In the last few weeks we have had a lot to do with first time studio users and people who wanted to know a bit more about lighting a subject. When you take control of the the light you have far more control over the final image, but at first it can be difficult to understand. There is no one single way to set up your studio lights, but rather a number of way that will provide you different types of lighting effects. The set up you chose will depend, on the subject you are photographing, (such as a human model or a static product), the lights you have available and the result you want to achieve. As your knowledge, experience and equipment improves so will the complexity of your lighting set-ups. These set-ups are very basic way of getting into lighting and should not be thought of as the perfect set-up but rather set-ups that you can try out easily, either in a studio or with your own system flash(s). We deliberately haven't gone into using things like light modifiers (Soft-Boxes, Umbrellas, Beauty-Dishes etc). That is simply all to much for one topic, and will be covered in the future. Also dont forget that the hight of your lights will also play an important roll when setting up your own set-up
One Strobe set-up
A one light set up is great for a simple photo shoot or for a starting photographer who has not yet accumulated a lot of lighting equipment. The camera is placed directly in front of the subject, with the single light slightly to the side of the photographer. The light is pointed directly at the subject. Because a single light set up tends to create many shadows, a white reflector should be placed on the opposite side of the subject just out of frame. If the photographer don't have a reflector, any white surface (such as paper, poster board, polystyrene or even a wall) can be used. It is simple and cheap way to get started, it can be very affective when use properly.
Two Strobe set-up
The simplest studio lighting set up is the standard two light system. The first light of the two (called a key light) , and should be placed in front of the subject (between the subject and the camera) and slightly to your side. The light should be directly facing the subject. Because lighting of this type tends to be harsh, the light can be softened with a soft box or umbrella. The second light should be placed behind and slightly above the subject just out of frame. This is called the hair or rim light, and will create a soft halo of light around your subject. NOTE:Your hair light may need to be set to a high power out put then your key light, to get the halo affect.
Another very easy set up with 2 lights is both light s are placed in front of the subject (one left, one right) in approximately the same position, and you shoot from the middle point. Set one of the flashes to have more power then the other. The flash with more power will be your key light and the weaker one will be you fill light. If both lights are set to the same power this will create a very flat light.
A third simple two strobe set-up (that will create a lot more dramatic light) is when both flashes are on the same side. Either both left or both right of the point you are shooting from. If you use the flash furthest away from you as your key light and the closest flash as your fill light you will achieve a very cool look very easily.
Three Strobe set-up
By reversing the first three strobe set up you will totality change your results. Place your Key light close to the same position as where your shooting from. And then set up two rim lights behind your subject, one to the left and one to the right.
The clamshell lighting set up provides the softest light and is ideal for beauty shots. The camera should be placed even with the subject--at eye level if using a model, or straight on to a static product. The largest light should be placed above the camera and be pointed down slightly so that it is aimed directly at the subject. The smaller light should be placed below the camera and be pointed upward slightly so that it is aimed directly at the subject. You shoot from in between the two lights so that the lights create a "clamshell shape" around the camera.
The Key light
Also called a main light, the key light is usually placed to one side of the subject's face, between 30 and 60 degrees off centre and a bit higher than eye level. The key light is the brightest light in the lighting plan
The Fill light
Placed opposite the key light, the fill light fills in or softens the shadows on the opposite side of the face. The brightness of the fill light is usually between 1/3 and 1/4 that of the key light.
The Hair light
Also called a rim light or back light, the rim light is placed behind the subject, out of the picture frame, and often rather higher than the Key light or Fill. The point of the rim light is to provide separation from the background by highlighting the subject's shoulders and hair. The rim light should be just bright enough to provide separation from the background, but not as bright as the key light.
Some times called a popper. A kicker normally is a small light, often used with a snoot or barn door to limit its coverage. It is generally used to add a bot of "pop" to a fine detail or fill in fine shadows. The placement and brightness of a kicker is a matter of taste and technique. Sometimes the rim light is set just off to the side, on the fill light side. This can add edge detail to the shadowed side of your model's face. This can add the effect of having a kicker light using only the three basis lights of three point lighting.
Not so much a part of the portrait lighting plan, but rather designed to provide illumination for the background behind the subject, background lights can pick out details in the background, provide a halo effect by illuminating a portion of a backdrop behind the subject's head, or turn the background pure white by filling it with light