Skip to main content

Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 1 of 39

Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Studio Lighting 101

Lesson 1 of 39

Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Lesson Info

Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed

This is studio lighting one o one and so I am going to start from the nuts and bolts from the very basics and build up we're going to start with everything from how to figure out what settings to put on your camera in the studio we're going to talk about all the different modifiers which ones you might use for what purposes will start off by just covering what exists and then eventually I'm going to talk to the very end if you could only have one modifier what should it be? You could only have two if you could only have three or if you could only have four we're going to kind of build so we'll start off with one light in one modifier go through that I'm going to talk about where to place you're like why it would make a difference like all of these things so that once you have the foundations is just like kind of like cooking except for I suck it cooking so lighting is my cocking okay I grabbed the bits of ingredients the ingredients are the modifier choice and where I play place the li...

ght and then the power of the late night mix it all together and I have a million different lighting set ups so this is definitely a one on one class and I didn't want to kind of foreshadow a little bit the direction of where we're going for example day two one of the questions that you might have is purchasing questions like what's what's like pack versus a head mano blogged constant like there's all these things to consider well, day to I'm going to start off by talking about the most commonly asked questions when buying your studio, lighting someone help educate you on that on those types of things. And then on day three, I'm going to answer the ten most common problems in studio lighting and there are a whole bunch of different problems, and I'm thinking of the things that I struggled with. I've been a photographer for fifteen years now, and I started off with a studio that was in my parentsliving room, not too small of a space, a pretty small space, and I had hot lights I think there were, like, meant to like in q b chickens and I were getting like, I think that that was their purpose and I had a strip of these hot lights that I said on the floor and I thought it looked great starting off, and I have since learned a little bit more about lighting, so I've been through all of the struggles that you probably been through. I started off with two umbrellas I put one unequal either side, equal power went for it. There's a little bit more finesse titillating than I have since learned so all of these things will talk about and I'll talk about lighting white background, full length howto laid a group like so many of these things so we'll start off basic and build up to those common questions all right, so with that I will get started and I did want to let you know that I am a fashion photographer in new york so if those of you don't know me I have a studio in chelsea and I shoot in the studio all the time and it definitely appeals to my control freak sensibilities because you can control anything and everything when you're working in the studio so if you do want to see my work I am starting with probably more essentials more basics but you can visit my web sites, lindsay out the photography dot com and get an idea of the type of a little bit more advanced things that I do as well. All right, so let's jump into this I have found that many times simple is much better and so all today will be working with just one light and nothing more and that's fantastic and awesome and I think you should be excited for those of you don't own a single piece of studio gear because then it's pretty inexpensive to start out but you can still get the control so more complicated is not better, and in fact it can be worse because you're trying to figure out where to put things and not interacting with your client like this whole lighting thing you shouldn't even have to think about once you've got it set up, you should be interacting with their clients should be almost secondary, so keep it simple and what we'll talk about is where to put your like what to put on your light and how many lights to have like these were the three essentials that will address today and then of course throughout three days, but I did want to dispel some myths or some things that I thought about what does not make you a better photographer, what does not make you better at studio lighting and here's one that really overwhelms me when I took my first studio lighting class terminology ok, so we're going to talk about some of these words that maybe you've heard before already short, light, broad light, high key loki flat, light, dimensional like loop rembrandt split like all it may be heard of all these things, I used to be really overwhelmed because people were like, oh yes, we're going to put it at a split like position and I want to have a lighting ratio of and it just kind of sounded like noise it made it seem really difficult I'm going to address these terms primarily because they help you learn and communicate. If you go watch another photographer's class, they might say something like, we're going to place the light in a loop position. Well, it would really help to know what that means, but you do not ever need to know that for your clients, they don't ask you, yes, I would like to be lit in paramount, please, like they don't know what that means, and so most of those terms are just to help you learn, so we will address them. And so when I mentioned where I'm putting a light it's a quick reference so just know terminology doesn't make you a better photographer, but it does help you learn, so I'll have many terms that go right up on the screen with the definitions there and for anybody that does purchase the class, you are going to get all of my slide, so the definitions will be included along with reference photos. Next thing that doesn't make you a better photographer is fancy gear of the most complicated solution often is not the best and just to give you a real life example for me, I shoot with a lot of high end model agencies the favorite photos I ever produced for them ever. Our one night beauty dish, black and white model looking at the camera like there's, a very specific look that they want, and so I could have all the lights in the world, and it doesn't do me any good. So most of the things we'll talk about their things like an octo box of soft box, a beauty there's like some of the more essential for lighting set ups in umbrellas as well. I know that in lighting it's all about problem solving and that's why I have the whole section about the top ten most common problems, like okay, so if there's a shadow on the background that you don't want there well, can you switch your modifier the angles like and so it's all things like that that were problem solving all the time, and so I wanted to give you an idea of some of the work that I do that is just one light both of these shots or just one light. A beauty dish on the left and nothing else on the right will go through all of these on the right it's, a beauty dish with a white reflector below, and these are some of the shots that are most popular in my portfolio or looking at the keys right here bt dish on the left. A parabolic umbrella on the right and so there are more complicated tools for the job you don't need them most of the time so don't stress out about that so how we're going to get started is we're going to talk about how your camera should be set because you have s o shutter speed aperture all of those things that you've probably