Creative 3 light setups for portrait photography
Creative 3 light setups for portrait photography

Today we’re going to talk about lighting
setups now many photographers contact me regularly asking how many lights do I
need how many lights do you use for different shoots. Well I’m gonna show you
some really good three-light setups for beauty and fashion shots that you’ll
find really useful, I’m gonna show you those in a short while, but first of all
let’s take a look at some of my images on my commercial photography site
because I think you’ll be quite surprised how often I use very few
lights so let’s take a look at this shot here which we shot recently down on the
coast this shot actually only uses one location studio light powered on a
battery pack the rest of the light is fill light using ambient daylight this
product photography concept shot actually only uses one light as well so
it’s again it’s more about the knowledge on how you use the light and how you
create the concept that’s important rather than saying I have to use five
lights or I have to use four lights. You basically want to use the exact amount
of lights you need to achieve the visualization. Other shoots are more
complex this particular example I needed 12 lights to capture the image in-camera
in one shot. There were also some rods and wires holding things in position
which have been retouched later but from a lighting perspective I wanted to be
sure that I could capture everything on the product in one capture. Another good
example of multiple lights was this recent motorbike shoot that we did for a
live show on and I think I used about eight or nine
lights on this particular shot, however, I also demonstrated the technique of how
you could use one light and multiple bursts in different places to achieve
the same result. This shot actually has one key light on the model but it has
one very important light adding blue light into the shadows so it’s actually
just a two-light setup. So when we think about lighting we must think about it
not in the sense of ‘oh I need to use five lights’ or ‘I need to use four lights’,
we have to try to think about what we’re
trying to achieve visually and then work towards that goal via pre-visualization
and then achieve the result based on the equipment necessary. Now what I’m going
to do today is I’m going to show you a couple of lighting setups that use just
three lights and how you can use them effectively. So if we head over to my
blog on you’ll find a blog post called portrait
photography lighting ideas three creative ways to use three lights now
let’s take a look at this example. Now there’s no end to how creative you can
be using just three lights for portrait or beauty photography and this is
something we cover extensively over on but today I’m
going to share three ways that you can use three lights each of these setups
uses only basic modifiers and shows effective techniques that can help add
three-dimensionality to your subject. Further examples of three light setups
can be found in our ‘portrait section’ along with more examples of great one-light, two-light and four-light examples too. So let’s look at the first one,
three lights for a high key fashion shot now you can see in this image here that
we’ve got a very high key punchy look, colorful background, with really
beautiful rim lighting surrounding the model, around the edge of the shoulders,
the neck, the cheekbones, and up onto the hair. It’s also got a sense and feeling
of flare coming into the shot and that’s quite deliberate for the look and style
of the shot with the pastel pink background and overall the image has got
quite a high key look but actually the shot was quite simple to achieve. Let’s
take a look at the lighting diagram and you’ll see the setup for this shot. So I
have two silver umbrellas creating the rim lighting that’s visible on the
models face either side and over the bare shoulders, the key light on the
front of the model was using a Focus 110 umbrella which is also silver, the same
as the standard silver umbrellas at the back.
Now the trick to this shot is positioning the silver umbrellas at the
back exactly the right angle so that you can just tilt them to allow a little bit
of flair into the camera but you can control it and it’s that level of
control by just turning the silver umbrellas and then moving them out and
into the shot that will control the amount of flare coming into the camera.
The Focus 110 umbrella from the front is particularly good at delivering a punchy
fashion style look to the shot. It has a sort of para like quality but not quite
the same level of quality as a para but a very good economical alternative
instead. The pink background was made by simply painting a board and painting it
with pink matte emulsion paint and the light from the umbrellas at the back and
from the key light was enough to give me the pink background. Now if you look at
the catchlights in the eyes on the model you can see that the front key
light is from slightly above, now generally when I’m shooting with a
beauty dish Para 133 or a Focus 110 umbrella, I’m shooting with that light
slightly above the model at a 45 degree angle about one meter to two meters away
from the model and that results in the result that we’ve got there. Okay, let’s
take a look at my lighting example number two which we’ve titled on the
blog as strong, bold and dynamic. Now what you should be doing when you look at the
image and you can see the image here is you should start to look at it and try
to evaluate, well how is that shot lit, how has the photographer… how have I
managed to light that 3/4 length almost full body length shot in such a way? Well
again this was a three-light setup and it’s actually quite a simple one as well.
Let’s move down to the lighting diagram you can see that the background is a
grey paper roll that’s coming down behind the model and the models standing
on top of that and then behind the model, hidden down here on
lower studio low stand, or a floor stand is the glow that’s being created behind the
model, shining on the background. Then the lights on the model are two lights – they
are 30/120 strip softboxes so they’re quite narrow they’re about that wide and
they’re quite long. One of them is used horizontally above the model in much the
same way in position where I would put a beauty dish or a Para 133 for my beauty
shots, so I’m using the 30/120 in a horizontal format above and across at
the top of the model and then I’m using one more 30/120 down the side. So what
I’m actually creating is an L shape of light using two 30/120 softboxes
and there you can see the result that I’m able to achieve which gives a nice
contouring and shape where the light is predominantly coming from the right and
then it’s fading away off to the left so it is a soft light but it’s not too soft
so it has a little bit of structure to the cheekbones and to the textures and
the fabrics. My third lighting setup is very similar, we’ve called this one
bright and stylish on our blog. Now if you examine the photograph first of all
you’ll notice you can actually see the edge lighting coming on to the edge of
the models forehead and on to the cheekbone here as well you’ll also
notice the graduated glow on the background so immediately you can see
that one of our lights is being used as the background light now if we look at
the lighting setup for this one you’ll see it’s very similar to the other
lighting setup except I’ve moved one of the 30/120 s behind the model. So I
still have a light horizontal across the top of the model in the common position
at a 45 degree angle or just above the models head and then in this instance
I’ve moved one of the 30/120 soft boxes, which is vertically placed, but
I’ve moved it behind the model to catch the catch light down the side of the
hair, the forehead and the cheekbone and then as you can see in
the lighting diagram, the third light is therefore the background. The addition to
this lighting setup was the fill reflector below the model. Now as this
shot’s been taken horizontally I was able to position a fill reflector below the
model to bounce some of the light from the top light back up to fill the
shadows under the neck and under the jawline. Now these are just three
lighting setups using three lights we have many many more on using one-light, two-light, three-light, and four-light and using
lighting on location, in fact, these actual shoots where you’ve seen these
lighting diagrams here we walkthrough them completely and you can watch the
entire video for those shoots as well. Well I hope you found those three-light
setups useful, we’ll see you next time. get my completely free photography
course with no signup required you can also access our free ninety page ebook
just click the link or go to Carl Taylor education comm

6 thoughts on “Creative 3 light setups for portrait photography”

  1. Tem says:

    amazing video it was really entertaining

  2. Love Leura says:

    Thank you sir ❀️
    Love from India

  3. Vasil Kuyov says:

    Thank you Karl! Your tutorials are the best!

  4. macbaar says:

    😳 😯 πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ƒ πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ˜œπŸ‡¨πŸ‡­

  5. Jacek JGK says:


  6. Sebastian Galeano says:

    Top quality results with 3 simple setups, thank you so much Karl, and take care of you and yours on these hard days. Greetings from Argentina.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *