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Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 31 of 39

Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 31 of 39

Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Lesson Info

Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7

We have done one through six of my twelve common studio lighting problems, and I hope everybody is finding it very useful because these are all things that I did take some lighting classes for sure before I really started my business well, when I first started, I didn't, but as I started to gear up, they talked about what you're supposed to do in general, but not the things you're not supposed to do, and you don't know you're not supposed to do until you do him, and you can't figure it out, that kind of stuff, so I'm trying to show you the problems that I have run into time and time again and how I fix it. So here is one of the more challenging ones, and this one is how to avoid the subject casting a shadow on the background and the e and I have a whole bunch of different things with the easiest one is, well, it's his shooting on a white background when you illuminate the background pure white, you don't see a shadow, so that is a benefit. If you're shooting in a smaller space and you ...

can illuminate that background, there won't be a shadow on it. The only way you would see a shadow is if your background was not true white. And you hadn't actually correctly meted across and maybe the right hand side was darker and you see a shadow in that instance but it should be fine but let's not talk about just where you're lighting the background, how but if you're shooting on a back on without it being illuminated or a great background or color background is a lot of different things to keep in mind. So one of the things to keep in mind is that a harsher or a more contrast the light source shows shadows more which makes sense, but you know we use a high contrast modifier you see how chris the shadows are in the side of the nose? Well, it'll do that as well. It will show the shadows cast by the subject on the background more so that would be one thing use a softer light source to create less defined shadows and generally a larger light source. What will have is it it wraps around and search to fill in some of those shadows all right next would be create some distance between the subject in the background. If the subject is really close to the background it doesn't have room to the shadow doesn't have room to fall on the ground sometimes what happens is if you were another two feet out, you wouldn't actually see the shadow because it just cast on the floor behind the subject but when you back up enough, it doesn't have time to hit the floor in the background is right there, and so you get that shadow, so if you can do something to create some distance between your subject in the background, that will help you out. And then also, we said softer is better if you can bring that main light source a little bit closer to your subject a little bit further from the background that will be a softer shadow. So anything that's making that light source more contrast e further away, when you're closer to back on all those things, they're giving you problems, so I'll give you a demonstration, you'll be able to see what causes problems and what doesn't another one is you will likely see more shadows when that main light is more centered, because what happens is if your main light is far off to the side, the shadows cast out of the frame. You don't see it, but let's say you're in a loop lighting position. Basically, the shadow gets cast right behind their head a little bit to the side, so avoid letting street on or just a little beside a little bit further will help you get it out of the frame, and they're also a higher angle of light. Now I have used this knowledge to my advantage before to go to the exact opposite extreme I've been plenty of chutes were on purpose, I want shadows on the background, and so what I would do is that have the light source really low, so it cast those shadows up onto the background and on purpose I move the subject really close to the background. I use a really contrast the modifier, all the things you're not supposed studio, but it creates a cool shadow, but knowing this that that's what it does, I know that if I use a higher angle light like we have here, the shadow gets cast down onto the ground, it won't be something that will be as noticeable and there's no problem with shadows being on the ground, so these are all kind of things you're looking for. What modifiers you choose bigger and softer? What distance pull the subject out from the background? Get that light source closer so wraps around the subject and also use a higher angle of light but not straight on to the subject, and that data angle of light to the front makes much more of a difference if you're in a tiny space where your subject cast to be close to the background that's where it's going to be much more of a problem if I came back my subject fifteen feet out from the background is that the shadow will hit the background as long as the light is high enough it's more when you only have five feet to work with that this becomes a little bit more of the problem solving for us as photographers and then we talked about lighting the background also it is much more noticeable if you're using a white or light gray background the backgrounds already dark you see the shadow is much because it's already dark not that its you know the best way because there might be times when you want a lighter background but it could be a situation where you're just in a small space you're doing all this problem solving they're still a little bit of a shadow maybe instead use a dark background and to separate them from the background so they don't blend in you use the room like it's out might be a better solution depending on the size of your space so I would love to give this a little demo and whatever one of my lovely models would like to model for me we weren't serious with the heels today yeah that's that one was so concerned yesterday about the no shoes huh yes that's the view is can she stand so you know I can I can have you said to so you don't even need them sure oh no sorry you bring the store yeah, no let's bring it let's let's do bad first let's bring it all the way back and I'll just it's fine we can just ruin it because well we can cut it right cut it after school all right take a look see yeah ok perfect. All right so let's assume that we're shooting in this situation and these lights right now are not on because I told you that's kind of the cheating part so if you eliminate the background it's not a problem right? So we have our subject here right away I already know if I use a contrast the modifier it will be a problem it's going to cash it was in the background much more likely says it okay let's start off with a bigger light source something a little bit more broad and we've kind of set this up here someone is going to make sure we get bad first help me do bad light first and I'll figure out where