Photography News 86 Newsletter

Technique Multi- light set-ups

The moment you introduce another light source into your set, things get very interesting. People can be intimidated by this, but the trick is to build your lighting slowly and carefully. Introduce one light at a time, testing as you go to see the effect, then you will have a better understanding of what the lights are adding to your image.

Try positioning your light, then turning it up to full power, then down to its lowest power. Take a look at the difference the power and position make to the image, and you will build up your knowledge of lighting as you go. In time, you will develop a natural instinct for lighting and be able to pre-conceive lighting before you

place the individual units. Using the basic one-light or key light set-ups as a basis, we can now start to add additional lights. The first question to ask yourself is: “What are you trying to achieve?” This is fundamental, as there is no advantage to adding lights unless they are needed. Try to keep your lighting to the bare minimum. Fewer

lights are easier to handle and less expensive. Your starting point should always be one of the basic one-light set-ups to create your key light. Use reflectors to soften the effect where needed, then begin to add lights to suit your needs. The following are circumstances when you should consider adding another light to your set-up.




Using accent lighting, also known as hair lighting, on top of the head of your subject is a good way of adding beautiful effects (above left, with hair light, and above right, without). All basic one-light set- ups involve your key light being positioned to the front (or to the side and front) of your subject. By positioning another light behind the subject, either above or to the side,

you create a highlight reflection off the hair, which makes it look shiny and glamorous. You can do this with a hard or soft source to vary the effect and use one, two or more lights to do it. Be careful not to position the lights too close to the frame, as they will create flare in the camera which is difficult to deal with. Hair lights can give images that Hollywood-star quality.

Using the butterfly light set-up, slide a large reflector around waist height, under the subject’s chin, and you have the beginnings of what is known as ‘clamshell’ lighting (pictured above left). Add lighting from behind (pictured above right) if you want accent or hair lighting. You can use a circular reflector or curved reflector for different effects. Replace the reflector with a light and the effect is intensified, giving you ultimate control over how much light is used to fill in the deep shadow under the nose and chin.

This technique also gives beautiful reflections in the eyes. However, you will need to adjust how much power you use with the lower light. If you overdo it, the result will look rather ‘spooky’, with dark shadows cast up the face. Using a 50/50 split of power between the two lights is a good starting point, after which you may need to reduce the lower light a little to get the effect you want. If you just want to use an under-eye reflector, there are many specialised products you can buy that provide different effects in the eyes.

This is a great technique for bringing a natural, sunny feel to your images. Position your main light with either a 3ft (1m) softbox or a fresnel reflector at a distance, allowing it to spread light over the entire set. Set it at a frontal angle as your key light. To soften your shadow and provide detail, you can fill in with a closer, softer light on low power. You might want to add a hair light to this for added glamour. A fresnel reflector is an expensive accessory, but it has a focusing lens that enables you to mimic the effect of the sun.


Side lighting is used to light the entire side of the face or body. A hard source adds to the intensity of the effect and a soft source reduces it. Place the light, or lights, behind the subject, just off to the side of the frame, and point them either towards the subject or turned away and towards the camera and beyond. Turning the light away from the subject is called ’feathering’ and ensures no stray light falls on the background. You can turn the light farther to increase, or less to decrease, the amount of light. Using an ‘egg crate’ fitting on the softbox will also help direct the light and reduce flare.


Nowhere’s thebook

Another popular effect in portraiture is rim lighting. This is an extreme version of accent or hair light in which you place a light directly behind the subject, pointing directly at the back of the head. It creates a clean, sharp rim of highlight around the entire hairline for a dramatic cut-out effect. Take care with this set-up, as the hard rim highlight can become too bright for your camera sensor to resolve, even if it


If you’ve enjoyed these excerpts from Mastering Lighting & Flash Photography: a definitive guide for photographers by Richard Bradbury, the book is out now, priced £19.99, available online and from all good bookshops. •

Strictly speaking, the ‘catch light’ refers to any light that is catching a reflection in the eye. This is normally a single source. It is possible, however, to have a series of catch lights, evenly spaced to give a strong fashion and beauty effect. Here, six equal- powered lights were used.

has the widest dynamic range.

42 Photography News | Issue 86

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