How To Use Your Studio Lighting Techniques For Creative Effect!

by William Lulow

I’ve always taught that once you know your basic studio lightings, you can use them when you see them, wherever you happen to be shooting. Recently, I shot an engagement party in a restaurant setting. I did the regular group shots at the tables like the one below:

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But while most of the guests were enjoying their meals, I decided to use my lighting setup to get some different kinds of images. Most occasions like this require a photographer simply to light up the room sufficiently to make good exposures and to catch good expressions from all attendees.

My setup usually consists of a couple of portable speedlights bounced off the ceiling, plus a speedlight on-camera to make sure my subjects are well lit. Since I had some time here, I decided to play around with one of my off-camera lights and aim it directly at the bride and groom. Turning off all my other lights, I just used the one speedlight.  So, this is one such image obtained from this setup:

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I positioned the camera here so that the direction of the light can easily be seen. This position makes the light approximately a HOLLYWOOD LIGHT, because it is higher than the camera and just a bit off to one side. You can see the direction of light from the shadows on the table.

For the shot below, I just changed the camera position so that the light  would be in a SIDE LIGHT or EDGE LIGHT position relative to the subjects and it yielded this result:

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With a little bit of post production and a minimal amount of retouching, I arrived at this image:

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It’s basically a shot of the couple sitting at the same table as in the first shot, only this time, lit only by one speedlight! You can see detail in the woman’s face’s unlit side because there was some reflection off the white tablecloth.

Knowing your studio lighting not only helps you to set up proper lighting conditions when subjects come to you, it also helps you to look for these same kinds of conditions when you shoot on location. This knowledge can also help you find interesting lightings in nature as well as adding a creative dimension to many of your sessions.