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Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 5 of 39

Lighting Patterns


Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 5 of 39

Lighting Patterns


Lesson Info

Lighting Patterns

Where the heck the place that light in relationship to your subject and where I want to start is with that terminology stuff I talked about so when we talk about these terms it's so that we can use them to refer so lighting so when you're getting educated by someone else's well there's kind of a common set of ling goes that we're all on the same page so I'm going to get started with that terminology to get us set up all right so the very first word a term that you need to know is broad light I never use this word but I never talk about this except for if I'm trying to explain what I'm doing alright what broad light means is the shadow is going away from the camera so in this instance her heads turned to the side and the shadows being cast this way away from the camera she's broadly lit there's a lot of light towards karen and technically if you're trying to make someone's faith look wider broader you would light like this because more of their face is illuminated I'm going to assume th...

at's where it came from what we use that um but then the short light is the opposite the shadows are coming towards the camera and it makes someone's face look much more narrow so this has to do with where the shadows are falling broadly if I'm the subject shadows are falling this way in short light, the shadows would be towards the camera. All right, so keep in mind something that you want to know is any time you want more dramatic light drama drama drama is shadows, shadows create drama flat light, no shadows, not dramatic it doesn't mean it's not beautiful. I use flat light all the time for beauty photography. But if I'm going for something dramatic, it's goingto have shadow and if I want insanely dramatic short light takes me there because you see that much more of the shadows because it's towards the camera. So in general, if you got your image that of shadows, you're looking at it saying, no, I want more drama probably try short like you will see will actually don't know what short light looks like when you set it up. All right, next one I know forever I was really confused about this, so I was excited to try to put it in my presentation flat light means minimal or no shadows in general. Usually the light is more centered in front, the subject usually it's a little bit lower, just not many shadows in general, but here's a misconception I had, I thought flat light had to be dull and I thought that it had to be high key, which we'll talk about. Which is why I put this photo in there because it's flat lit but it's not dull and it's not high key like I thought it had to be kind of literally flat like like not many blacks, I know I can still be a picture like this, but if you look not many shadows underneath her chin it's just kind of evenly lit with minimal shadows, so that would be flat like on the other side is dimensional, like, if you say, ok, that that that image it's really sculptural, it has a lot of dimension to it. It means they're using shadow to make your photographs look more three d and often dimensional light tends to be a little bit more dramatic. It uses shadow to sculpt the face. And if you look in the flat lit example, I mean she is actually flat, like she looks very two dimensional it's all kind of on one plane. The shadows don't let you know kind of the depth of the photograph, but when you go to the next photo, you do see some depth, the light is coming from behind, it gives the direction so it doesn't look as flat there's no right or wrong answer it's just different effects, so if I talk about ok right now, we're flat lighting means the light is going to be more centered more to the front less shadows for say ok let's create dimension I'm going to use shadows to create death so those are the two main descriptions you should be aware of so over and over again I'll say shadows what give you drama if you want more drama create more shadows and if you want your picture toe have more depth to seymour three dimensional you sculpt with shadows so over and over again I'll say sculpt with shadows and the other part is highlights when I use highlights it's usually to help someone stand out from the background so they don't blend in I'm carefully placing those highlights and this is all things you'll see over and over against we'll get into it more all right, so direction of light here these words that maybe some of you have heard before paramount blue from brent like we're going to take a look at what that all means all right, so I'm going to start by saying when I set up my lights I don't really think about exactly if it matches one of these lighting patterns but it's a shorthand for discussion okay, so a word you may have heard before the term is paramount lighting and that means that the light is centered in front of the subject and can you see the shadow from her nose in her chin there basically straight down there isn't a shadow cast to either side. The light is pretty centred shadow goes directly beneath the chin and nose. This tends to be used more on women. It doesn't have to be that tends to be more for lighting women. It gives you left drama, but it is really good often for beauty shots, and you'll see this when we do on day three, I'll do a little bit more beauty photography. Paramount lighting is used all the time. It is also sometimes called butterfly lighting, and butterfly light is when you raise the light up high enough, the nose will create a little shadow directly underneath the nose that looks like a little butterfly. I don't use it that often, but we'll take a look at what that does look like, so paramount is right in front least drama, minimal shadows, if any it's more flat lit does not to be completely flat, libbets more floodlit next one next one is called loop, and the reason it's called loop is because the shadow of the nose makes a little loop makes a little shape, so looking at this photograph there's, a tiny little move created from her nose and luke, could be a tiny little shadow from the lube, or it could be much longer just a term, but the one that you might have heard ofthe would be rembrandt lighting probably and rembrandt lighting is distinctive because of the triangle of light it creates underneath the eye and the key for me trying to set up a rembrandt late which what you'll see this is when I'm moving the light I wait for that no shattered a stretch out stretch out, search out search out and eventually it meets the cheeks chateau and when you hit that that's, what gives you that triangle? So that's usually what I'm looking for is I'm like a move in the light watching that shadow get longer until I have rembrandt remember a is more dramatic and it is more it's a little bit more common in traditional portrait or if you're going for the dramatic look and then lastly this leading senate that I use like never but didn't put it there anyway is split