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Seeing and Shaping Light

Lesson 15 of 17

Studio & Natural Light Set-ups

Lindsay Adler

Seeing and Shaping Light

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

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.

Lesson Info

Studio & Natural Light Set-ups

So what I wanted to prove with this space, or what I wanted to show, is, I've been in this space a bunch of times, and you'll be able to see what it looks like, but within a couple of steps, I'm talking a couple of steps, hold on. Okay, I didn't want you to hear my secret. Within a couple of steps, whether I'm this direction, or I take two steps and face another, the light changes completely. So that's part of why it really helps to learn to kind of decode and see the light, because I can approach a room and I can get totally different moods of light just because I can look around me and analyze it. So, let me get set up with this. I have to switch all my settings because I'm not going to be shooting studio lighting anymore. And I'm shooting with a Canon 5DS and I'm shooting with a 7200, so I personally wanna shoot at 2.8, get a nice soft background. So, if I went through and was analyzing this photo, the first thing I would do is look at those catchlights. And they look cool and funky...

and unusual. I see many of them. But they key is going to be the placement. I see one set of catchlights higher and one set of catchlights lower. So I know that there's a main light and a fill light, and kind of a clamshell setup. So let's zoom in, don't judge my out-of-focus. Okay, good. So you can see windows. And then you see something irregular down here, and typically, I know that if it's an irregular catchlight, that it's probably a silver reflector. Other things that I would go through is I see, let's talk about the shadows. I see almost no shadows, which would make me think that she's almost flat on to a light source. It's in front of her. 'Cause if she was turned away from it, you might see a little bit of shadowing. Looking under the jawline, very, very minimal shadows, so I'd guess there's also fill, or light bouncing around from the environment. And then rim light, the background is white, but it's not casting, I don't really see any highlight on her. There isn't really a highlight on the jaw or on on the neck. So I would guess no rim light. Since it looks like natural light to me, because I see windows in the eyes, I would guess that there's also no background light. I would guess that it's just a white background. So this is kind of how I would go through this here. So okay, so let's reveal this. Okay, over here, I've got directly behind me, gigantic windows, so tons of windows directly behind me. And then we've got this reflector catching the light. But the key here is look at the weird angle of this reflector. That is not normally how I would place a reflector. But, if we do this, it's actually blocking the window light. In order to pick it up, we've gotta actually gather it from above, 'cause those windows are so tall, and kick it back that direction. So in other words, you really gotta move the reflector around, so you can actually see what it's doing. So right behind me are those windows. You can see the shadow of me actually in her eye, and then you've got the two sets of catchlights, because it's the windows, and then the reflector below. 30-inch silver reflector. So that is setup number one, okay? All right, so, let's take a look at this picture. See if you can guess roughly what it is. Kind of piece apart. Take a look at where the catchlights are in the eyes. The direction of the shadows, you're gonna take a look at that. Take a look at if there's any rim lights or background lights in the room. How about the position of her head? Can we see any details about the catchlights in the eyes? So that's the process that I'm going through here. So, let me walk you through what I'm looking at. First of all, as I see, see the catchlights are in the left-hand side of the eyes. So that's telling me that main light is probably over on the left-hand side. Also, they look irregular, so my guess would be natural light. Of course, you just roughly saw where I was, so you know that there are big windows here. So the windows have gotta be off to the left, and they're creating Rembrandt light. We've got that triangle of light underneath her eyes. So off to the left is our main light source, and it's large, because you can see very subtle transition from shadow to highlight. If it were hard, like direct sunlight on her face through the window, it would be very abrupt. The next thing, I'm going, all right, got my catchlights, so I'm gonna guess windows, I see the shadows, the direction of shadows. The shadows are quite filled in. So it could be maybe a fill card, or it could be a white wall off to the right-hand side, catching a little bit of that window light and bouncing it back in. Then I see little highlights on her ears, and a little bit of a highlight on the side of her neck and on her face. So there's something doing that. It could be a reflector from behind, but I think that it is, it's very, very, very soft, so because of that softness, and the fact that it's not defined, I would guess another window. So, here's what I wanted to show you. If you wanna basically reveal everything. What I wanted you all to notice is in one second, I was shooting with the windows behind me, shooting this direction with the reflector underneath. And so what that says, is it gives me beautiful flat light, bright catchlights in the eyes. But all I do, is turn here. I move my subject. She was over there, I'm turning her back here and now, she's got the big windows coming in from the side, giving me a little bit more drama and shadow, 'cause now there's shadow to the right-hand side of the face, and another window from behind is giving her that rim light. So my point is, when I walk into a space, I can do that. I can say, okay, this way with the reflector, she'll be flat onto the windows, and I can give her more catchlight, so nice and even flat light. Oh, but here, it's basically like moving the soft box. In this example, the soft box is flat onto her-- - shell reflector, whereas in this situation, I moved that giant soft box off to the left, into Rembrandt position. So it's more, I'm changing where she is relative to that light source, and it completely changes the light. So that's how I analyze natural light.

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.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

See The Light Checklist

Seeing The Light eBook Download

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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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.