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What Lighting Is Needed for Studio Photography?

Studio lighting novices may feel overrun by the wealth of information readily available online. It will make your head spin just attempting to decipher the jargon. The fundamentals for a recording studio aren't particularly difficult to use, but there are a lot of them. The purpose of this article is to serve as an introduction to some of the most fundamental terms and pieces of studio lighting equipment you'll encounter in a photography studio.

Sometimes, though, professional photography just cannot be done without the use of artificial light. Studio lighting is something that most photographers will need to learn about at some point in their careers.

Your client will be thrilled with the professional studio lighting you create using this method. And you might figure out how to maintain continuity from shot to shot. Studio lighting gear and techniques are detailed in depth.

It's important to keep in mind that different photographers may give different meanings to these terms. The replacements are always being shuffled in and out. It's not always crystal clear, but it's also not always wrong. Knowing the distinction between a flag and a gobo, or between ambient light and continuous light, can come in handy.

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Decide Which Lighting Equipment To Buy

Whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned pro, it's important to remember that light has a major impact on your photos. Simple solutions include opening a window, bringing in a lamp from the living room, or investing in a professional lighting kit to let in more light. The latter is preferable because of the added flexibility it provides in terms of lighting adjustment and convenience.

It's not always easy to tell which photography and lighting tools will be most useful for your company's needs. Asking yourself, "What do I need most?" can help you focus on the essentials. To what end are you employing this synthetic illumination? The answers to these two questions might help you determine which lighting kit is ideal for your needs.

Types Of Light

studio lighting

Studio photography makes use of a wide array of lighting from a wide range of manufacturers. Both your electricity needs and your available funds will play a role in determining the types of lighting you ultimately pick.

Thankfully, there are reasonably priced options for photography lights, such as Godox. They produce reasonably priced but functional machinery. The greatest results can be achieved with less than top-of-the-line equipment if you have a firm grasp on the principles of photographic light. As your profession progresses and you gain higher-paying clients, you will be able to upgrade to more expensive photography lighting.

The most popular types of studio lighting are described below.

Strobe Lighting

Studio lighting is typically done with strobe lights, a sort of flash lighting. Typically, strobe lights are what come to mind when we think about studio lighting.

The Neewer SK300 is an example of a mono head strobe light; its battery and bulb are integrated into a single housing. It could also be a light that requires a strong battery to operate. Both of these strobes allow you to adjust the intensity of the flash. Their strength is quantified in terms of watt-seconds. There are times in a studio that a stronger flash is needed.

A larger scenario, such as a group portrait, may require twice as much space, or at least more lighting. Consider the studio's electrical outlets before purchasing or renting strobe lighting equipment. Still, there are strobes that can function without electricity. They are battery-operated, so you can take them with you wherever.

An effective strobe can be purchased for a reasonable price these days. The lumen output of a strobe has little to do with its price. Usually, the endurance of the construction and the reliability of the flash's output are the deciding factors. To use strobe lights with your camera, you'll need a synchronisation device.

For use exclusively in a studio, a "strobe" is a type of flash gun. It's possible to hear them called a monobloc or a moonlight. While most products rely on AC power from a wall outlet, battery-operated alternatives are increasingly available. Depending on the model, the strobe's output power can range from that of a cheap third-party flashgun to that of a more expensive professional one. Monolights are a type of strobe that do not require an external power source, reflectors, or stands.

A major benefit of monolights is that they do not necessitate a separate power generator, as everything is housed in the lamp's head. In order to effectively illuminate your subjects, each strobe monolight should have a wattage of 150 or more.

Although strobe monolights are typically used in studios, they are extremely flexible and transportable if you buy a case for them. You can find a wealth of information about artificial lighting and a wide variety of beginner and advanced-level kits online, but the beginner kits discussed in this article should set you well on your way to producing excellent studio photographs in your own home or on the move.

To ensure you have enough light whenever you need it, we suggest purchasing a lighting kit with at least two lights. You can do more with your photography in terms of composition and lighting if you have access to at least two lights.

Continuous Light

It is because there is no "flash" while using continuous lights in photography that they are frequently referred to as "hot" lights. Instead, they offer consistent brightness. Before you take a picture, you can see exactly how the light is hitting your subject.

This is very useful for taking pictures of objects or other immobile things. However, unlike flash units, continuous lighting has not been well welcomed. This makes them far weaker than they were before. It's challenging to find the sweet spot when the artificial light isn't overwhelming the natural light. Also, they can get so hot that they're insultingly called "hot lights."