played around with shooting with natural light but they have a little bit different significance in the studio so we're going to get your cameras set up right now where's a great starting point no matter what studio you enter where should your camera be set so we're going to start off with that these are those core elements so first let's talk about one that is a little bit different in the studio and that is going to be shutter speed something to go through an answer each one of these question marks all right so when you're in the studio you can ignore shutter speed I kinda I say like not really what I mean by that is your shutter speed does not affect the exposure of your image so if I'm shooting at a thirtieth of a second with my flash maestro von or from shooting at one two hundred of the second the light will look identical it does not make any difference everything that you're going to be controlling for the exposure of the strobe not related to shutter speed okay here's why the well almost part because it is you do kind of got to pay attention to it a little bit so we talked about that. Okay? So first of all you cannot exceed your cameras sink speed so everybody should go look up what your camera sink speed but I can tell you most cameras nowadays it's one two hundredth of a second are well, what the heck is think? Speed sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can set on your camera and not get those black bars you guys ever seen that you're shooting in the studio and you take a look and like I'll crack what I do there's a half my photos black what's happening is the way that your camera works the way that the shutter opens and closes if your shutter speed is too fast when the stroke fires it catches a shutter halfway close and it leaves a black bar I have I remember shooting in my first studio where I'd start freaking out because I just realize that last twenty photos that I took had this black bar and I didn't know why so what you need to do is you always need to shoot slower shutter speeds than your sink speed my camera is a cannon five d mark three that's what I'll be shooting my sing speed is one to hundreds of the second some cameras air one to fiftieth some are a little slower I do have a little side note to that as well maybe some of you've experienced this I've found even with my camera that they tell me the sink speed is one two hundredth of a second when I shoot on a white background even at one, two hundred the second sometimes I see a little bit darker at the edges like they should have almost made it open but not quite and it gave it a little bit, so this is what you might have to check yourself, so my go to is usually one one sixteenth of the second because I've tested it, so it makes it a little more complicated for everybody figure out what you're saying speed is shoot right around that and it should work great! I saw his one illustrate kind of what that whole sink speed thing looks like. So your camera when you click that lifts the first shutter, then it flashes while everything's opened, then the second shutter closes. What happens when you exceed your sink speed? Is those moves so fast that there was no time that the whole entire photo was open? If you do have a flash would actually catch one of those shutters, so I'm going to start off by telling you generally somewhere around one, two hundred for the second okay? Next part why can't you go slower? Why not shoot one one thirty eight one thirty of the second one sixties the second this was the number one biggest mistake I made with my first studio and I would shoot I knew someone told me shutter speeds don't matter just don't go over your using speed okay? I learned that so I just put it out wherever it happened to land like wherever it was when I turned on my camera that will create a problem for you because if you shoot at a slower shutter speed then your sink speed you'll start to pick up ambient light and what that means is if I'm shooting in a room with windows if I shoot really slow shutter speed one thirtieth of a second, even one sixtieth some of that window light will start to show up on my subject and let's say that I'm shooting in a space like this we've got lots of bright lights here if I'm shooting at a thirty two second, some of that light will affect my subject and that can do a couple things. One thing it might dio is it might give you a weird color cast so let's say you're in a room when you've got tungsten life and you're shooting and these lights are daylight balance and we'll talk about that so I start shooting and looking some reason the shadows are really warm like really read and I don't know why my personal experiences my first studio space the first business I opened we had fluorescent lights, green fluorescent lights and I called the printer so many times over the mit lab I was with asking them why they were printing my shadows green and I blamed it on them until I realized oh wait I'm shooting at one thirty of the second the fluorescent lights the green is showing up in the shadows and the other thing that will be really difficult with a slow shutter speed is if you're trying to shoot something dramatic like a silhouette you want really dark shadows even if the colors not messed up some of that light in the room is going to fill in those shadows and you lose control so that's what you want to use a faster shutter speed so I'm going to actually illustrate this for you all right? So in my studio space I decided to set up a scenario that would be an example of my first studio I've got my beauty this year we'll talk about modifiers later and then over here this is a constant like maestro was going to flash okay it's that quick really, really fast flash of light so the whole shutter speed doesn't affect the actual exposure of what that strobe looks like okay however this light over here that I have on her is tungsten ok it's going to be very orange my shutter speed will determine whether that shows up or not so this again would be in the room with fluorescent lights, the room with window light, whatever it may be so let's, take a look at how that affects things. All right? This is no strobe, I'm not using the flash at all, so when I shoot at one two hundredth of a second, I'm picking up a little bit of that tungsten light. But it's it's, pretty minimal when I go to a sixtieth, I'm starting to see her and at the thirties I can see her completely and I'm not using maestro, but all so ideally a test that you want to make for yourself is you want to when you get a set up, we're going to get your lights all set up, turn off your strobe and whatever camera settings you have set, take a shot without the strobe. If you can see your subject, you've got to make some changes in your shutter speed or in the light in the room where there's a few other things you can control. So that's one of the first things I do, I do this still today just to make sure I go in, I set up my life, I unplugged my trigger and I take a shot just to make sure I don't have light contamination so put that on your to do list for studio lighting. Ok, so now what? Watch what happens when I add the strobe in okay, the strobe at one two hundredth of a second, maybe a little bit of light. That's, not too bad a sixtieth and a thirtieth. I mean, this entire side of her face is now philbin with warmish orange light because of the long shutter speed, so you can see pretty drastic difference again. Here's from a sixty s. Watch that side of her face. Two one, two hundred. So this is one of the things that will give you messed up shadows and less control in your studio. So the first thing we talked about is where to put your shutter, put it at or around your sink speed. All right, so I got that one can under control.

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!