3 point lighting will save your life!
Even if you’re a veteran of the game, lighting in a studio setting can be tricksome. If you’re starting out as a studio photographer then the very thought of trying to position a whole bevy of different lights without a clue of where to put them is enough to make you call home and confess your catastrophic career mistake to your parents.
Thankfully 3 point lighting is here to save you! Ok maybe it won’t save your whole life (Lord forgive me for I have clickbaited) but it will save you from that horrible phone call to Mum and Dad. Used by veterans and newbies alike, 3 point lighting is the foundational skill a studio photographer simply must have in their locker, and the good news is it’s pretty simple to learn.
So let us take you through the fundamentals of 3 point lighting and by the end of this blog you might not be the next Roger Deakins, not yet anyway, but you will know your Fill light from your Hair light.
1. Key Light – This is your primary light. The strongest of the three, it leads the ‘dance of light’. Placed to one side of the subject, lighting that side of the face and casting the other in shadow. Position within a 45 degree angle to the left or right, lift up above the camera and angle down towards the subject.
2. Fill light – This is your secondary light and is used to fill the shadow side created by the key light. The fill should be less bright than the key to create a softer light. Position on the opposite side of the key light and drop the height so it’s lower than the key.
3. Back light (aka Hair light/Rim light) – Your third light’s purpose is to provide definition and subtle highlights around the subject’s outline. This helps separate the subject from the background, making the image look three dimensional. Position high above and most importantly behind the subject. When done correctly you should achieve a thin white line around the hairline of the subject, hence the moniker, hair light.
All together now! By combining all three you have a well lit, characterful subject that really pops. From here you can play around with each light to change the character of the photograph to suit the story you wish to tell.
So there you have it, 3 point lighting, easy-peasy, smile and say cheesey! Now get out there (or in there) and let your light shine.