LED lights are revolutionising the way that constant lighting is provided. The most advanced LED lighting systems can cost several thousand dollars, which is comparable to the cost of the most advanced strobes, but it does not overheat like other forms of continuous lighting and consistently provides high-quality illumination.

The function of continuous lighting is equivalent to that of strobe lighting, but without the flashing. In contrast, these lights can be adjusted to varying degrees of brightness, much like strobes. The use of continuous lights is more frequent in video production, but they can also be beneficial in still photography. A lot of the new LED lighting options out there are solid buys too. Due to their propensity to overheat rapidly when thrust into the spotlight, the term spotlight was coined to describe their condition. Don't make any alterations that could get too close to the bulb or you risk starting a fire. In this case, however, LED bulbs do not fall under the regulation.

Continuous illumination is ideal for still life and product photography/videography. Seeing how your light will seem in your shot before you start shooting allows you to quickly modify your lighting, which is a significant advantage of this lighting. The low price and increased flexibility in adjusting the illumination manually make this set ideal for amateurs.

Fluorescent, tungsten, or light-emitting diode bulbs can be used for continuous lighting (LED). Any of them can be used well, and the choice between them comes down to personal preference.

Fluorescent illumination is prefered by most studio photographers because it is readily available, lasts longer, and does not cause the camera to overheat. As they don't get hot as quickly as tungsten bulbs do, LEDs are prefered. Setting the white balance to Auto or precisely in accordance with the type of bulb you are using will produce the most accurate colours when you print.

For optimal performance from your constantly on lighting system, it is recommended that you purchase a power modification kit. With these kits, you may adjust the brightness of your light to meet your specific requirements. You'll have more say over the brightness of your space than you would with a standard, always-on bulb. If you want to change the brightness of an area without having to remove the bulbs, then use these sets.


A flashgun is any portable light that may be attached to a camera via its hot shoe. Some of them have quite high power outputs for how portable they are. In spite of their inherent limitations due to their size and power, they are nevertheless a useful tool for any photographer interested in off-camera lighting.

To further diffuse the light, you can utilise speedlights in conjunction with umbrellas and softboxes, which are both external flash units. They can be much more adaptable than standard flashes and are much faster when used. Speedlights are ideal for taking pictures of people, products, and movement during weddings and athletic events.

Since speedlights are so small and lightweight, they may be used to create a makeshift studio anywhere. These portable studios would be useless without flashguns, which are compact but highly effective light sources.

The term "speedlight" refers to a specific sort of portable flash that can be used both in and out of the studio. They produce illumination, or supplement natural light when used indoors. In comparison to strobe lights, they are a comparatively weak power source. They put out only a quarter of what a regular strobe can.

Due to their compact design, they can only shine a limited beam of illumination. Shadows may become more intricate and unnatural as a result. However, its low cost is a major selling point. When combined, many speedlights may create perfect illumination for a studio. Also, they provide a lightweight, transportable solution with a wide range of uses. Many popular DSLRs can use speedlights like the Geekoto Flash. One such more expensive option is the Nikon SB-700, which is designed specifically for use with the Nikon DSLR camera line.

It is possible to use a speedlight as an on-camera flash by attaching it to the camera's hot shoe. The most professional effects can be achieved by using speedlights that are mounted on a light stand and utilised away from the camera.

Light Functions

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Key Light 

The primary source of illumination is the guiding light you use to form your topic. Typically the strongest and most noticeable source of illumination in the area.

Fill Light

The contrast in a scene can be lowered by using a fill light to soften the edges of the shadows cast by your key light.

Rim Light/Backlight 

Background elimination is facilitated by rim lights, which shine on your subject from behind. Most of the time, rim lights are set up so that only a small amount of light shines from the sides of your subject.

Hair Light

Using hair lights, you can highlight your subject's hair for a more dramatic effect. If your subject's head is too dimly lit, you can utilise them to boost the exposure.

Ambient Light

It refers to any light that was already there before artificial lights were installed. This could be natural sunlight streaming in via a window, an artificial light source, or an internal glow.



Umbrellas may be found in either silver or white and are easily attached to your strobe with a lanyard. If you aim your strobe into an umbrella and reflect it onto your subject, you can generate a larger, softer light. Despite being primarily directional, umbrellas have a lot of leaks and aren't the easiest modifier to manipulate.

