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Understanding Light

Lesson 25 of 34

Three Light Setup

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

25. Three Light Setup

Lesson Info

Three Light Setup

So we are going to start today by talking about the basic three light set up. And Lexa's gonna be here, hopefully any second so we can have our model. We are going to be going through, to show you not only what the three light set up is, but how to translate that into something that is a little bit more advanced. And so, almost anything that you do is based on this three light set up in a studio lighting situation or a portrait lighting situation. Not necessarily with scenic photography, but with portrait photography, almost everything is based on this. And you can have a set up that is 12, 15 lights, which is rare, but you could. And it still follows the principles of a basic three light set up. So that's why we're gonna teach this. We're gonna teach this in a way that is very basic, and the lighting set up that we're gonna teach you can take it home and use it. It is a very vanilla lighting set up. It's something that they might have used to do school portraits in the '70s. So it's n...

ot a spectacular lighting set up, but it illustrates the terms very clearly. So that's what we're gonna start with. And then as we do that we're gonna be walking through some principles of light ratios. So that's where we're headed right now. So what I wanna do first, is whiteboard out what we're doing. Yeah, I guess I should get my little clicker here. So we're gonna whiteboard out what we're doing. And this is how I diagram my lighting set ups. I don't know that this is a industry standard at all, in fact I'm positive it is not. But it's the way I do it, because it's really easy to understand and it works with the way I think. So I'll show you the way I do this, and then you can either choose to use it, or you can see how other photographers do lighting diagrams and it might work for you. So, how we're gonna set this up, we are going to have our white seamless, so this is a seamless piece of white weight paper, so usually it's just called white seamless. Sometimes this is called a cyce, short for cyclorama, that's a theater term, it's this big thing that goes around the back of a theater. Not a movie theater, but an actual theater where people act. And so I have a theater background, so a lot of times I'll call this a cyce. And people are like, what are you talking about? But that's what I'm talking about. Is this white seamless piece of paper, and then in some studios it's called a cove. So it's a same kind of thing, it's just this white permanently installed wall. That's usually called a cove. But anyway, that's what this is. That's how I diagram that. And what we're going to do is, this is from the top down. We'll have Lex on a stool. So that's the top of Lex's head, and we'll put a nose on her, and here's her shoulders. So that's Lex. We're gonna be shooting here, this is the camera. And then what we're going to have is our first light, right there. Now, first light, we're gonna begin with basic closed loop lighting that we learned about yesterday. And so we'll put that at about a 45, 45. And this is what we call our key light. Or our main light, main. And those I use interchangeably. So don't be frustrated with that. Key light, main light. And this is what anchors our lighting set up. And it doesn't matter if you have 50 lights or one light, you always have to have one light that sort of anchors everything you're doing. And this could even be natural light. So this might be a window or it could be the sky, it could be whatever, but there's something that has to be the thing that anchors your entire lighting set up. And so what I suggest that you always do, is start with one light and get that dialed in before you add anything else. 'Cause a lot of times when you add a bunch of lights, it's difficult to figure out what's happening in that situation. But if you just start with one and then build and then build and then build, it's much easier to do that. Now this afternoon, we're gonna be doing a crazy set up with a bunch of lights. And I'm gonna sort of throw that out the window for times' sake, we're just gonna set it all up. But it's the set up I've done a lot. So this is our key light. And for this, I'm gonna put a zero next to that. That's a zero, and that'll make sense in a second. Over here, we're going to add a fill light. And the fill light is, so if we put a little line down the center of this, this key light is illuminating one side of our subjects face, and we're gonna have shadows on the opposite side that we may want to soften just a bit. We might wanna light those up a little bit so they're not quite as a dark. Okay, and so that's what the fill light does, it just fills in a little bit. And usually you want this fill light to be not as bright as the key light. And so what I'll do here, is I'll put a negative one, or a negative two, or a negative three, based on how much lower I want this light to be, and these are stops. I want this to be one stop less or two stops less, or three stops less. So when I have an advanced lighting diagram, what you'll see on that diagram you'll see lights with numbers next to them. Either a positive number or a negative number, saying this is what I want the light to be in relationship to the key light, alright? And so a lot of people will use actual lighting ratios, and I'm really bad at math. And so let me show you why I don't use lighting ratios to illustrate this on my whiteboard. So a one to