, she says, you'll be able to imitate any lighting effect that you see. Take a glimpse at the lighting checklist that you'll master by the end of the class.

  2. Keywords and Terminology of Lighting

    Learning the terms doesn't mean you know how to use them -- but it gives you the tools to be able to determine what you are seeing. Master essential terms in this lesson, like key light, fill light, rim light, background light, catchlight, and more. Learn how to recognize hard light and soft light.

  3. Lighting Patterns

    Light has shape, created by lighting positions. Learn the main photography lighting patterns, including Paramount (or Butterfly Lighting), Loop, Rembrandt, and Split. Go through each lighting pattern -- see how the lights are positioned and the feel each option creates.

  4. The Science of Light

    Lindsay calls this lesson "the science of light -- without getting science-y." Learn what photographers need to know about light, without getting into crazy scientific terms. Grasp how size and position affect the look of the light. Change the look of the light using modifiers like a diffuser to change the relative size of the light and amount of light falling on the subject.

  5. Lighting Pattern Demos

    Put those lighting keywords and patterns into practice with a live demonstration of different lighting setups. See several different lighting patterns and types of studio lighting in action. See how light is created and shaped using lighting equipment like strobe lighting and reflectors. Work with different light modifiers, like grids and beauty dishes.

  6. Study the Catchlights

    Catchlights offer several clues as to how that image was lit, including where the lights are placed and what type of light modifiers were used. Learn how to reconstruct portrait light by using the clues that you can find in catchlights, whether there's one catchlight, multiple catchlights or none at all. These clues offer insight into the light source and position of the light.

  7. Study the Shadows

    Catchlights are the first half of the puzzle to recreating a lighting look -- the shadows are the second half. By examining the position and length of the shadows, you can figure out what lighting setup was used to re-create that look. In this lesson, learn to decipher the shadows.

  8. Soft & Hard Shadows

    Work with different light modifiers to see which ones create hard light and which ones create soft light. From umbrellas and beauty dishes to barn doors and snoots, study the subtle differences between each kind of modifier. Then, learn how to determine if a fill light was used and how. Work with fill light and negative fill in this lesson.

  9. Shadow Demos

    Put those catchlight and shadow details into practice with a live lighting demonstration. Watch how the position of the light changes the image. Then, move into multi-light set-up by adding a fill light. Work with different types of lighting modifiers for studio strobes, along with different colors of reflectors.

  10. Rim Lights Demos

    Continue building a light setup by working with rim light. Create additional separation between the subject and the backdrop with this type of photography lighting, from the position of the light to the modifiers.

  11. Background Light

    Finish building a lighting setup with multiple lights by working with background lights. Adding a background light will lighten up the background and create more separation between the subject and the background. Watch a live demonstration adding a background light to the studio lighting setup.

  12. Considerations for Outdoors & Natural Light

    Studio lighting is easy to control -- but what about working with natural light? Move from studio photography to natural light photography and learn to see and shape natural light and work outdoors. Adapt what you've discovered about studio lighting to working outdoors and determine what's the same and what's different. Learn to create different types of lighting outdoors.

  13. Complications

    Work with advanced lighting options in this lesson, like using a softbox as a background. Work with wrapping the backdrop light using distance, create different looks with the key light. Learn how to decipher more complex lighting patterns that you may see. Finally, work with gels to create a mood using color temperature.

  14. Lighting Set Ups

    Work through the full process of recreating a lighting set-up in this lesson. Work with the modeling mode on the studio strobe (or continuous lighting) to see how the lighting changes, then troubleshoot with the position and height of the light stand to recreate the look. See multiple lighting setups in the live demo.

  15. Studio & Natural Light Set-ups

    Mix natural lighting with studio lighting in this live demonstration. Decipher mixed lighting, then re-create it. Work through different lighting setups that use natural lights and a reflector for simple, flattering light.

  16. Advanced Set-ups

    Practice deciphering advanced lighting setups. See the image first, see if you can determine how that light was created, then see the actual studio setup. Work through several different setups that use multiple lights for more complex scenarios.

  17. Creative Lighting Set-up

    Deciphering the light becomes more complex with elaborate wardrobes, drops, and poses. Master the ability to see light by working with complex, creative lighting setups and special effects, then work to make them your own.


Kaltham Ali

Wow wow wow- I finished the entire class in a day! I feel like owning and buy right away all her trainings... this is what a real trainer is al about.. I went from zero in light understanding to really looking to lights/shadows etc.. awesome thanks Lindsay .. the best purchase ever

Warren Gedye

Lindsay, you're an absolute genius!! Such a terrific teacher. You are so talented- not only as an out-of-this-world exceptional photographer, but also as a person who clearly is so passionate about her craft and has that very rare ability to teach your art in such a unique and structured manner! I have learned so much from you previous courses too, Lighting Bootcamp 101, I think was one of them. I look forward to more of your tutorials. On a side note- John in the background is such a stand-up guy! I love the rapport you have with him. I've seen him in on a few Creative Live courses now and he's a kind of guy I just want sit down and have a coffee with, and pick his very informative brain! Such a cool fella!

a Creativelive Student

Lindsay is a talented teacher. She is very knowledgable of what she teaches, but also can teach it well (which is not something all talented people are gifted with, whatever the field). She is humble, dynamic and her courses are interesting to study. The one small improvement I would have liked would have been a little more emphasis and theory on the shaping part. However, this not being the most important, it is better that more emphasis was put on seeing (if you can't see it, you can't make it). Finally, I will say that to study and understand this course, or Lindsay's methodology, you are then equipped with an understanding—you could even say partly knowing the language—of light, which gives you a huge set of tools and advantage, allowing you to progress quite substantially with your studio or out-of-studio photography.