The umbrella is your simplest modifying tool. They're great for diffused, gentle illumination, but they're a pain to regulate.

Translucent Umbrellas/Shoot-thru Umbrellas

Umbrellas produced from a light-diffusing substance called a "translucent" fabric do not reflect light. This ameliorates the morning in the same way as other modifiers do, but without the added benefit of directionality. Soft light can also be provided using translucent umbrellas, albeit they are less effective as light modifiers than softboxes.


It's possible to find softboxes in a wide range of sizes and configurations. When placed above your light source, a softbox modifies the quality of the illumination to make it more flattering. Softboxes are also directional and simple to adjust and customise. Light modifiers known as softboxes are indispensable in any photography studio.

Strip Boxes

Strip boxes are a type of softbox that are characterised by their long, narrow shape and their ability to focus the light they emit. These work wonderfully to create a rim light impression by lighting a subject from behind. Softboxes, such as striplights, are highly effective because of the light's pinpoint accuracy.


Furthermore, an octabox is an octogonal form of softbox. The softer, more even illumination from the rounded bulb is ideal for making flattering photographs. Additionally, octoboxes are typically rather huge, making them a fantastic modifier for portraiture.

Reflectors (The Modifier Kind)

You can modify the output of your strobe by attaching a reflector to it. They direct the light along a narrow tube, making it possible to shine light in precise directions. They present a unique lighting challenge as well. In fact, most grids are made to accommodate a wide range of sizes. This 110-degree reflector is just one example of a reflector that creates a highly focused and intricate illumination.


Snoots are light modifiers that narrow the light source's focus to a pinpoint. They work wonderfully as both accent lights and ambient lighting. With snoots, you may focus your illumination into a narrow, precise beam.

Barn Doors

Barn doors typically include between two and four flaps that may be opened and closed to control how much light enters the room. These flaps can be used to direct the morning light directly onto a certain part of your subject (like their hair), or to block it from reaching an area you'd like remain in the dark.

Beauty Dish

Light directional modifiers known as "beauty dishes" fall in the middle of the spectrum, between soft and hard. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as "beauty shots," but they also excel at fashion and portrait photography. As an added bonus, many of them also come with grids and diffusion socks. Light from a beauty dish can be described as having a contrast between a hard and soft glow.


Grids are a form of meta-modification. When mounted atop a beauty dish, softbox, or reflector, they concentrate the light in a tighter spot, reducing the risk of spill (or where you want it to). Light can have its direction further altered by using grids.


A gobo can alter the morning sky by blocking or diffusing the light from a light source. This might range from simply limiting the beam to intricately designing elaborate patterns. To visualise this, think of a Venetian blind that allows some light to pass through. Visualize the pattern on the wall now. The blind is effectively diffusing light as a gobo.

CTO Gels 

When the colour temperature of a light source needs to be adjusted, colour correction gels are utilised. If your key light is a gridded beauty dish that emits a lot of heat (as mine does), the light you choose to utilise for your hair should be much dimmer. The two lights' colour temperatures can be harmonised by using an orange CTO gel in your hair light.

Colour Gels

Gels are versatile enough to be used for artistic purposes as well. The colour of your lights can be altered by using gels.

Reflectors (The Reflective Kind)

Studio equipment wouldn't be complete without reflectors. These let you to bounce the light from your key light source back onto your subject. They allow for the production of fill light without the need for a supplementary lighting fixture. There are several varieties of reflectors, from the standard 5-in-1 to the more elaborate tri-flectors used for some beauty photographs. Essential studio lighting accessories include reflectors and diffusers for modifying and directing light. Here, a reflector stand is also shown for your viewing pleasure.


One can use a diffuser, which is a piece of translucent material placed in front of a light source, to modify the light's direction or soften its intensity. In fact, certain diffusers can perform both functions.


Light can be "flagged" (or blocked) from entering a scene in specific places by using flags. You can use them to block out distracting backgrounds or to lessen the brightness of your subject's periphery. Flags can be used to underexpose the subject's body below the neck when taking close photographs. This ensures that the subject's face is front and centre in the photo.

That's A Start

While this is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of studio lighting tools, it ought to provide a good foundation for those new to studio photography.