one lighting ratio means there's no difference between the key light and the fill light, or the key light and the kicker light, or whatever. So between two lights, no difference, they're the same power. A two to one ratio means there's a one stop difference. So that makes sense to me. So it's twice as bright, two to one. A four to one is a two stop difference. And so because it's exponential, and usual you don't go beyond four to one. But a four to one ratio is not four stops brighter, it's two stops brighter. And so because I'm bad at math I get those confused. And I'll start wanting to do a four to one ratio and then I'll just go way too far. And so to keep it simple for me, I just use numbers. And the other reason I use numbers is because what I showed you yesterday on my light meter, the EV value shows up in stops. So it's easy for me to go, oh, this is one stop less, and so we're just gonna say negative one. And then on my light meter it just says negative one. Super easy. But as I'm building out lighting set ups and figuring those out, I have a little notebook. I didn't bring it with me today. But I've got tons of notes of different diagrams and they all have numbers next to them saying what the relationship is between the key and anything else. So the only light that doesn't usually have a number on it, is the key light on my little diagrams, unless there's a light that doesn't need to be anything but equal to the main light, and usually it's got nothing or zero. That make sense so far? Okay, so we're gonna do this where this is a two to one ratio. So this light will be one stop lower than this light. So we have key or main, fill, and then what we're going to do, is we're going to have this light back here, and this is a separation light, or sometimes called a kicker. And this one is usually plus one. So generally speaking, this is one stop brighter than the main light. And that plus one, by the way, oh by the way, this is also called a hair light. So this can be called three different things. And let me tell you why I'll use three different terms for this light. So if I have a model that has really dark hair, or a subject that's really dark and a really dark background, and I'm throwing light on that to try to separate the subject from the background, I'll call it a separation light. If I'm doing a glamor set up, and I'm trying to illuminate the shape of whoever I'm shooting and make 'em look a little bit glowy, I usually call that a kicker light. If I'm doing a basic Olan Mills type portrait, and I'm illuminating the hair to sort of give it a glow, I usually call that a hair light. So usually if it's a blonde model it's a hair light, and if it's a brunette model, it's a separation light. Even though they're the exact same light, they're doing two different things. So that one is usually plus one. The other thing with this, that plus one, is highly dependent on whatever it is you're shooting. So the darker the subject is, usually you're at one stop more. But if you have somebody that has very light hair, if you do this one stop more than the key light, usually you'll blow the hair out or make it look weird, and so you might have to dial this down. So everything we're gonna do here, is a starting point, but then we have to adjust to taste to make sure that that all works. So this is a basic three light set up, and what we'll find is, almost anything that we do in a studio or even on location, follows this. So think about yesterday or day before yesterday, whenever it was, when we were out on the street. We had a key light, which was the sun, and we had a fill light, which was our white reflector, and we had a hair light, which was the silver reflector. It was a three light set up, but we just did it with natural light. And so, all that happens, over and over you'll see this. The other kind of light that we don't have on here, is called a special. And a special is when you have a light that's illuminating one special part of the scene, not necessarily the main part. And so you might have, like a lamp in the scene and you'll put a little speed light inside that lamp to make it show up, that's called a special. Or maybe you're illuminating a sign or something like that in the scene. You'd put a light on that, that's called a special. So that's the other light that you might see show up from time to time. Okay, so the basic three light set up, that's the diagram, we're actually gonna do it, so Lexa's gonna come out here, and we are gonna start shaping this light. And we're gonna meter this as we go. Hi, welcome to the day! Good morning Yay, good morning! So we are going to start with our key light, and we're gonna light the key light over here. So you can see, but as we build this out, unfortunately we're gonna be surrounding her with lights. And so it'll be more and more difficult for you to see, but hopefully between all the cameras, we'll see everything. So I'm gonna move this stuff around. And we will start building this out. And we've preset some of this stuff to make it easier to work with. So I'm gonna start with very very easy to use light. And because I'm using these soft boxes and we're working in sort of a small environment, and we have a terrific model, it's gonna be very difficult for us to get this wrong. But if we were shooting with harder lights, it would be a lot easier to mess things up. And after this, we're gonna try to mess some things up with shadows, and talk to you about how fixing them. So, if you're starting out with studio lighting, this set up is awesome because it's really difficult to get things wrong. So John can you