our meter so there got it perfect. Great thank you back ok, so we're going to give this a test and take a look at the shadows we create on sand looks ok that works all right all right, so I already and helping myself out before I even started by picking a softer light source all right, so you have a shadow that you see behind her well, even just here raising the light up will help a little bit to cast that shattered down a bit and it also helps if I just pull her out in the background now this late is too low in my opinion but I'm going I'm going to bring you back for so let's dio if I pull her away from the background coming to come in a little bit further that they have a nice decent size space let's try this and you want to meet everyone okay, I can guess you don't mind she felt right a little bit right? Tell me okay so the shadow is soft often too soft into the right really it's not that distracting but it's still less than ideal I still don't want to see it that defined so I pulled her away from the background I've moved the light uh with her the next thing I could do is raise that light up, okay? We're going to raise it up and what that will do is it takes the shadow from being behind her to casting it somewhat downward so it will be opposite of the light source so but like the shadow should be a little bit lower so we'll see you right now it goes up to maybe her shoulder and now it's just barely in the bottom of the frame and even more so if I pull the lead off to the side it casts it away so it's down and it's away right now there's a different shadow that I'll talk about in a second so the right hand side it makes it soft and makes it further away. You may touch on this anyway that if this is a beauty type shot would you use a reflector to fill in which wouldn't cast a shadow right? And if you use a reflector that won't cause you any problems the now if what you'll see is we did cause a problem with a shadow the shadow that we have on the left hand side and this has caused which is good or bad attend on the look you're going for its caused by feathering the lights to see how we're pointing the light towards you guys instead of really towards our subject if we want to get rid of that shadow when angle it back so it illuminates the background and so now efforts a little hot was turned down just a bit it one more time one more time okay, much better so in this next shot there really I mean maybe you could say there's a little shadow in the corner but it's I mean it's pretty much eliminated because it is a soft light source subject further from the background we made it even softer by bringing that modifier closer to her we cast the shadow out of the frame by bringing the light off to the side, and we raised the light up so the shadows cast down and out of the frames. So all of those things are working together to help us avoid shadows on the background. All right, so let me just pause and see if you've tried this and still struggling. Where the question areas I just think it's a little house for me personally because trying to understand how to avoid shadows, I think, is a huge beginner challenge. So, um, so thank you. Yeah, well, the champ, the shadows that I see the most are because people are in very small spaces and they have maybe a silver umbrella that they have further back, because what ends up happening that makes it more contrast the light source, they're already in a small space there, close to the background that make the shadow harsher like that would be a common problem. So your solution would be trying to pull your subject further away, trying to get a softer light source and bring it closer to your subject and anguish in a way that the shadow goes out of the frame. Objector any object is to the white source, the softer the shadow is going to be I mean, just think of with the sun and a tree. The sun is far away but she tree is on hard shadow in the clinic's cloudy the light source is closer than the shadows later it's not only the subject but it's also your go bos when we put flags up the close of the flag is to the light the softer that edge of the flags going to be as you move it back towards the background the harder and you're going to get there just keep the subject is close to the light and it's gonna be a softer shadow and I just would say like mentally I didn't quite get that until recently and if you look at my portfolio I just shot a new image where there's a really really chris shadow across the model's face and that was because I figured out that rule that I had to put the flag real close and they had used a contrast the modifier instead of the soft modifier with the flag far away so like it's much more advanced but when you get those concepts it's gets exciting as you start experimenting in the studio and figuring out these cool things that I've seen in magazines before but never knew how they did it it was only using two lights it's just using two lights in a smarter way right that's awesome can I ask a quick clarification because it's hard to see from the camera angler how far is r model from from the back door I was looking johnson terrible guessing about seven feet about seven feet great thank you and we can't do this let's let's give it a little bit try I'm gonna pull you back let's assume that you literally have like almost no space which is the next section right that's what we're known it goes where today so we're kind of desperate but assume that we have almost no space so the rules that we had in mind let's get these after a good good point all right and no idea what this explosion will be tested okay and still even in this first shot we do have a larger modifier so it really isn't that terrible of a shadow it's still there but if we were using a beauty dish or a small silver umbrella it would be a much more noticeable uh shadow so now we're going to bring that in and we have the light modifier a little bit further off to the side perfect thank you and get the same one attest are you just in that dump that a little bit okay? It says that people on to the late room people broke and can't back it up just a little bit for my space right there so again so I guess this could be done and what size space you know, maybe like the ten by henderson mauler and so let's try this hey, she's got a little bit of shadow kicked to the right so we could mayes it up a little bit higher. You raise that light up a little bit higher, it's going to throw the shadow down a little bit more and because we really put the light off to the side, it's taking it that way. I mean, as soon as a shooter, vertical instead of including the whole thing in the shadows gone, and she had back to the light for me somewhere. You don't see the shadow until I was shooting wide and it's. I'm trying to show you like if I were shooting the whole thing and see a little bit, but it's basically kicking it out of the frame no closer, I can get that light, the softer the shadows will be and it's going to wrap around the subject further. I could bring her out the left. I have to worry about where the shadows are.

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!