like it just means you close up that triangle now one side of the light faces illuminated the other side is not now when I say that I don't ever use this it's just because the type of photography that I do I mean, I see in movie posters all the time it's meant to represent the duality of this individual they look a little bit sinister too dramatic one side of their faces with the other isn't I mean there were places to use it I just it's not as common in portrait photography okay so all of these things if you notice are not exactly based on where the lady is related to the camera it's based on those shadows more or less on the face which means all of that you can rotate and make it short light so there's short lightning shadows coming towards the camera they're short late paramount and their short late loop and the short light rembrandt and so just to show you what those look like when this is this is the summary of them by the way to put this because it's nice to see it all laid out paramount straight centered move the light a little bit off to the right you get the little loop on the nose even further gets you rembrandt even further to the right gives you split like all right but let's look at the short light version all those words still apply but notice the shadow from her cheek towards the camera so it's short like that little shadow from her nose towards the camera but it's still loop now you got the rembrandt that triangles created but the shadows towards the camera so it short like rembrandt and then split like one side of her face is let the other side isn't so as you look with this class one of the things I'm going to do is I'm going to do ten lighting set ups with one light would just in october ox and I'll refer to this I'll say ok, we're going to put the octo box in a short light rembrandt position, which basically means lots of shadows from behind with that little triangle so knowing these is just so you know, kind of what I'm referencing so I'll do today we're going to do the ten light set up with dr box then we're going to do fifteen to light set up tomorrow then we're going to do ten three light set ups so that's that will be kind of your lighting recipe to choose from whether you have one two or three lights and all the time when it brings up the slide I'll have a description of what I'm doing yes, I wanted to point out lindsay because I mentioned this yet, but what we are creating throughout the class is going to be a pdf that will have eventually thirty five different lighting diagrams and so when you do purchase the class, all these ones that you're talking about will create actual diagrams of everything that you're learning here to have a za reference so that's another great reason to purchase the course is because of those lighting diagrams in addition to your including all of the slides that you're teaching to so great notes, I think absolutely all right so did anyone ever see or learn and photography where they take the egg and move the light around ok perhaps to see this I don't know why that never made sense to me I get it now what they were trying to dio but the idea is if you search like egg lighting ah and youtube you'll see this but the idea is depending on where you move the light the egg would either look flat and two dimensional or it would start to have shadow and texture and shape but I don't I don't like eggs like people's faces so it just never like really made sense to me the idea is this is what I want you to keep in mind and we'll see this on our subject the further off access teo either side that you put the light the more shadows you have in the more dimension you have and the higher up you put the light the more shadows you'll get in the more dimension so it's just this this fear of his long is low and centered in front of your subject has the least shadows higher up and further off to the side has the most no right or wrong answer but that was the idea behind the egg thing is when it was low and flat it just looked like an oval the sooners you brought it up high and off to the side you started creating shadows and drama does the same thing that we do with a face so dimension is created both side to sign and up and down and I will double on our lovely model um let me get those set up first so I'm gonna bring you out here and I wanted to make a point about this tool right here this thing is called ah boom arm and in my very first studio I was definitely trying to save money for short because I was testing it out I didn't know what I needed, but one of the things that I should have bought that I didn't is a boomer this is something to consider and this is not even in my five hundred dollars kit or my fifteen hundred dollars kit, but it's something to consider is let's say that I want what I called paramount lighting centered right in front of your subject that becomes problematic if you don't have a boom arm because then your light is in for you you can't shoot around it it becomes very, very difficult and all of a sudden you're working around your stand and if you get a cheap one then you're going to triple like you need to have good stand if you invest in lighting so just something to think about something I wish I had done starting off with the boom arm for sure makes it possible so now if I want the light centered I don't have to do this I can bring the light off to the side I can change the angle and I can rotate the light and still be centered let's give this a try and so it won't have to be in my shot how's the stability and the one usually you wouldn't do a boom arm just as a side note here is you don't use a boom arm with stands that have wheels which is why I'm kind of struggling with it here because what you want to do is you want to have a nice strong firm base and then use a sandbag so it doesn't tilt over but for this demo I'm going to be moving it nonstop so we chose wheels so it's perfect all right so now I can get nice centered even lay on her face and not have to worry about anything in the way and it's also really helpful for shooting full length because let's say I have her standing up and I want the light in front I mean the stand is going to be in the way but with a boom arm I can bring that stand of the head out and then move the stand out of the shot so just in case this is something you've never done like I didn't really know grip this is what grip is like light like stands and arms and sandbags all that stuff I never knew if I didn't work at a studio so had the kind of stumble around it so boom, arms air, super helpful to get the light out of your subject without the stand being in the way. And typically, if you have heavy lights, avoid wheels because it makes it less stable, and it kind of goes around. But this is a good, pretty good set up. Let's, take a look here. This is why my, um, modeling light is so important. I'm using the modeling light right now, so I can see if I have the type of lead I want. By the way, you've awesome cheekbones there, really nice, because they're like, they're, like, really define this will be good for my devil, so thank you.