plug this in for me, somewhere? And again we're triggering these using pocket wizards, and the reason we're using pocket wizards, is my light meter has a pocket wizard trigger in it. These also have a different triggering system, but we're not using that. Okay. Awesome, we're gonna do everything in manual mode. So this is all manual mode. So the first thing I'm going to do, is put this, about like this, so if my camera is here, this is about at a 45 and a 45, and we should get basic Rembrandt closed loop light. Now, we're not gonna get a lot of shadows over on this side of Lexa's face because the soft box is so close so it's gonna sort of wrap around. And so to try to augment those, I'm gonna bring this back just a hair. But normally I would get this as close as I possibly can, to get that nice wrap around soft light. Okay, so we're gonna do that. Step one, is for us to meter the light. That's what we wanna do. So Lumishere is up, I have this set to my cameras ISO, which is 100, I have it set to my cameras sync speed, which is 200, and I'm gonna solve for the aperture value. Now in this, I know that I want to shoot this at F11. Why, once again, we wanna have nice depth of field. That's what we want. And we also wanna sort of eliminate some of the ambient light that's floating around in the studio right now. So we're gonna close down the aperture just a bit. We might even go to 16, just to really close things down. But 11 is a good starting point. So let's see what we have, I'm gonna come back over here, just like what we learned yesterday, point it to where my camera's going to be. Take a reading, and that tells me I'm at 4.5. I'm gonna take another reading, sometimes when I take my first reading and I'm not so confident, I'll always take a second reading, and the reason I'm not so confident in this reading, is that I think that flash, that was the first flash it had, it might have dumped some power. So I wanna see if it was actually charged up. So I'll do this again. 4.5, so we were good. But when in doubt, always meter one more time. So, let's give us some more power, we need to be at 11, so let's go up, what, three stops? Is that right? So John is changing that. And if you, John if you push on that, Push is just one stop. Yeah, it'll do one stop, alright. So I push my button to make that flash again. We'll take a little reading here, that's at 16, so let's go down. This is sorta crazy, we can't do it here, but on my Pro Photo Acute lights, I've used them for so long, that I can get within probably a half stop of what the light needs to be, based on the sound it makes when it pops. So you'll start, it's almost like an instrument if you use those lights over and over. See where we are here, that's 10. So let's just go up a third stop, just three little notches. There we go. 11! So we're exactly at 11. And that's one of the things I love about these lights, is you can just say, oh we need to go exactly one thirds stop, and it's exactly one third stop. Alright, let's take a shot, and see how things look. So I'll grab my camera here. Did you change batteries in the camera? No I did not. You're fine. I think we're good on the battery, if it dies we're-- I got one. We have one, okay. I'm like, I thought we had one on stand by. We do have one on stand by. Okay, so we're gonna take a shot here, so I'm going to take my camera, I'm gonna try to put it on the tripod and leave it so we can sort of build out these lights. And we can see exactly what's happening here. So I'm setting this to 200, F11, ISO 100. Okay, so on this, we're seeing, this is perfect, this is perfect. This is great, I can't wait for you guys to see this. 'Cause now we're gonna see the issue that we were talking about yesterday. 'Member I said that this camera is sort of finicky on the shutter speed when we were shooting at 200? No photo selected. Oh, here we go. Just don't like your tether. Nope, it's got a flag on it. It's flagged. Here we go. There it is. Alright, so on this, this is terrific. You can see right here, you see that? That's the shutter. That's the shutter showing up in there. So a 200th of a second, sometimes when the shutter is just waking up in the day, it'll be a little slower than later on once it's been used a little bit. And so right now we're gonna slow the shutter down to 160, to make sure we don't have that. So, and the 5D mark two, and the 5D mark three, mainly the 5D mark two, thank you, they have a reputation for doing this. So watch this, when this next one comes in you'll see that disappear. So the thing with that, and I have done this so many times, a lot of times, and I'll do this, I'm gonna exaggerate this a little bit because I've seen this happen a few times. I'll be shooting vertically, thank you, I guess I should show you what I'm doing. And I'll do something like this. Not talking to Lex at all, I'm breaking all the rules, I'm just like, I'll just shoot, she knows. (laughing) So sometimes I'll shoot, and I've exaggerated this just a bit, so this I shot at 320, to really get that shutter in there. Sometimes I'll be shooting at like, let's say, 200 or 250, and I'll see this black area, and it'll correspond to where the soft box is, and I'll start moving the soft box to try to fix it, and I have done this so many times, where I'm shooting and I'm like, the soft box is in the way, and I'll move it, and I'm like, it's still in the way, what the heck? And then I realize, oh it's my shutter. So, have you ever done that John? Or is it just me? Probably just me. Okay, anyway so we're-- I just don't turn on the pocket, that one I do every day. (laughing) That