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5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5

Lesson 25 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5

Lesson 25 from: Studio Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

25. 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.


Class Trailer

Day 1


Studio Essentials: Shutter Speed


Studio Essentials: Flash Exposure


Studio Essentials: White Balance


Light Principles: Inverse Square Law


Lighting Patterns


Shoot: Demo Lighting Patterns


Quality of Light and Modifiers


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Diffusion and Grid


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Umbrellas


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Softboxes


Shoot: Choosing a Modifier - Extra Stuff


10 One Light Set-ups: 1 and 2


10 One Light Set-ups: 3 to 5


10 One Light Set-ups: 6 to 10


One Light Set-ups: Pop Quiz


Day 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 1


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 2


FAQ for Purchasing Studio Light Part 3


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 and 2


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 6


10 Two Light Set-Ups: 7 to 10


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Two Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 1 & 2


5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 1 to 3


5 Intermediate Three Light Set-Ups: 4 & 5


10 Common Lighting Mistakes


Day 3


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 1


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 2 to 6


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 7


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 8


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 9


Solving 12 Common Problems of Studio Lighting: 10 to 12


Portrait Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Beauty Lighting: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting Groups: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Lighting for Drama: 1, 2, and 3 Lights


Your First Studio Lighting


Lesson Info

5 Basic Three Light Set-Ups: 3 to 5

We're going to be continuing with three lights set up and I'm going to go fast, fish a medium fast, so I got a lot to cover and then no tomorrow I will be summarizing a lot of this again in one of the later sections, but really it's kind of building on what we've already talked about, except for this part, this particular part is a separate thing, so let me borrow a couple people. Can I have, like, my first role? Well, let's, pull up the back row, relax for now, but tomorrow you're in trouble, ok? And I'm gonna bring you guys up, so we're going to talk about letting set up number three, which is groups with three lights, and I'm going to build each light in individually, so if you want to put that one off in the back and I'll tell you all the problems that you would run into now best case scenario, if you have a big space, pull those subjects kind of away from that background, but I want to play you just a little bit this way, okay, we'll pretend we have a medium sized space instead of...