Class Description


  • Expertly light a portrait using just one light and one modifier
  • Work with more complex two and three light set-ups
  • Create light for portraits, beauty, or drama
  • Light a group photograph
  • Learn to troubleshoot the most common lighting questions
  • Confidently purchase the right lighting equipment for your work


Intimidated by studio lights? In Studio Lighting 101, fashion photographer Lindsay Adler deciphers the complexities of studio light, breaking it down into simple concepts for beginners. In this class, you'll learn everything from basic lighting terminology to creating multiple light set-ups. Start with the basics like how to adjust your digital camera settings for studio strobes and layer in the details you'll need to light your first photo studio portrait.

Photographers on a budget will learn how to light a portrait using a single light, modifier, and photography light stand. Then, learn to work with two and three light kits to create drama, background separation, and more. You'll see dozens of studio lighting set-ups, from start-to-finish, behind the scenes in this live recorded class. Develop the skills to troubleshoot several common photography studio lighting problems, like lighting large groups and correcting reflections on glasses.

By the end of this class, you'll know how to buy your first studio lighting kit and how to shoot that first in-studio portrait. This class is ideal both for beginning photographers that don't understand much beyond the exposure triangle and experienced natural light photographers ready to try a studio setting.


  • Beginners with a grasp of the exposure triangle
  • Intermediate and advanced natural light photographers new to studio lighting


Fashion photographer Lindsay Adler is one of the most well-known in her field, noted for her style, posing and mastery of the studio lighting system. Along with working as a photographer, she's also a respected educator, a Canon Explorer of Light, and author of three instructional photography books. Her work has appeared in publications such as Marie Claire, Elle, InStyle, Noise, Essence, Zink Magazine, Rangefinder, Professional Photographer and dozens more. Lindsay is a sought after speaker for her experience and straightforward, easy-to-follow teaching style.


  1. Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed

    In the first lesson, gain an overview of the course. Dispel some of the most common lighting myths. Learn how camera settings change when working with studio lighting instead of natural lighting. Figure out your sync speed limitations and how shutter speed affects the ambient (or existing) light.

  2. Studio Essentials: Flash Exposure

    While shutter speed won't change the look of your studio light, aperture and ISO will affect the exposure, or the amount of light, from the flash. Learn how aperture affects the way that burst of light from your strobe or speedlight looks. Then, factor in ISO and the strobe output, or how much light the strobe lighting creates. Work with a light meter to take out some of that guesswork.

  3. Studio Essentials: White Balance

    Where should you set the white balance when working with studio lighting? In this lesson, learn where to set the white balance on the camera, and why those settings are different for different types of light and even different brands. Work with additional factors that can also affect color temperature.