one you do everyday. Alright, let me take one more shot to get us back on track here. And Lexa I'm gonna take a picture, so smile. Thank you. (laughing) Perfect. Okay. Yeah, she's a mind reader, that's what she is. She just knows. Alright, so now we have a shadows on the right side of her face, or left side depending on which side you're looking from, and what we want to do is we want to minimize some of these shadows right here, okay? So our key light is set. We don't have perfect Rembrandt light because that soft box is so large, it's just wrapping around, so it's killing these shadows here. But you get the idea. What we wanna do now is sort of soften this. Alright, so we're gonna bring that light out, I'll trade you lights John. That one's plugged in, so don't go to far. Oh, don't push it too far! That's what my mom used to say when I was, sorry. Is that bonking you right there? No big problem here? Alright, so what I'm gonna do here, is we're gonna take this light, we're setting it to the opposite side, and we're gonna raise it up, about like that. And since this is a fill, I'm just gonna leave it sort of flat. We're just filling in some shadows. Like that, and I'll pop it back a little bit. And there we go, thank you. So I'm gonna just take a peak on this light, that's at six, nine, so seven. Infrared is on, okay. So on these lights, that one was set at a power level of seven. I'm just gonna start with this one at a power level of six, because that's one stop less on this light. I know it's not gonna work out to be exactly right because the distance is not the same between those two lights. So if the distance was exactly equal, then it would be exactly one stop less, but since it's not, we'll have to be a little bit finicky. So let's talk about how we meter this. So, the first thing I wanna do, is Lumisphere down, and I'm going to meter my key light, so this light over here, I'm gonna meter that, not for exposure, but just to see how bright it is, so I can compare it to my fill light. Okay, so Lumisphere down, I'm going underneath the chin of Lex, and I'm pointing it straight at my light. So I'm gonna do that, we've got that. And just to make sure that I have an accurate reading, I'm actually gonna step in here, I'm gonna block the light from this one, I'll take that reading. And that meter's at 13. So, we metered originally at 11, why is that at 13? Because when we originally metered, the Lumisphere was up, and it was accounting not only for the light, but all of the shade that was over there, and so it said we needed a wider aperture. So that's why you put the Lumisphere down and go to the light. We're not metering for exposure, we're just metering for our relationships. Okay, so that's done, I'm going to put that in memory. I'm going to press my little delta EV button that we learned about yesterday. And then I'm gonna go to the opposite side, and then I'm gonna meter this light. Metering it right there. Pushing and holding. And this says negative two, so it's exactly two stops less. And so we want it to be negative one, one stop less. So what I'll do is I'll increase that to one. I'm increasing that power to one stop. And I'm gonna come in here, we're gonna do that one more time. I'll point it right at the light. Push and hold, and now this says 1.5. And so, even though this is saying it's doubling in power, sometimes you still have to finesse that because of either reflections on the ground or soft boxes, or maybe some influence of light somewhere else. But we need to give this a little bit more light. I gotta make sure, did that say negative 1.5? I think it did. Yeah, sometimes I work the wrong way. So we'll do that one more time. Yeah, and we're gonna take this. Now this says negative 1.1. So it's one stop less light than we had. So we could finesse that a little bit more, but we're gonna keep moving. So one tenth of a stop, we'll take it. K, so we have that, and now we're gonna take another reading, and this new reading, what we're gonna do, is we're gonna meter both lights. Because, when you start adding multiple lights, you're adding light. And so you have to make sure that, are you still at 11? Or now are we at a different aperture value? So we're gonna go ahead and meter that. So again, I have to come back, make sure I'm not in the way. Also I need to clear out the memory, so I'm gonna change the mode, come back, so we're ready to go. And now it's metering F14, because one plus one doesn't equal one, right? When you start adding lights, you're adding light. So now our exposure's changed a little bit. And what we can do is, if we had something like this in the future, and we still wanted to be at 11, we could take our lights and dial them all down equally, to get where we needed to be. For now, we're just gonna go with it. We're gonna go with 14. So I'm gonna take a shot. So, yes, you're smiling it looks great. Okay, so now when this shot comes up, it's very very flat lighting, we still see some shadows over here, this is loading in the raw. But it's pretty flat, and so a two to one ratio with soft boxes looks a lot like a one to one ratio. It looks very very similar. We don't have a lot of definition. You can see some shadows over here, again, this screen isn't calibrated like my computer monitor, my computer monitor you can actually see a little bit more of the shadows over here. But this is a two to one ratio. We could really pull this out and go down quite a bit more. The other way that you can do this, if you just wanna do this quickly, is just dial this down, take a picture, see how it looks, and just do it by using your