A recording studio's essential components aren't complicated to use, although there are many of them. The ability to tell the difference between a flag and a gobo is useful. Identifying the appropriate lighting kit for your requirements might help you prioritise your equipment purchases. The most common studio lighting setups are outlined here. Although most items require direct current (AC) from a wall socket, battery-powered variants are becoming more common.

The strobe type known as a monolight operates independently of power cords, reflectors, and lighting stands. The use of LEDs to offer continual lighting is radically altering the lighting industry. The beginner kits that are reviewed in this article should have you well on your way to creating professional-quality studio images. In contrast to conventional forms of continuous illumination, which can overheat after prolonged use, the most advanced LED lighting systems can cost several thousand dollars. Still life and product photography/videography benefit greatly from continuous lighting.

This set is great for beginners because it is inexpensive and allows for a wide range of light adjustments. In comparison to a regular, always-on light bulb, you will have more control over the level of illumination in the room. A speedlight is a type of portable flash that may be used both in and out of a studio setting. They provide significantly less power than strobe lights. Speedlights like the Geekoto Flash and the Nikon SB-700 are compatible with a wide variety of DSLR cameras.

The pinpoint accuracy of the light from softboxes, such as striplights, makes them very useful. A snoot is a type of light filter that concentrates the beam of light from a single source into a small area. Because of their large size, octaboxes are excellent as a modifier for portrait photography. Adding grids and diffusion socks to a beauty dish allows the light's direction to be modified even further. Color correction gels are used to modify the colour rendering index (CRI) of a light source.

By putting in gels, you can change the hue of your lights. Light from your primary source can be reflected back onto your topic with the help of a reflector. When photographing a subject up close, flags can be used to underexpose their lower torso. Diffusers allow for control of the light's direction and intensity.

Content Summary

  • This article is meant to serve as a primer on some of the most common photography studio lighting terms and pieces of equipment.
  • Lighting equipment and methods for use in a studio setting are discussed in length.
  • Before buying or renting strobe lighting equipment, make sure it will fit into the studio's electrical outlets.
  • If you want to be sure you always have enough light, it's best to invest in a lighting kit with at least two bulbs.
  • Having access to two lights allows you more creative freedom in terms of composition and lighting in your photographs.
  • If you need the same effect that strobe lighting provides, but don't want the flashing, then go for continuous illumination.
  • Continuous lighting can be provided by fluorescent, tungsten, or light-emitting diode bulbs (LED).
  • You should get a power modification kit if you want the best results from your always-on lighting system.
  • A speedlight, when attached to the camera's hot shoe, can serve as an on-camera flash.
  • A basic umbrella is the most accessible tool for customization.
  • Translucent umbrellas are another option for creating soft light, however they are not as efficient as softboxes.
  • Putting a reflector on your strobe will allow you to adjust its intensity.
  • The "beauty dish" is a directed light modulator that sits between soft and harsh.
  • Grids provide for much greater control over the path of light.
  • By blocking or dispersing the light from a light source, a gobo can transform the morning sky.
  • Imagine the design being painted on the wall right now.
  • Your hair light should be significantly dimmer than your main light if your main light is a gridded beauty dish that generates a lot of heat (as mine does).
  • To get the two lights to work together, try using an orange CTO gel in your hair light.
  • By putting in gels, you can change the hue of your lights.
  • Studio lighting accessories like as reflectors and diffusers are essential for controlling and shaping the light source.
  • This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive guide to studio lighting, but it should serve as a solid introduction for those curious about studio photography.

FAQs About Studio Photography

A photography studio is a workspace specifically designed and built for the purpose of taking photographs. In it's basic form a studio will feature a well lit space with a blank backdrop to allow the capturing of images in an environment free from obtrusive external light sources.

Basically, any camera that lets you enter the shutter speed, aperture and ISO manually is suitable for studio photography. A good starting point is to set ISO value on 100 and the shutter speed on 1/125. You can then experiment with the aperture and power setting on the flash head to find the desired lighting values.

A photographic studio is often a business owned and represented by one or more photographers, possibly accompanied by assistants and pupils, who create and sell their own and sometimes others' photographs.

Usually, tips for photographers range from $50 to $100. However, you do not need to tip more than 10% of your total bill. You can choose to tip more if you receive your photos in a timely manner and like how they turned out.

The primary job at a photography studio is a photographer. Depending on the size of the studio, a single photographer and assistant may complete all job duties. These duties include setting up and styling a photo shoot, taking photos, developing photos, and photo editing.

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