  4. Light Principles: Inverse Square Law

    Dive into the three things that affect the look of the light. Consider factors like the intensity of the light, lighting ratios, and the quality of the light. Take the complexities out of the Inverse Square Law and learn how bringing the light closer or farther away makes a difference in the image.

  5. Lighting Patterns

    Learn the lighting lingo to establish a basic foundation in light -- and the ability to learn and talk about light. Pick up terms like broad light, short light, flat light, highlights, and shadows. Then, dive into common lighting patterns like paramount, loop, Rembrandt, and split.

  6. Shoot: Demo Lighting Patterns

    Watch the lighting patterns from the previous lesson in action. Learn how to set up each type of pattern. Then, add variety to the lighting set-ups through simple changes, such as understanding how height affects dimension.

  7. Quality of Light and Modifiers

    Control the quality of light from hard to soft adding modifiers to your lighting kit. Learn why size and distance matters for modifiers. Look at the different types of lighting accessories available and see how several types of modifiers affect the light.

  8. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Diffusion and Grid

    See those lighting accessories in action. In this live shoot, see how adjusting the different available diffusers and grids change the look of the image. Determine how to pick a modifier that matches the look you want.

  9. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas

    Umbrellas are a large, inexpensive, and easy-to-use light modifier. Work with the different types of collapsible umbrellas, including silver, white and shoot through. Discover how to place the umbrella and work with umbrellas in a portrait shoot.

  10. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes

    Softboxes are similar to umbrellas in that they create soft light, but they can be a bit easier to control. See the pros and cons of different shapes and sizes. In the live shoot, learn how to control the light spill by feathering a softbox.

  11. Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Extra Stuff

    Work with strip boxes, barn doors, grids, and snoots -- modifiers that are often used for rim light, backlight or hair lights. Explore how each type works, then see the different options in action. Learn about Lindsay's favorite modifier, the beauty dish.

  12. 10 One Light Set-ups: 1 and 2

    Launch into ten different lighting setups that you can achieve with just one light -- this lesson covers the first two. Create paramount and loop lighting with a softbox in this live shoot using a single light, a light stand, a boom arm, and an octabox.

  13. 10 One Light Set-ups: 3 to 5

    Moving through the ten lighting set-ups with a single light, work with a Paramount octabox and two fill cards for a lighting setup called the beauty box. Create a Rembrandt light with an octabox and watch the behind-the-scenes fine-tuning using a modeling light, or continuous lighting, to see how small adjustments affect the light. Then, add a silver reflector to the Rembrandt for another option.

  14. 10 One Light Set-ups: 6 to 10

    Continue building variety with a single light using a Rembrandt set-up with a white reflector. Create a short light loop with an octabox, a short light Rembrandt with a reflector, an octabox rim light, and an octabox behind.

  15. One Light Set-ups: Pop Quiz

    Review what the class has done so far. Look over the ten images from the one-light set-ups, recap the qualities of that light and how it was created.

  1. FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 1

    Which is better, strobe light kits or a continuous lighting kit likes the ones often used with video cameras? Discuss the pros and cons of each type to help determine what type of lighting gear works best for you. Dive into the most frequently asked questions about buying photography lighting, like what wattage to look for.

  2. FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 2

    This class allows you to shoot multiple set-ups with a single light -- but ideally, how many lights should you have in your light kit? Continue working with purchasing questions on lighting in this lesson, including name brands, DIY alternatives, and the difference between the pricey strobes and the less expensive strobes.

  3. FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 3

    If you can only afford one modifier, which one should you start with? Finish the round of purchasing questions in this lesson, including questions posed by students like you. Learn how strobes differ from flash heads or speedlights, and why strobes are often better for a studio space than an off camera flash.

  4. 10 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 and 2

    Move from simple single light set-ups to lighting with two light sources. Start with a basic portrait with a softbox loop and a stripbox hair or rim light. Then, learn to shoot a basic clamshell with a softbox, a reflector and a strip box for added highlight.

  5. 10 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 6

    Continuing the two-light set-ups, move into more dramatic lighting with a Rembrandt using a softbox key light and a strip box rim light. Next, tackle a Rembrandt portrait lightened with a fill card and a clamshell with a softbox and stripbox.