eyeballs. So there are a few photographers that do that. Tamar Levine is a great photographer in LA, and she does all of her lighting set ups like that. She just turns 'em on and sees how it looks and goe-- I don't know how she does it, but she's very successful and does a great job. Okay, so that is the key and the fill light, and how to meter that. The next thing we're going to do, is we're going to meter the hair light. Now on this, because we're working in a pretty small space, these lights are hitting our white background, and that light is reflecting. So the white here is reflecting light back. And so normally I wouldn't put a hair light on this shot, but we're gonna do it just because we need to learn how to meter that stuff, okay? So as soon as we do that, what we're gonna get is over exposed hair, but we're gonna do it just so you understand the principles. Still with me? Okay, I'm gonna tie my shoe eventually. So don't let it-- (laughing) You guys are all like, I will, I know it's there! I don't wanna stop everything and tie my shoe, but everybody's going, is he gonna tie that shoe? I will. (laughing) Raise your hand if you were wondering? Yeah, everybody was wondering. You were wondering that, yeah. I'll do it, I'll just tie it right now, just 'cause, yeah. (laughing) The whole workshop comes down, 'cause my shoe is untied. Yeah, I was aware. Alright, let's keep going, this is so funny. You're still at F11 on the camera. Still F11, yeah, oh am I? Yeah. Oh, John points out something that's very critical. I didn't change my aperture on my camera. So let's actually, what did we meter at? 14. 14, yeah, let me do it again before you turn that on. John's like, oh by the way, you didn't change your aperture, so you're exposure was wrong. It was my shoe distracting me, that's what it was. Okay, yeah, now we'll see. It's not the monitor that's not calibrated, I just didn't, same look, just not as bright. Okay, good. We need to do a color management class so I can, like, we would calibrate that monitor and fix it. Maybe we'll do that on a lunch break. Actually that monitor's gotta be lighter so the cameras pick it up better. Oh, that's what it is. It's calibrated for the cameras, that works. Alright, so what we're gonna do next, I'm going to just show what we've done here. This, John, we're gonna need an extension cord. This will never make it. Where do you wanna go to? It just needs to go up and over, so as soon as I raise it up. Try raising it up on this side. Okay. Let me just power that down for a second. Yeah, so we're low on extension cords. The whole shoe thing, just it's shoe gate, lace gate? Yeah, I could see you looking, going, tie your shoe! Let's come in from this side. Okay, we'll come in from the opposite side here. So what we're gonna do here is, we have this on a boom, because we don't want the light to show up in the photo. And so we're just gonna twist this around. Like that. And the other thing that we're gonna use eventually is, this doesn't have any kind of grid in it. And we're gonna put a grid on that because what's gonna happen is the light's gonna go right into the lens. And we don't want that. And so we have to move this around, about like this. So we know it's behind Lexa's head. I'm gonna put a sand bag on this so we don't have something falling over. There we go, that's good. And then what we'll do, is we'll just start working with this. The other thing that we might need for this is a small step stool, or I might have to adjust the light. Not that your short, but you're a little short. Put this guy up here. And this is very very close, just like that. Need an apple box. Yeah, we all need an apple box, or some kind of stool, something so you can get up like that. That's the joy of mono lights. Yes, you have a question. Is there like a rule as how high you should put the hair light? Yes, there is actually. Let's see if we can show this. I'm gonna turn off the modeling lights on the front here. And I'll move this camera, so our video camera here can show this. So, yeah. One of the problems with having a hair light that's back there, sometimes that can spill over onto the face. And so if we had a hair light that was very vertical, and I'll do this. Here we go. So let's say we had this and it was really vertical. Something like this, we're gonna move it even farther forward. Scoot it around your apple box. Yeah, so and this would be like really high, way up. And it seems like this is exaggerated, but we're doing this because sometimes you'll have a separation light that's very very high. And what happens is, it will spill over, and will get light on the nose of our subject, or sometimes if it's at an angle and not directly behind, we'll see it spilling across and starting to cast shadows on the front of the person. So I'm really particular to make sure that it only falls on the shoulder and the back of the head. And that nothing spills. The other thing that happens is, if we have it back where we had it before, and this apple box by the way, reminds me of Dane Sanders, he's a photographer in Southern California. He has a whole workshop on, like a part of his workshop, on all the different things you can do with an apple box. It's really funny, it's good times. Okay, so if we have this back here, so Lex, let's have you look left. What happens is, notice that now, this hair light just changed the light on her face. And so you have to be very particular about that. If that starts happening, then you would have to move this over. So those are the kinds of things that you look for with a separation light or a hair light, is it really just on the back of that persons head, or the back of the product, or is it spilling over onto the front? So if you gridded that-- It's gonna constrain that. So more so, it possibly would not spill as much? Yep Okay. The other thing that's gonna happen here, if this is too low, the lights gonna go forward, and hit the lens of our camera. Or if this is a larger light modifier, like a small soft box, the diffused light will go and hit the lens. And so in that scenario, what we do, if you can't add a grid, that's why grids were invented. Grids on everything to control is awesome. But if you didn't have grids, what we'd have to do is come on this side, and we would have to actually put a flag up here to block the light from hitting the lens. 