a huge space. All right, so let's, take a look at the problem that we run into photographing a group we need them to all be evenly lit let's take a look at what this looks like right now if I just point a soft box at them from here all right I'm gonna give it to trying to see well second okay I know you don't really know each other but you have to pretend on this one because yeah exactly over lab perfect squished together and then every take one more step forward take it and don't mind my background right now we're not working with at the moment okay let me open up a tiny bit more I'm actually a pump it up a little bit perfect so what you'll see in this photograph is there is beautiful correctly exposed light on our subject on the far left and then by our subject on the far right it starts to get drastically dimmer so what we're going to try to d'oh is you need to know you don't want thesis box far off to the side you do have to bring it to the front a little bit more so arranges front a little bit more and what we're doing is we're feathering it across the group right what does this mean john k should be non feathered real quick okay this is not feathered light if you are pointing the soft box kind of straight in at the group like you see here this makes the problem ten times where swish swish swish look like friends again good, perfect so what ends up happening is all of the light is just heading our subject on the left you get a little bit, but I mean, you are basically two times further away from that light now than she is going to be like a quarter as bright we have to do something to fix them so one of the things you can do is southern light, so we're turning it away so that now that light is a little bit further from her and a little bit closer to you and so we're kind of cutting the difference and the only thing you can do to help yourself out as we're going bring the light a little bit more to the front just a tiny bit come in let's try there so we're gonna help herself out a bit, all right, good. So it stays off it the sides a little bit but we have given and came pointed backto left tiny bit get a couple more perfect. Ok, so you get more or less more even exposure taking a look here. Okay, by the way I have to call you out. We're going to do reflections on glasses tomorrow. Sorry is the syrians were doing tomorrow okay, so they look significantly better significantly more evenly lets so keep that in mind you don't want to be far off to one side you do want it to be a little bit more to the front and you don't want it to pointed towards one individual kind of feather across form or even illumination the problem that we run into a lot of times especially I picked a smaller group of let's say we have a really big group is then if I want to try to fill in the shadows if I put a reflector here, okay? If I put a reflector on this side of her, if I'm filling in the shadows your shadows that we totally filled in and then yours only a little bit and I mean by the time it reaches over to the far left of the frame it's not filled in at all, it just is about the distance there is not going to be able to catch much light and it will really do pretty minimal you will have some fillet on sea and so it's okay, but it doesn't really do too much because the late so far away it's just not catching enough to filling. So this would be an instance when you might want to add a second life for photographing groups, so we're going to add a phil light and the exposure of the philip how strong he wanted to be is how strong you want to fill in the shadows, but we run into the exact same considerations is before we don't want it really close and far off to the side we've got to do the same type of thing the further back we can pull that full that phil light the more it will kind of even out phil instead of this being really filled in on the right hand side and not so much on the left right now I'm not sure what this phil exposure is ok, so let's that actually does a pretty good job of filling in the shadows this group is small enough that that wasn't really a big deal but when you get into a much larger group you know notice that the further away they get from the light it just starts getting more and heavier and have your shadow so you need to fill it in so we've got that but the last piece of the equation depends on what your background is in this case we left our white background up I'm not going to be able to get this pure white for a group if I squish them in like really friendly I'll be able to because I'll be able to fill that area but that third light you would use to separate them from the background so maybe it's behind them for example it could be and just be a spot in a glow in the background if you're using a black background you could use it as a hair light from above it in this case, we have a silver dish just to pop a little bit of light on the background and can you feather it across a little bit more? Same thing where it's pointed at the background here on the left hand side that's where it's angled right now, the left hand side will be really bright, so if we can feather it across the same ways we're feathering, this light will give us more even lighting left to write me, and I'll tell you what I want for that exposure, not too shabby point a little bit feathered across more. I know the things that you have to be aware of just says issues you'd run into see how she's getting a little bit of highlight on her hair. Exactly. So if she gets a little bit of highlight on her hair from that backlight, we could move them further out from the background. But most of us don't have spaces that large. You could use a piece of sin if oil that we talked about that black foam, black tinfoil or you could use barn doors, but on ly use the barn door next to her hair to block it off from hitting her there's all these things that you're doing all right, so the last thing I'm going to do is one more squished together. And like, turn your future north of lake pretending I'm sorry I don't know each other for real but I'll get asked questions super close look brooke you great perfect and everybody just for one cute one out and down hips back okay, perfect. All right, so you want to take a look and that will give you just even group lighting I could do and industry me preface is I could do more dramatic and more sculpted light for a four person group this is what you would be using if it's five or ten or fifteen people when you're trying to get just nice even light across all right, so that would be a three light setting question and you guys are done unless I need to demo something anya and give a question anybody okay? We're going to come back to groups again tomorrow but I wanted to show you a three light set up for groups all right? Now we're gonna pop forward and just to describe what that was we had a soft box of three by four foot, the bigger the light source you have the better for groups. I'm assuming a lot of people have ah three by four but I would probably use that gigantic seventy two inch umbrella with the diffusion if I can get bigger I will get bigger, bigger modifiers broader like wrapping for a group the next thing I had phil light and I used a white umbrella in case you didn't catch that because I wanted to be soft when I use silver it ends up looking like across light source almost I see like highlights on the shadow side of the face and it isn't flattering so I tend to use white for phil personally and then that last light is how you want to use it to separate the subjects in the background light on the background light and the hair whatever you might want to use it for yes what was your issue? Probably ok so for four filled its main line to feel like it was probably a third of a stop to know two thirds of a stop darker on the shadow side that's it like minimal nothing nothing very dramatic which tends to be easier on