Basic Home Studio lighting for weddings and portraits by Michael Thompson consett county durham Tyneside Northumberland England
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Basic Home Studio lighting for weddings and portraits by Michael Thompson consett county durham Tyneside Northumberland England Here’s a look at a very basic home studio. It can be set up in about 15 minutes for around $700.
In the picture of my den (on the right), the light on the right side of the subject is a hot light (constant
light source) mounted in a soft box (to diff use the light). To the left of the subject is a refl ector, which
bounces light from the hot light onto the opposite side of the face. In the background is a black cloth,
the kind you can pick up at a fabric store.
I took the photograph on the left with this simple and aff ordable setup.

Basic Hot-Light Kit
Hot lights are called hot lights because, well, they get hot. Th ey provide a constant light source so that
you can see in real time the eff ect (shadows and highlights) of using one or more lights and changing
their positions.
Hot light kits can cost thousands of dollars, but there’s a three-light PhotoBasic kit from FJ Westcott
that sells for about $500. Th e 11-piece PB500 kit includes: two main lights, two umbrellas to soft en
the light, a background light, three stands, a background, a fl oor mat for easy light placement and a
carrying case.
Basic Strobe Kit
Strobe lights work like an accessory camera fl ash, A ring in the blink of an eye. Th ey have photocells
that allow them to be A red from a main strobe that is tethered (attached by a wire) to a camera.
Professional strobe light kits can be pricy though, costing several thousand dollars. Rather than
spending these big bucks, you might want to start with a three-light PhotoBasic kit from FJWestcott.
Th e 12-piece Strobelite Plus 3 Light Kit #231 costs around $700 and includes: three lights, two
soft boxes (to soft en the light), two adaptor rings (to swivel the soft boxes), three stands, a carrying
case and a Westcott instructional DVD.
Simply Beautiful
Here is an example of how you can
create a beautiful portrait with a very
simple lighting setup.
For the top left photograph, a strip
light (no grid) was positioned in
front of the model and to camera left .
Th is provided the main light source.
A strip light was positioned behind
the subject and to camera right
to provide the accent light on the
model’s left arm. Half of the model’s
face is in a shadow, which makes for
a dramatic image.
For the top right photograph, a
refl ector was used in combination
with the main light. We can see the
model’s face better in this image, but
it does not have the drama of the
image with the strong shadow. Still,
we like it.
Th e bottom photograph shows the
simple behind-the-scenes setup.
Try to keep it simple, or try to at least
start with a simple setup like this.
Good fun … and good lighting.Using a Light
in Your Frame
Th is is much easier than you think.
Just place the background somewhere
and experiment.
Th e light does not have to super bright, but
set it in the same ballpark as your main light.
So, if your main light is a strobe, your light
in back should also be a strobe.
Here I used a fog machine in between the
model and the light to create a more diff used
backlight. You will have to play with the
eff ect, but I enjoyed a very light fi lm of fog
to balance out the heavy burst of light that
otherwise created an unsightly bright blob.
I think another, yet unhealthy, method for
this eff ect is a big puff of cigarette smoke in
front of your back strobe.
Th e second trick to this lighting technique
is creating the illusion that the back light is
also the main light. It is not. To create this
look, the back light is positioned pretty far
from the model and has a minimal eff ect.
I positioned a Mola Refl ector dish on a
Profoto strobe to the left side (and a touch
behind the model) to create the illusion it
is the same light. Th is allowed me to have a
punchy light on the model but still illuminate
the clothing for the designer’s catalog.
Also, as the model tried diff erent poses, I could continually adjust my main light to suit her
while keeping my composition consistent with the back light and suitcases in front.
Michael Creagh:
Model: Kate at 1 Management, New York
Job: Susana Monaco Fall Catalog
Camera: Hassleblad H3D 39 MegaPixels, 80mm lens
© Michael Creagh