'Cause right now, that is shining right in my face. In fact, I think if you can show that, you can see that this light is clearly coming in to the lens and so we'd have to flag that somehow so that we'd restrict that, or just use a grid. So let's put a 20 degree grid on there. 20 degree? Yeah, which one do you have. I have a 10. Oh, let's try the 10, we'll try the 10. We'll see if that works. We'll put a 10 on there. (laughing) And so now, we've immediately eliminated that light going forward, where we've constrained this. It might be a little bit too constrained, we'll have to see, if it is we'll go with a 20 degree grid. But we're trying to keep light from getting to the edge of this, and hitting our camera. So I can't vote more, I can't speak more highly of grids, I love them. I love the grids. And even, look at this, so turn your head left. She can go pretty far before this spills, so go a little bit more right. Bonk, right there, and you can see, so she's got more ability to move her head and pose and do those kinds of things. Grids, awesome. Okay, so now what we're gonna do, is we're gonna meter this. And see how it works. So I'll take this. So what we first have to meter our key light. So this is our key, right? Losing track, yep! So I'll meter the key light, so we got that, that's at 13. Putting that in memory. And don't forget, we've just turned to modeling lights on these lights, so don't be confused at, oh, you turned 'em off, we just turned the modeling light on. Cool. So that's in memory, put my little delta EV. Now on a grid, sometimes it's difficult to meter a grid, 'cause the light is so restrictive. So take a couple of readings to make sure you've got it right. And I know this is gonna be way to bright, I can feel it. It's pointing that way. Is it pointing that way? Awesome, we can fix it. We can fix it! How's that? Better? Better, better, okay. So we'll meter this light, I'll just meter it while I'm up here. Pushing and holding. Actually this says negative point three. So this is actually one third stop lower than our key light. So what I'll do is I'll increase that. .8. One, it's at one. Exactly at one. So now that's one stop brighter than our key light. And the reason I just went up there and adjusted it, is 'cause I've used these D1's about five billion times. And it's like, your camera or your lighting equipment, if you use it enough, you'll get to sort of memorize the buttons on your gear. Just like you would if you used a piano or a violin. You know, no pianist looks at the keys when they're playing, right? They just know. The same thing is happening of most gear that you can use. So that's how we did that. Alright, now we're gonna take an overall reading, it should not change, by the way. Because the light that we just added is behind, right? So it still should be 13. But we're gonna meter just to make sure. And it's 13. So we'll take a shot at 13. Thank you. We're gonna take a picture now. (laughing) Have you smile, it's perfect. Lovely! Okay, as you can see on this shot we've really really constrained the light on her hair. When it shows up it's just a little touch of light. And that works just fine. Now if that was a darker background, you know what, could you get a black? Yeah. And we'll throw the black fee flat behind. And we can see it with and without. It'll be a little bit more pronounced. Right now, are there questions on the three light set up and the metering that we've done so far? Yes. What's a background light considered? Is it a background light or is it a special? And when would you use that? That's a good question, I think it's just kind of a background light. Yeah, light in the background, that's an excellent point. I totally forgot that light, but yeah. Background light. Maybe somebody online has a better name for it, but yeah. We just, background light. Yeah, let's take a quick shot here now that we have-- and John move that to the left just a little bit more, there we go, perfect. Beautiful smile. Alright, now we can see that that separation light really makes a difference. Yeah, you can see that-- Mark it's so nice to sit here and have Alexa's smiling face looking at us the whole time. I know, isn't it awesome? Can we just keep that up all day? Sure, I vote for that. Such a cute smile. Can we ask another question? Yeah! Okay, so Jamie D said, if you're light meter allows you to trigger individual lights when metering, is it necessary to flatten the Lumisphere when measuring the dazzle? Okay, yeah, so yes! That's a great question. When you're metering, let's say, 'cause like on this meter, with the built in pocket wizard functionality on some other meters, you have the ability to trigger lights in groups. So you can turn lights on and off. And the meter I was talking about yesterday, the Sekonic, something 58, the new one that control speed lights and all the mini and