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5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2

Lesson 24 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2

Lesson 24 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

24. 5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2

A three light kit will open up even more possibilities. In this lesson, Lindsay discusses why you may want three lights, then jumps into the first of five different basic three light set-ups. Start with a high key portrait, followed by a high key clamshell.


Class Trailer

Day 1


Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Studio Essentials: Flash Exposure


Studio Essentials: White Balance


Light Principles: Inverse Square Law


Lighting Patterns


Shoot: Demo Lighting Patterns


Quality of Light and Modifiers


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Diffusion and Grid


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Extra Stuff


10 One Light Set-ups: 1 and 2


10 One Light Set-ups: 3 to 5


10 One Light Set-ups: 6 to 10


One Light Set-ups: Pop Quiz


Day 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 1


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 3


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 and 2


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 6


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 7 to 10


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 1 to 3


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 4 & 5


10 Common Lighting Mistakes


Day 3


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 1


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 2 to 6


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 8


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 9


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 10 to 12


Portrait Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Beauty Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting Groups: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting for Drama: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Your First Studio Lighting


Lesson Info

5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2

We're going to switch to three lights and I'm going to talk about why you would need three lights over too and there are a few reasons I think you can do a ton with one light you could do a lot with two light and you could do almost everything with three lights so when do you need three or more lights? The first one is if you need a white background if you're trying to illuminate a white background without the method I showed you without putting a softball behind them or let's say it's multiple people on a white background or you need something that's mid or full length on a white background you can't really do that with two lights it is there's there's ways I'll show you tomorrow is if you only had two life how you could get a background to look quite without putting a soft box behind but it's not it's not easy it becomes a bit of a hassle so if you want to shoot a lot of high key portrait on white full length mid length you're gonna need an extra light to help you out okay? Another r...

