Free Photography Tutorials, Beginners to Advanced

An Introduction to Studio Lighting

Studio Lighting closeup of cocktail glass

Once you develop a taste for indoor photography it is only a matter of time before you will want your own studio lighting setup. A studio setup can be anything from a few table lamps and a spare sheet for the background to an elaborate multi flash system.

Although continuous light can be used, I would thoroughly recommend that, if you want to get serious about studio photography, you invest in a couple of studio flash heads. These do not need to be expensive, nowadays you can get a couple of lights for about the same price as a halfway decent telephoto lens.

Studio flash heads have several advantages for the photographer because they are powerful, even the lower priced units kick out much more power that the average portable flash, and infinitely more than continuous light. This means that you can control the light in interesting ways by using umbrellas and soft boxes to diffuse the light and soften the shadows, whilst still getting a reasonable exposure at a small aperture. Flash can freeze the action (as you can see from the picture on the right), with very fast exposure times, and give you all the depth of field you need. All the head shots on the following pages were exposed at 1/100sec at f32 with the ISO set at 200. Although your portrait sitter will not move as fast as my Martini, hopefully, the pictures will be a lot sharper using flash than they will using continuous light. Studio flash heads also recycle very fast, much faster than a portable flashgun, so you can keep shooting at a fast rate, which is important when you are doing portraits.

You don't need to go for any top of the range lights unless you are going to take up studio photography for a career. The top professional gear will be bigger, more powerful and more reliable when used all day everyday, but in my experience the bottom of the range lights are certainly powerful enough for use with our DSLR cameras, and as for reliability, I have had the same lights for ten years now and would expect at least another ten years' service out of them. I have never had any reliability problems with studio flash, which is a lot more than I can say for the portable battery flashguns that I have used over the years.

Other tutorials in this section


Introduction page.

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Available Light

Getting the best out of the sun.

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Using Reflectors

Filling in the shadows.

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Break away from the in-camera flash.

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Fill-in Flash

Soften those shadows.

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Red Eye Removal

A quick remedy in Photoshop.

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Studio Lighting

An introduction to indoor lighting.

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Inverse Square Law

A bit of Physics for those who feel the need.

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