flex stuff, you can turn lights on and off for metering as well. And so, sometimes you have that ability. And so let's pretend that we had that ability, which we do, I just don't have it configured correctly, and I was only gonna meter this light. Let's just pretend when I push this button, this light is the only one that flashes. Well if I came around here, I'm not gonna do it 'cause I wanna make sure you guys see, and I had my Lumisphere up and I metered just this light, there is an issue because we're not just metering this light with the Lumisphere up, we're metering this light and the reflections from the floor and the reflections from the ceiling. Yeah, all the light that's around, and so you could have an incorrect reading because if you have a reflector somewhere, or if you have, maybe the other modifier you have is an umbrella, which is highly reflective, you're gonna get the light from multiple sources with this up. And so, even if you can only trigger one light, you should put this down. By the way, another thing that I forgot to mention about metering, you should never wear a light shirt when you're shooting in a studio. Because you've just became a reflector. And so when you are metering, you're shirt is gonna reflect in the meter, and you'll get consistently wrong meter readings. And so you should wear dark clothes. This is a little bit brighter than I would normally wear actually. But yeah, dark gray clothes or black. Because you'll reflect light in your meter. Or, you're just gonna have to have an assistant with dark clothes, or meter like this. Or you can work with a model like Lex, who's done this so many times that sometimes I just give her the meter, and she just meters herself. So that works too. And then I have to pay her as an assistant and a model. So that's crazy. What other questions do we have? So one more question-- Did you say no I don't? She's like, that never happened, never has that happened. Alright, that's true. Now, great, the whole billing cycle's changed now. Sorry. So we had a question from Jim, not me, what is the criteria that you use to decide the light ratio from the key to the fill to the hair light, is it based on experience? Or trial and error? I do several things. one of those, I haven't had the opportunity to do this much in the last few months, but for the past two years or so, every Friday I try to schedule a personal shoot day. And what I did is, I would bring in a model, or we'd bring in some subject, a product, whatever, ad it would be a day for me to do just a shoot with no expectation of success at all. The whole point was to try new things to try to emulate maybe something I saw in a magazine or a book, or try some new technique that I saw, you know, on a workshop or whatever. And based on that, then I would create a new lighting set up or a new style, and so that's how I create these little diagrams and figure out what we're doing. Lex and I have actually done two or three of those experimental, like, let's figure stuff out, and sometimes it's highly successful and you get great stuff because it doesn't matter if you get a photo or not. There's no client. Sometimes, disastrous. We've had that as well. Where you're just like, that will never see the light of day. But the point is, if you shoot something and fail, that's still a success because you've learned something from that. And so if you actually saw all the photos that I've created, the majority of them are failures. The vast majority are failures, because I was trying to dial something and to figure something out. I would never go to a commercial client or somebody that's hired me to do something, and try something out for the first time on the spot. I've done it rarely, 'cause sometimes you don't have a choice, but usually, if I'm hired to do something specific, I'll try to emulate what it is we're doing first, and then once I have it dialed in and figure out all the problems and things we have to overcome and gear that we don't have, then we'll actually go and shoot it wherever we're supposed to shoot it. And I bill the client for that. I bill them for pre production days. And that's how that works. Even this workshop, almost everything that we do here has been rehearsed in some way, either at my studio at home or on some photo shoot or something, somewhere, we're about to do a demo, John and I got here at, two hours before we started and set it all up, just to make sure it was gonna work. 'Cause we don't wanna do it live and be like, oh well, doesn't work. Can't do that. So yeah, that's how we figure all that stuff out, by that. The other way to figure out lighting set ups, Rotovision, R-O-T-O-V-I-S-I-O-N, is a publisher of these phenomenal books, and some of 'em are out of print. But they have, I don't know, two or three hundred pages of photographers, and it's not one photographer, it's dozens and dozens of photographers. And it's like, here's a shot by so-and-so photographer, and it's a beautiful shot, and then here's all of the details on how it was lit, with a lighting diagram and all the gear that was used, and some comments by the photographer. Then you turn a page and it's a totally different photographer and what they did. And turn the page, and a totally different photographer. And so when I found these books, years ago, over a decade ago, and that's why most of 'em are out of print, I got the one on portrait lighting, and I spent a year and a half and I duplicated every single photo in the book. Just to sort of try out all the different things. And so you can do things like that as well. That will help. Alright, do we have