eason that you would want is for some large groups because for really big groups no matter how far back you get that umbrella maybe a seventy two inch reflective umbrella with the diffuser and I had it far back from a thirty five person group it still might not like everybody it just might not have enough spread and I'd have to pull it so far back it loses the quality of light of softness that I like so sometimes it's better to have one for a big group one light on one side and one light on the other and you might need they're all blending into the background you might want a light on the background at that point so you need like a little bit more flexibility there or for a group of people even just for the size of group I have here let's say that I wanted slightly a little bit more dramatic light on the face and I put an octo box I put something over here and I want to fill in the shadows but when I set my fill card over here it's not catching enough light to fill in the shadows the way I want so I probably need another light to fill in the shadows still card this isn't doing it and then do I want a hair light or do I want a background light so groups would be an instance when you would want three lights and then the rest of it is creative lighting there's so many different things because I could do clamshell light with the light on the background I can do three point lighting I was all these stylized effects that once you have three lights the extra weight is to play actually is to try something new so there's the types of things will be looking at and three point lighting is probably the most important reason the number one lighting setup that makes me the most money in my business is three point lighting it's not anything special it's not anything profound I have one light in the front and two room lights but if you go into times square and you look at the athletes on the billboards pretty much all three point light and if you look at any of the reality tv posters and other advertising they're all with three point light any of the movies and so three point light three lights is going to help me achieve that luck and use can't get that same look with two lights all right? So we are going to go through now and I'm going to start with five basic three light set ups and then I'm going to go to five a little bit more advanced I am going to talk briefly about how to light a white background to get it evenly white and if everybody if you've had a what background and you've tried this before, it sounds easy and it is so not easy to get a white background even because you get some heart that a gray some parts that are over exposed how do you get it not too overexposed on your subject I'm going to do that for a big chunk tomorrow, okay? So this is more meant to be just reference of of three light, said that's tomorrow there's a whole segment on lighting a white background white how to get the floor white as well had not get lens flare howto have a subject evenly lit from head to toe on a white background like all of that, so just giving you a heads up there save those for tomorrow morning, we're going to jump straight on tio lighting set up number one, which is basically just ah, high key portrait and I'm not going to worry about full length at this point. This is why the whole white background thing doesn't matter as much. So what I can do as I am going to put the soft box in the front to light her face and this could be at loop, it could be a rum breads, whatever looks good on that person's face and then I'm going to point to lights at the background. Typically if you are doing a very, very tight head shot, I could get away with one like on the background would not usually and I'll show you kind of what I'm looking at someone I show you this here and I'm going to just use this one first, then I'll pop that one on so what you can see when I pop this on as you can see the spread of light you can see where it's hitting and to your eye if I frame her up right now in my frame the top is going to be great like they won't be as even if I go full length I mean there's not hardly any light on the flow is a little bit of light on the floor but it is just even uneven all over so I'm trying to help myself get more even lighting on the background I have a couple tricks to do that one of the things that you want to dio I'm gonna turn my model laid off so it um wind you all okay this depends on the strobe head that you have this is one trick so this is something with pro photo is I never understood what this all does and so recently have you ever seen a head these numbers on the side if anyone's ever seen this there's numbers lined up on the side and this has come something that they call a zoom reflector and the reason it's called the zoom reflector is because you could like zoom the light in and out you can focus it or you could make it spread out more how it works is the further back you have this reflector the further back this way the light will spread out more oh and that's probably for something like this a pretty good thing because if you're looking ahead of that light it kind of spills out over the edges however, when I move this up it has to travel forward in a straighter line it doesn't have the ability to spread out as much and so this makes it more focused there's numbers on the side it doesn't mean you could test and see what one works for you yeah with pro photo I've never really understood why you would want a grid because it has kind of its own grid I mean, uh reflector built into it sure. Okay, so what he's saying is this is called so this you know, this is called the funny story too when you're listening to people speak about this this is technically called the silver reflector however I got it yep, this is a silver reflector so you hear people talking about using a silver reflector and you don't know what they're talking about, so I tend to say a silver dish and a silver reflector um pro photo call this a zoom reflector so that's how you know zoom reflector but different ones call it where it will be a seven inch reflector which seven inches it's not going to be a actual reflector for phil light so it has different aims what other names of people call it a silver dish what you're referring to is on the pack and head versions of the pro photo heads yet the flesh to extends forward it's not flat front like this so they make more sense to probably to you when it's on the head that has a bold in front of the pirates dome in front here there's a produce a picture of my presentation of it's too far back to go to that light sticks out and so the light goes everywhere this one it it doesn't it's kind of contained so the answer is if you just give it a little bit of lip helps it not spread out to the side but it kind of depends and I just looked for it's not essential but you could use it to control life what you don't want to do is you don't want to zoom in because the whole idea is I want like to spread out I want light to be spread out on my background so that I have nice even wait illumination and if I put on a snow or grid I mean working exactly against myself so these particular head less necessary because the way it's built other ones it just depends on which one you have so I'll just put this on for this big okay so I'm creating a mess I'm sorry this is what I do in my studio and awful studio is your studio and the excellent the engine is back on it's a wonderful power ok, so a couple things you want to think of when you're trying to light a white background white is, you know, the bucket of water example if I bring my bucket of water really close and throw it it's going to just take it right here so I give myself a little bit of room to back up now the light or the water bucket of water has room to spread out so you concede if I do this it kind of focuses in there it's gonna be nice hot spot here I can spread it out a little bit more good. All right, so I'm going to do something like this what? I want to be careful of where I place this is I would shoot this in a room with no light just using my modeling life and I do something like this I can't you can't actually tell because of the lights in this room, but if this light is spilling on her like here, I can tell you can see it. And so I do this to see if I'm getting spilled from my back lights and that's one of the reasons I'll use one of these it just helps with a little bit of that spill if I don't want it just like the white background, so for a head shot like this I could probably get away and find a way to make one light work for white background but as soon as I want something a little wider than a tight headshot becomes more problematic