  6. 10 Two Light Set-Ups: 7 to 10

    Go behind the scenes for a short light Rembrandt with a second light behind the subject 45-degrees with a barn door modifier. Create a "checkerboard" style light using a Rembrandt key light and a grid on the background. Finally, create a dramatic Rembrandt with a silver dish and stripbox or barndoors.

  7. 5 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2

    Two light set-ups aren't limited to just ten possibilities. In the second set of two-light scenarios, Lindsay walks through some less common photographic lighting techniques. Start with using two rim lights, then jump into a sideways clamshell.

  8. 5 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5

    Create a wrap around beauty light with a softbox behind, a beauty dish in the front and a silver reflector. Or, build a more dramatic wrap-around light without a reflector. Learn how to shoot with a dramatic grid light and a barn door modified light towards the back.

  9. 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.

  10. 5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5

    Learn to light groups using a three light set-up. Anticipate the likely problems with lighting groups before they happen and watch a live demonstration of a group lighting set-up. Then, create a three-point light set up with a softbox and two stripboxes, then a checkerboard with a key, rim, and background light.

  11. 5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 1 to 3

    Move into the more advanced three light set-ups in this lesson. Start with a Rembrandt with a gridded beauty dish and two rim lights with barn doors. Then work with film noir studio lighting and a high key drama shot.

  12. 5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 4 & 5

    Learn to use your lights to create a high key spill light. Finally, create a high key clamshell lighting in the final intermediate three-light set-up.

  13. 10 Common Lighting Mistakes

    Now that you know how to light, learn how NOT to light. Work with some common lighting mistakes that beginners make, and learn how to fix each one.

  1. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 1

    In the final day of the class, work through twelve common problems that are common in studio lighting. Learn how to problem solve lighting in the studio. Work with issues like getting a white background with one light or multiple lights.

  2. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 2 to 6

    Continue troubleshooting in the studio and dive into creating full-length shots with an all-white background. Work with stacking light, dealing with ambient light, and more.

  3. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7

    How can you prevent the subject from casting a shadow on the background? In this lesson, Lindsay explains how to tackle this tricky challenge.

  4. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 8

    How far away you place the light plays a role in the image -- so what about working inside a small studio? In this lesson, Lindsay tackles the challenges of working inside a small space with studio lights.

  5. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 9

    How do you avoid reflections on the subject's glasses? Learn how to avoid reflections on glasses when using studio lights.

  6. Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 10 to 12

    Finish the list of the most common problems that come up with studio lighting. Work with separating the subject from a dark background, lighting groups evenly, and using wide apertures with strobe lights.

  7. Portrait Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights

    In this set of rapid-fire studio set-ups, learn how to light a traditional portrait using, one, two or three lights. Watch behind the scenes for these "go-to" portrait set-ups.

  8. Beauty Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights

    Beauty shots are a bit different from a traditional portrait. Walk through ideal lighting set-ups for beauty light using one, two and three lights.

  9. Lighting Groups: 1, 2, and 3 Lights

    Build these go-to group lighting set-ups into your repertoire. Learn easy lighting set-ups for using a single light, or one or two.

  10. Lighting for Drama: 1, 2, and 3 Lights

    Work with three go-to lighting set-ups for drama (which also work well for men). Learn dramatic light with one light, two or three.

  11. Your First Studio Lighting

    In the final lesson, gain insight into what to consider when building your studio lighting kit. Lindsay shares tips on what to buy and how to save cash for photographers on a budget.



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.

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!!!!

Penny Foster

I have been shooting families and pets in my living room space for two years now and I thought I was doing a good job but certain skills had eluded me, like lighting a white background to perfection and shooting people with glasses without the reflections in my shots. Then I watched this course and had so many 'aha' moments that I HAD to buy it; not just for Lindsay's teaching style (which is pretty awesome( but also for all the lighting diagrams that I can refer to whenever I feel like 'stepping my lighting up to the next level'. Lindsay shows you what you can do with minimal gear, so you can get started right away; no need for expensive triggers (I have a set that just fires when I press the shutter), and no need for expensive branded modifiers (she shows you what you can do with one umbrella). Lindsay is so enthusiastic, it is obvious that she loves light, and it is hard not to get 'fired up' to try all of her lighting setups. Brilliant course once again!