How to control lighting in the studio

  • Many people are daunted by the idea of taking photographs in the studio. But generally speaking, the majority find that handling studio lights is an easy skill to pick up.

  • Look through various magazines which feature pictures taken in a studio. The lighting techniques are as varied as the subjects they light. In some only one light is used, in others five or more.

  • The least expensive light available is a photoflood with a reflector and stand. But many people find the glare and heat from such light uncomfortable. An alternative is studio flash. The unit work form the mains and are much more powerful than a camera’s built in flash unit or one that fits onto a camera hot shoe. Each unit has its own power supply; some of the most powerful have attachments for additional flash heads.

  • As well as the standard reflector there is a whole variety of different attachments that can alter the character of the light. These include large umbrella type reflectors in white, silver or gold, which bounce diffused light onto the subject, giving a softer light than a standard reflector.

  • An even softer light can be obtained by using a ‘softbox’. These come in various sizes, but all work on the same principle. The box fits over the flash head. It has a highly reflective silver lining, and a diffusing material stretched over the front. Other diffusers can be stretched over the first one to diffuse the light even further.

  • Another lighting attachment is called a ‘snoot’. This directs a thin beam of light onto the subjects. It is not the same as conventional spotlight, which has a broader beam which can be focused. Spotlights can also have inserts placed between the lamp and the lens, which throw patterns onto the lit area.

  • As with all accessories, special lights have to be used carefully and creatively. Used by themselves they will not produce miracles.

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