letting big groups instead of trying to get dramatic ratios it's really hard to keep dramatic ratios across big groups because the light changes so much all right. So next one three point lighting all right. Three point lady this is the one that I says said makes me the big money okay I'm just getting well I hope big money ok, so what three point light is and this is the this is kind of the culmination this is a great setup that is says so much versatility is fundamentally what it means is you're using three lights one in the front is the main light two as the rim lights to separate the subject from the background but this could be any combination it doesn't matter what it is so I could use in the foreground a beauty dish as the main light on the subject and I could use to barn doors as kickers on the subject to separate them out to give them really really crisp room lights or I could use to strip lights one on either side of the subject as the room lights and I could use a soft box to illuminate the subject and I could use the grade is that you get the idea so what you want to do is you want to treat your main light as the one setting the mood setting the quality of the shadows and so that it doesn't matter where it goes it could go front and center senator paramount's they've got far off to the side rembrandt it doesn't matter so what you want to say is ok what a lot of fire gives me the quality of light that I want to I want something soft like a soft boxing wrestling dramatic like a grid and then where do I want to put it? How much shadowing to mention do I want don't want it to be more or less flat lit or instead do I maybe want to give myself rembrandt and then another question is my bathroom lights do I want them to be really chris or do I want them to be wrapping and that will depend on where you put them and what lot of fires you choose and how far up you turn the lights you want them to really, really, really bright like popping, carving out the edges of the subject or you want just to be settled just carving them out from the back of popping amount so they don't totally blend in there's not really a right or wrong answer so I will bring you back up here and show you what we've got for this one so we will dio the softer flatter version of this can I put it? Can I put it yet? Can I do that one? All right, so the reason I am going to do an octo box on this one is because if I have a lot of wrapping flat light you won't really see the room lights that much I wanted to be like a little bit more focused I would probably use a beauty dish for me but for a portrait you could use an octo box or soft box but let's take a look at these two and think I'll turn it on or you're even ish generally you want these back to room lights right now we have the strip lights we want them to be approximately equal, distant equal power all of that and I'm going to turn the law to make sure they're set out the correct power. Ok? And again, in case you forgot, we have the height set so that it is at or about shoulder level for that the actual head of the light so that we can illuminate her shoulders. Otherwise it's shooting up on her shoulders and you want to see them so we make sure we get this the's room lights set first. Yeah, you three quarter. So tuck your knee over in the front. Perfect. Ok, so and I will I bad cropping, but you'll take another shot. So what you see is those are the two room lights that carver out from the background. Samy crop a little better. Perfect. Ok, so you get the idea for those room lights if I want them to be brighter and just pop from the background, I turn him up so I want them to be more satellite, turn them down. It just kind of depends on what you're looking for and then I'm going to add my main light end, which in this case is an octo box and I'm going to do broad light. This is it's like a which means a late is going to be more towards the front, the shadows are going to be falling away from the camera eric liu pish is good something right there and so this is not a dramatic form okay, this is a less dramatic form of three point light but it's kind of an essential and catching that down just a little bit okay, look into that a little perfect okay, so what you'll have is a red line on either side of her face carving her out from the background and then we have loop light on her face. All right? What you might have noticed also is right now we're shooting on a white background in the first shot without the main light it was dark gray when we out of the main light it's kind of hitting the background so now the background goes later gray so we can gather the light and try to point it away from the background or can you grab that black? The little yeah so this is I was talking about with the flag is you don't have to have an assistant there. This is what those eight clamps or super clamps or for you could just put it there where you don't want to put it is like or like here because what happens it's going to block off the room light hitting her so you're needed basically flat up against that light that you're trying to block some of you one more time and watch how much darker the background will now be and so everything gets just a little bit darker so you do have more control so even at this distance everyone asked me well how do you have control over your light in a small space when this would this we have a couple feet we could move our lights back this would be a pretty small space to do through point light you don't need to have a huge space and so I'm uh joel grimes is one of my friends and I went to his studio and had in pasadena and I walked into his face and he's like the master of this lighting set up and I walk into a space he was heinie I mean literally it's it's not bigger than this I'm like oh that's where do you shoot and he's like you're here and I was like I don't know if you ever saw it was low sailings tiny space and he makes it happen so it's my no excuses things and now I work with work with whatever I'm given all right so we've got that set up so this is like a basic three point light portrait set up but we tell us again why for you this is your money shot okay what is it that other people see or that's different like your clients and it's not end of the thing is it's not even that my style it's that this is what is in commercially because it's really easy to composite these shots and you can help mimic a background so if I wanted if I take her to take three steps back if I want those room lights to wrap around more to wrap around her face aiken step her back and then it could move the octo box to match and no, I could center it and I can give myself a type of lighting that will now look like it's and maybe against a lighter background like maybe a really overexposed I'm thinking like an architectural shot with really cool columns in the background well, now I can change the mood to match that so it's really good for compositing and it's also really good for carving out the female form so if you're looking at this I just did a basic pose but if you want to show some curves and you want to show some curves and you want to show some social shape it would be this let me to show this variety gotham short okay, here we go right there is perfect and then can I have the filth card please? So I find story is like I'm avoiding too much posing here okay, so perfect um I can angle it down a tiny bit just super short, ok all right, I know I'm ok so all I did was all you saw I moved her back towards the background so wrapped those room lights around her a little bit more I move the light over to the center a little bit more so it flattens out the shadows and added a phil light and it will be a totally different photograph and a little bit lower with it down a little. Okay, so watch the difference in the quality for like that little bit of change ready and now it's a super like glowing and I