so that when we can turn on same thing I've got five five five all right we'll be okay and so I'll talk more about all of this tomorrow and if it was full length and whatnot and I'm a czech one without that all right? So we're going to assume that you don't have a meter for this particular demo okay if I'm shooting this all right so I want a high key portrait on her I'm going to test and take a look at his background here, right? So I don't know if I can hold this for a camera to see what we see is the ever good spear all right? So if you guys can see on the back of my camera I can look at a history graham and I know I want this white background to be white now obviously I know that she's going to be the black spike the blacks like would be the spike on the left hand side of the history ram because that's where the dark tones are but I also want a large accumulation of pixels to the far right and looking at this they're kind of just a little bit right of center meeting it's not white so this is like a good place to start if you're trying to figure out like when I look at this picture my eyes not good enough like I don't know if that's gray or white like I can't really tell through this against black so that history graham helps you see are you getting close to white or are you way past it like way over exposed so for something like this right now I'm f eleven oh yeah I'm somewhat right back to standard here okay I can do the same thing so I opened up from half eleven two f eight now that little spike creeped over more towards the right more towards white I can open up a little more or could pump up my lights but I can open up a little bit more let's try sixthree and it's like just just at the edge of white without being overexposed just to the far end I will talk tomorrow about what you're looking for if you're meeting but if you don't have a meter is is a good way to see for getting close to pure white does not help you see if it's even it just helps you see if your background is close to white all right so that is a pretty good place to start so what I like about this particular example that I'm looking at here this is what you want not to be able to see her face what happens in small spaces is that the light hits that background and the light the background becomes a light source basically it is a giant white reflector and so that light bounces off the stanley bounces off the wall the left bounces off the wall to the right and so you should be able to take this picture and see the subject totally black if you are in a small white space it will not be you will be able to see her clearly and so we're going to talk tomorrow about shooting and small white spaces and what you can do to help yourself out so this is what it should look like when you're trying to figure out this background okay so awesome I'm at six three that worked great now I'm going to light her and I want to match that to about sixthree but you could also do it by I whatever looks best so all right so it's giving a have no idea if it's even close I also talk about tomorrow when your light your background is too white to breaking could not have been notice what he said is he said he got a meter reading a five point o I'm shaking sixthree she's got a pump up the light a little bit perfect so then this should be nice and balanced and it's perfectly balanced so I mean that's why light meter it makes it easy besides guessing but now, nice way background and she's correctly exposed. What you can do is let's say I am going for a brighter or higher key portrait. What I can do is I can fill in the shadows, but I wanted to introduce you to our those are any of those up the flats or no can I have a b flat? I want to show you something that and this should be a chat room discussion will reference this, but I used these non stop they are less suitable for a very small space, like I'm talking tiny space, but I use these old all the time, and they're called the flat's a k a book ends and their two pieces of foam core stuck together it's, black on one side and white on the other and what's nice is I will set these up for a full length photo and let's say the light is coming from this side. I have the fill on that side and catches and bounces light, and so I don't need to have a small reflector that would only fill in light on part of her face. I can now have a nice head to toe phil, or I don't have to worry about an extra stand or another assistant, I just set up the flat and we'll capture the light. Conversely, in the example I had before how it was nice that she was in black silhouette if you've got a nice gigantic white wall right here, you turn it so that the black side is facing towards your subject so now it's not a white wall anymore it's a black wall and you can actually get some of that that black silhouette that we wanted so I just wanted to show you this because we're filming I'm not going to use it right now because we want to see anything but I would use that perhaps for full length as a nice film because if I needed another phil light and I was trying to do it full length I might need another light and we're not doing for lights. Woody, what can you do with three lights? You'd add a full card to that side perfect so here's a more manageable size for this demo. Perfect, perfect! And so this will be just a nice uh, higher key women's portrait that would be a go to hike he set up for me and it could work with men or women. I probably just leave the shadow a little darker if it were a man and a little more full than if it was a woman unless that's not what I wanted was you know I don't have to stick to the set up so I'm going to go teo high key set up number two, which is going to be the same thing we got going on here. Two lights on the background give me a white background. We already figured out what I want, what we have it at, but now it's high key clamshell and clam shell when you stick it on a white background is just so glowing and beautiful of beauty photography when women's portrait I tend to do this type a clamshell more for women than men. Where is it? So I will do more dramatic clamshell for men, but it would be on black in general. So we're gonna put a beauty this year and then a silver reflector and you notice really at this point you should see that it's everything we started with but we're just adding, like, is the light as room light separating her? Or did we go for a weight background? And so it's not really any differently. The clam shell we start off in the beginning with a knocked a box and reflector it's still the same idea, but now it's on white and we needed additional lights to do that. Let me build this presents you and here's thie, you know, so I know I like my background at six, three and we figured that out before it doesn't matter where it is that's just for this particular eating set up okay, put down a little bit he told me it was at nine let me dump it real quick remember how I said if it was up to fill the bucket you gotta dump it and perfect all right? So here's without a reflector still looks really pretty because we're really pretty and then we add the silver reflector underneath and I may need to just change a single little bit if it's passing the reflector too much, I might just have to england down a tiny bit who this is this is nice this yours or theirs? I like to squeeze it and let's go up or down with the light should be good. Perfect another thing that I want to mention watch how bright this gets, okay, I didn't move the light in I did not change any of the settings on my camera didn't change is sitting on the light with just that reflector is catching all that light and bouncing it back in so it's going to make it really high key so you have to adjust and what I would recommend doing is being really careful with a white background because I just made this brighter right by adding the reflector so my go to thought would be let's make it darker I'm going to close down tio f nine or ten. Right? Alright, closed down what'll end up happening is that you made your background darker as well, and to know the background that was white is now gray. So you are generally better off in this instance to go back to where you were. Ok, go back to that bright area, that bright exposure, and turn this down instead, and you could take a meter eating with the reflector to see what six three is waken guests and turned down a little bit here. Me dump it. And you know I can still have a white background by turning the power of the light down instead of closing down, which makes it a great background, even though it made her correctly exposed, all right.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


