How To Set Up A “Monster” Lighting

by William Lulow

Have you ever held a flashlight under your chin to try to scare someone? Well, then you have executed what we call a “monster” lighting. It is really just placing the main light under someone’s chin. It creates shadows on the face that make someone look scary. An example:

ManNecklaceYou can see the shadows above the lip, on top of the nose as well as on top of the shoulders. This lighting creates unusual and very distinct shadows. It is usually used to make a dramatic statement. This is not recommended to be used by itself, but when combined with a HOLLYWOOD LIGHT, for example, it acts as a fill-in light to make beauty shots and head shots. When you combine it with a soft, Hollywood lighting, it provides a very effective fill-in. Here is an example:

Emma_0043WEBIf you look carefully at the “catchlights” in the subject’s eyes, you will notice the reflection of the umbrella main light, which is up high. Then you can notice the “MONSTER” fill-in light which is placed down low. This provides a smooth lighting where all the features of the face are lit fairly evenly with very slight shadows. The trick to using this lighting is that the Monster Light has to come from a softbox in order to keep the whole lighting effect soft. But even though the overall lighting is soft, there is still some faint shadowing on one side of the face. This is necessary to give it some added depth. In this case, the MONSTER fill-in light is about 1.5 stops less than the main light.