could composite that and have it on a background where there's something like like I can think of a photo that joel has it's on a beach there's like a beach. Ah, high key setting behind. Now the light matches that better because it is softer, it is flatter. It has more of wrath like that. Maybe the sky behind her where is in the other shot? It would be much more dramatic. Like I was dropping it in a nighttime scene. So that's why it's so popular is that you could do so much with it for compositing. Thanks for that. Now look, I feel like that joel joel shot you and I feel like he used something that looked kind of like that because you look, you look like I remember that faces joel poor fool hill remember that she's he's voted after a front line? Yeah maybe a little techie or whatever, but when you're shooting for a client, do they show you the background? They're intending and a new shoot that or they do the other way around her? That is a fantastic question. In best case scenario, they show me the background that they're looking for and not the background just so everyone knows you're not going with the background like behind, like my seamless that I have here, but what it's going to be composited into what's the final scene? Um, and I would say one in ten times, do they actually know? Because they're like, give me something that we can drop in drop in what? And the client I'm shooting for just to give an idea it would be like reality tv people, and so they're using him on different posters and different style. But if it is a big production shoe, they know what the end look is. They have art direction that could tell me what the end will feel will look like you spend with one light sets up roughly, not statistical. Well, ok, well, I there could be extremes like last week I shot this campaign where we spend three hours, but that's not usual, usually, I would say I shoot for twenty minutes with a particular lighting set up, and then we move on and I use it to warm up the subject and kind of feel what looks best in that by twenty minutes. The subject is sick of sitting there for me like they're ready for to try something at least that's what the vibe I get like we get into it on to the next one. I did one little question here. We're talking about it break, but some folks have never seen this light stand with the three wheels on it. Would you mind just talking about what that is? When I moved into my studio in new york, I inherited one of these I didn't actually know what they were four but go for it. So it's pretty standard lee available and it's just let's just go up and down really easily so it's a pistol grip here so just let's just go up and down, spin and move things really easy and you can put multiple lights on that and you can put more of these claims these clamps to this clamp here you can put two, three of them on here and have multiple lights on it and special it comes with it, you can buy extra ones again it's a joke man front a part I don't remember the part numbers cool man front e I want to be a battle the part number no problem one that I have in my space is I think it's a woman photo but it's silver yeah they come with a silver cool too and I get photogenic may also make one that's silver pole and how I use it is for when I'm stacking like when I'm trying to evenly light someone had to tow I might put one right here in another light below networks pretty cool all right, so the last one that I'm going to talk about in this little intro wish section two three point light is the checkerboard light we were talking about before but with three lights so we just keep adding and just showing it gives you more capabilities so for the checkerboard light I need remember letting her face and I'm going to leave the octo box up instead of switching to the same idea instead of switching to the soft box scene great! I am going to put this plate and I'm gonna bring you forward a little good if you come in you can keep going. Okay good so I just watch where she stood made a difference the rembrandt light takes two steps back and it's our dropping around one more like that's more loops I'm even the distance I'm bring her up and down makes a difference yeah right there right there you do my little shuffle now ok perfect and take a half step that way great and I don't have to do this rembrandt I can also do short light bring it around we're going to hit you this way a little bit turn your head to the side your body is well perfect okay, so wherever you want that light you want more shadow pull it around to the side more the reason I ended up doing short light here since I am shooting on a white background I don't want it to be white I wanted to be dark now the light is not hitting that mainly it's not hitting the background at all if I brought it around to the front I'd be struggling with trying to make that background darker so no problems here. Perfect. So let's test and I'm going tio build this late thank you. And when I say build the light I don't start with all my lights on I kind of go sequentially and add them in so I get the look that I want and so you guys can see how it's being put together. All right? Any impresses, tio just like perfect maybe no it again one more time, okay, six three on that one all right, let me take a quick tested six three actually now it's well, you look pretty anyway eso it short like rembrandt no definition on the right hand side of her face, so we added a strip light and we're adding in the strip light to get for separation from the background perfect and now we'll have a little bit of definition and highlight on her jaw so she no longer blends in which is also a nice dramatic effect, but if you want just a little bit more detail or interest in the background, your third light would be a grid or a snoot giving you a highlight on the background now, as I said before, technically for checkerboard you would dio shadow background highlight face shadow face highlight background but now she has a room line so stick wherever you get like wherever it looks cool, so I'm gonna have you angle it a little bit further right for me, john good it's, charlie great and perfect and you could even have it directly behind her head for a little bit of glow and I don't know for me this reminds me of the tag ads they have like that kind of watch, but maybe with a little bit more phil like a white card from here, so if you brought the white card here fill in the shadows a little bit has that that tag I'm thinking the leonardo dicaprio won for example, yeah, I saw some smiles in the front row is good. Okay, so those are my three lights set ups that are, like kind of the essentials.

Class Materials

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Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


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.

Jason Ashley

I loved this course! Lindsay spent so much time with explaining each set-up in-depth that anyone picking up a camera could understand how to accomplish their lighting goals. This course covered so many unique (but, most likely to come across scenarios) and how one would approach the challenge and how to successfully accomplish with incredible results, not average-sub-standard or basic results, but above entry-level standards, high-level, money-generating lighting expertise! ZERO laziness in her explanations to the point where she is constantly refining her course in the middle of the 3 days. Her passion gleams throughout each days lessons with so much energy. You know she really wants her students both in-person and through the screen to be successful in whatever type of lighting they choose to dabble in. I am so happy, I have bookmarked, and i'm so happy and fortunate to have this course to reference for hopefully –everrrr. Thanks!

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!!!!

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