Brooks Pro Tip: How to Set Up Studio Lighting to Take Better Photos

February 20, 2013 Greg Voight General, Brooks Pro Tips, Photography 1 Comments

Control of light is the key to creating shape and form in photography. The goal is creating a three-dimensional representation of the subject using the two-dimensional medium of photography. When photographing specular subjects (subjects that are reflective/mirror-like, such as metal, glass, plastic, etc.) the reflection of the light source adds to the creation of the three-dimensional appearance.

One of the key ingredients in creating shape on specular subjects is the relationship between the size of the subject and the size of the studio light source. The basic concept is this: The larger the light source is and the larger the specular highlight (the actual reflection of the light source on the subject) becomes, the better shape and form will be communicated to the viewer. If you can make the light source 10 times larger than the subject and place the light source as close as possible to the subject, shape and form will increase and contrast will be significantly decreased on the subject.

In the simple three-photograph illustration below of the black-specular ball, the light source is being moved from 1 foot away from the ball to 2 feet away and finally 4 feet away. The black ball is 4 inches in diameter, and the light source is 3 feet by 3 feet in diameter. Notice how shape and form are better and the contrast is lower on the ball in shot No. 1 as compared to shot No. 3.

Studio Lighting tips

This technical illustration when applied to creative images will always render better three-dimensional representation of the subject. The three student photographs shown above produced by Zhang Ziyan, Cristina Gonzales and Joseph Beckley show a high level of control and application of this lighting concept.

Greg Voight, MA, is a faculty member in the Professional Photography program at Brooks Institute. See more of his work at


Harry Green (Brooks Institure - February 21, 2013 at 10:16 AM

Pictures (examples) are worth 1000 words.

What do you think?