If you're on the fence about this class I can easily answer your concerns. BUY IT. Lindsay provides top notch professional education while keeping things interesting. Her words are precise and direct. I actually felt GOOD just watching and learning. I mean, like someone surprised me with a cupcake kinda GOOD. After the class I could immediately see improvements in my photography. The best part is that I learned enough to see the wrong in my setups. Knowing what's wrong is just as important as knowing what's right. She is funny, easy going, energetic and filled with knowledge. I would also highly recommend her Posing 101 class as a must have addition to this course. I feel like I have learned more than I could possibly use. I will be going through this course over and over again just to make sure it all sinks in. There's THAT MUCH she offers that you will always learn more with each time you watch. I hope this helps someone make the decision to up their game. That is exactly what it did for me.

Jason Ashley

I loved this course! Lindsay spent so much time with explaining each set-up in-depth that anyone picking up a camera could understand how to accomplish their lighting goals. This course covered so many unique (but, most likely to come across scenarios) and how one would approach the challenge and how to successfully accomplish with incredible results, not average-sub-standard or basic results, but above entry-level standards, high-level, money-generating lighting expertise! ZERO laziness in her explanations to the point where she is constantly refining her course in the middle of the 3 days. Her passion gleams throughout each days lessons with so much energy. You know she really wants her students both in-person and through the screen to be successful in whatever type of lighting they choose to dabble in. I am so happy, I have bookmarked, and i'm so happy and fortunate to have this course to reference for hopefully –everrrr. Thanks!

Beatrice Palma

Hi, I am Beatrice from Italy. I think this class is superb. I finally understood what are the guide lines to follow, I tried for years but never found such a good explanation. Lindsay is a wonderful teacher, she explains in a simple way, she shares a lot of knowledge and she shows in practice what are the results of every single choice. Thank you so much, it was really amazing and super interesting!!!!

Student Work