other questions? I have a review question from Redhead 17, who's joining us from Liverpool. Would you normally use the color checker passport with each new light added if you were building up from one flash? I would do this, so if I was, let's say that we were shooting several different looks with Lex, and so we had a single light, and we're gonna shoot a series, and then we're gonna add a fill light, and we're gonna shoot a series, and then we're gonna add a kicker light, and then we're gonna do a series. At that point I would have done the color checker passport with the first light, and then when we added the second one I would do it again. And we add a third one I would do it again. But in this scenario, where we knew we were gonna shoot with all three lights, I would do it at the very very end. And for time, I'm skipping the white balance stuff that I would normally do in a situation like this. But normally I would do that at the very end, when the light is all set. And I would shoot a shot that I would use later in post production to calibrate all of the other photos. And so that's how that would work. Yes. I think we might have some questions in the studio audience. Yes. Will this lighting scenario work if you're trying to light a whole scene with one person in it? So that one person is lit, but the whole scene is lit? It could, it really depends on the inverse square law. So, what we're doing now with these lights, these are very large diffused lights, or medium sized diffused lights, and they're quite aways from our background, and so we had this white, white-ish background, light gray background. But if we moved everything much closer to the background, that background would actually get darker. And so actually if we move these closer to Lex, the background would get darker. And so when we started I said normally I would shoot with these much much closer, I didn't because I wanted you to actually see what I was doing, and so use the inverse square law to your advantage. The problem with the way we have this set up right now, is you can't really see a lot of the shadows that we would normally create, because the light is too far from Lexa's face. So normally it would be, gosh, very very close on both sides and it would be this sort of cocoon of light. Usually my key light is really close. My fill light I keep back a little ways. So those are some of the things to consider. So if you build it out from your background a little bit and let the light fall off and do that, that'll be good. When you're working with a background, remember this, if you want the background to be dark and not illuminated, keep your subject away from the background and your lights close to your subject. If you want the entire scene to be illuminated, keep your subject closer to the background, and your lights farther away. 'Cause the light is falling off and you're gonna get the majority of the even light back here, or if you move that closer to your lights up here, the lights gonna fall off, you're gonna get all your good light up here, and this is gonna be dark. So that's sorta the consideration is, the distance and relationships between the background and the lights and that whole inverse square law thing. What I like to do, is to control the light on the set in very specific ways. So generally what I'll do, is I would have, we would have Lex forward, and we would light her pretty close with all the different lights. And normally I would have even grids on those lights to control the spill, and maybe even some throw rugs to keep the light from bouncing. So I really wanna constrain that and then what I would do on the background, is I would use specials. So I would use lights to introduce pockets of life so I could shape the light even on the background, so that it's just not a big wash of light, it's actually showing some depth to that background, and you can even stagger the luminosity or the brightnesses of those different things. So you might have a bright lamp or a bright chair, a little bit darker wood, or maybe a highlight on, you know, books in a library, something like that. And so you can really control the scene. It depends on how many lights you have and how much time you have and those things. Yes! So in the exact same scenario, the separation or hair light, how does that get handled so it's outside of the shot? Big stand with a boom is generally what you need. And this is a grip head. It's really not meant to hold a light over like that, everybody does it, but we have some normal boom stands that are, they have these weights on them and they can go 10 feet, 12 feet. So you can get that way out over. The other thing that you can do is you can put one of these guys sort of up and away, and if you have enough power, you can shoot at quite a distance, and then you use like a five degree grid to really constrain that. So yeah, that works as well. And this really, once you start doing this stuff, this is when all of those different specific modifiers go, oh right, we would wanna put a grid here, and oh right, we would wanna have this type of hard light here, and we'd wanna put, you know, whatever. And so it makes a lot more sense. In fact in that scenario when your like, hey I don't have very many lights, but I wanna have a nice wash, an umbrella would probably be better, because the lights bouncing everywhere. And so you get nice soft light. And on these two guys yeah, 'cause your light would be hitting the ground and the walls and the ceiling, and it'd be introducing more light back on the back, yeah.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.