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Studio lighting can seem to be very complicated but is essential to learn. This article is on some of the basics of studio lighting. Studio lighting can be made easier once one learns and understands about the different kinds of lights and their use.

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There are two kinds of light, natural and artificial light. While using either of them one should always make sure they are using the correct camera settings. The photographer should be aware of the changes and effects made by changing the value of the aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Here, we are only dealing with artificial lights and their uses and effects.

Types of studio lights-

Continuous lights-

These lights provide light continuously to the subject. They allow the photographer to see how light is falling on the subject. Continuous lights could be useful for still life photography where one can constantly see and check how the lighting is affecting the image.

Strobe lights-

These lights are the most popular kind of lights in studios. They flash every time the shutter button is pressed. They are powerful, can be used in various ways and make great photographs.


They are portable and more affordable compared to the other types of lights and can be used indoors as well as outdoors. Speedlights form hard edged shadows as they have a narrow beam of light. However, they are not as powerful as strobes.Portrait Photography Headshot Photography Singapore COCO Creative Studio 9930Studio lighting photography studio session Singapore COCO Creative Studio 2

Modifiers or diffusers used for studio lighting-

Most of these lights are used with diffusers or modifiers attached to them. Such as, softboxes, umbrellas, stripboxes and reflectors. These help in softening the light and provide the desired look.

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Softboxes are the most widely used modifiers in a studio. They can be of various shapes and sizes such as, squares, rectangles or round shaped. They can be placed close to the subject and make the image and the light falling on the subject softer and more diffused.


Umbrellas are also widely used. They can be white, silver or gold. However, they aren’t as well controlled as softboxes, spilling light in all directions.

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They are very useful and come in silver, white or gold. They are used to add more light, reducing the shadows or are used to absorb the additional light.

Light meters-

Use of a light meter is key in studio photography. It helps in determining the correct exposure for the shot by giving the values for the aperture and shutter speed to be used. It is a hand held device.

Different types of lighting used in studio photography and their use-

Key light-

This is the main light. One might use many light sources but a key light always has to be a part of the shoot. This light is pointed directly at the subject. It accounts for most of the light in the photograph. The key lights is the dominant light and is placed higher than the camera lens.

The other lights used in studios simply compliment the key light.

Fill light-

This light helps with adjusting the shadows on the subject. It is used to brighten up the darker, shadow areas of the subject.

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Separation light-

This light is also called kicker and is only meant to fall on a small portion of the subject. It should be placed higher than the key light and should be very narrow so it doesn’t fall on a large part of the subject. It provides a separation of the subject from the backdrop, as the details are highlighted.

Background light-

At times the backdrop might become too dark. Here, a background light can be used specifically to provide more light to the backdrop. The power of the light should not be too high. It can be equal to the power of the main studio light. The background light can also help in reducing or doing away with shadows casted on the backdrop. It is placed behind the subject.

There are different lighting techniques. Some of them are commonly used by photographers while shooting in the studio. The above mentioned lights can be used in various ways to achieve different lighting results. Some of them are Rembrandt lighting, Butterfly lighting, Split lighting, Loop lighting etc.

However, one is free to experiment with studio lights and form their own aesthetic and style to achieve what they desire. There are no rules which has to be followed.

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Photographers should be aware of the basics of studio lighting and make use of different lighting techniques while shooting in a studio which helps in learning more about the subject. They can experiment with the lights and modifiers in various ways. Using tethered shooting is also very useful while shooting in a studio environment as the photographer can instantly view the images on their computer screen and make changes to the lighting accordingly.

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