Light­ing is one of the most impor­tant tools for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. With it, you can add depth, vol­ume, dra­ma, light­ness to the frame. But in the hands of a begin­ner, the light can some­times not empha­size the mer­its of the mod­el, but, on the con­trary, high­light the short­com­ings. There­fore, it is eas­i­er to learn from ready-made exam­ples. We col­lect­ed var­i­ous schemes for shoot­ing with three light sources that can be repeat­ed.

An exam­ple of the arrange­ment of three light sources. Pho­to: esstheticprint.com

Why One Light Source Isn’t Always Enough
What light sources can be used in stu­dio shoot­ing
Clas­sic light­ing scheme for shoot­ing with three light sources
Light scheme “High Key“
Light­ing scheme for stu­dio por­trait
A sim­ple par­a­bol­ic umbrel­la light scheme
Light scheme in a pho­to stu­dio with a par­a­bol­ic umbrel­la No. 2
Stu­dio light light­ing scheme — 6th option
Light scheme in pho­tog­ra­phy with col­or sources
Light­ing scheme for por­trait shoot­ing — 8th option

Why One Light Source Isn’t Always Enough

Three sources is a clas­sic scheme. But what is it used for? For the for­ma­tion of a three-dimen­sion­al image. This tech­nique is most in demand when shoot­ing por­traits.

If you shoot a por­trait, for exam­ple, against a sol­id back­ground and put one light source in front, the per­son­’s face will be flat.

Impor­tant: in fact, with one light source, you can take inter­est­ing por­traits. How to do this is described in a sep­a­rate arti­cle.

Three light sources allow you to show the depth of the frame, get illu­mi­nat­ed areas in dif­fer­ent ways.

For exam­ple:

  • a plane that is bright­ly lit due to the main light;
  • soft or hard shad­ow with side light;
  • bright high­light with back­light.
There are many schemes for arrang­ing light sources. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er can take any and change it to fit the loca­tion, idea. You can always exper­i­ment. Pho­to: ps-studio.su

What light sources can be used in studio shooting


Need­ed to cre­ate a high­light (cre­ates a shad­ow, adds vol­ume) or fill light (makes shad­ows soft, ful­ly illu­mi­nates the sub­ject).

There are many vari­eties, for exam­ple:

  • strip­box­es are need­ed when illu­mi­nat­ing the entire fig­ure of the mod­el, for shoot­ing large objects. Used to form thin and elon­gat­ed high­lights;
  • octo­box­es are large diam­e­ter octag­o­nal struc­tures.


A pop­u­lar noz­zle, need­ed to con­cen­trate the light beam in one direc­tion. In addi­tion to the stan­dard noz­zle there is:

  • back­ground — used to accu­rate­ly high­light the back­ground;
  • scat­ter­ing — does not allow hard light from a pulsed flash to hit the mod­el;
  • umbrel­la — need­ed for shoot­ing with umbrel­las, directs the reflect­ed beam to the umbrel­la.


Pop­u­lar noz­zles of big diam­e­ter (65–120 cm). There are translu­cent (scat­ter light, reduce its inten­si­ty), reflec­tive.


They have an unusu­al cone shape. It allows you to form a nar­row beam of light. So you can high­light some detail, make an accent.

beau­ty plates

Allow to receive at the same time soft, but con­cen­trat­ed light.

From left to right, soft­box, reflec­tor, umbrel­la, tube, beau­ty dish. Pho­to: market.yandex.ru, fe-foto.ru, fstfoto.ru, fotosale.ua, tripodfoto.com

Now we list the pop­u­lar schemes that can be repeat­ed in the stu­dio.

Classic lighting scheme for shooting with three light sources

You will need:

  • ver­ti­cal soft­box. It is placed behind the mod­el. A beam of light goes to her back. So we pro­vide a nar­row direc­tion­al beam over the entire height of the sub­ject;
  • The octo­box (octag­o­nal soft­box) is locat­ed slight­ly to the left of the cam­era and acts as a fill and key light. It com­plete­ly illu­mi­nates the mod­el, while form­ing a black and white pat­tern;
  • a flash with a reflec­tor is direct­ed towards the back­ground. It makes the back­ground lighter, brighter, and the mod­el looks even more expres­sive.

The back­ground is white, paper.

An exam­ple of a clas­sic arrange­ment of three light sources. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

Light scheme “High key”

In such a scheme, light tones pre­dom­i­nate, there are prac­ti­cal­ly no dark and deep shad­ows. But with the help of glow, you can also cre­ate the desired vol­ume.

The scheme is sim­i­lar to Hol­ly­wood and to the one described above. In these cas­es, the mod­el’s face is also illu­mi­nat­ed by a sin­gle light source. It is placed above the cam­era (as an option — a lit­tle to the side, but still next to it).

But what’s the dif­fer­ence? The dif­fer­ence is in the back­ground light­ing. Behind the mod­el, 2 light sources are installed, which are at an angle of 45 degrees with respect to the back­ground. At the same time, the back­ground light­ing should have an inten­si­ty that is 1–2 steps high­er in terms of expo­sure than that of the main source.

With the High Key scheme, the pho­to is very light. But still bulky. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

Lighting scheme for studio portrait

You will need:

  • octo­box to cre­ate dif­fuse light­ing and soft­en shad­ows. Unlike the pre­vi­ous schemes, it is more deployed to the mod­el. If you need to soft­en the shad­ows even more, you can use an addi­tion­al light reflec­tor on the right side;
  • ver­ti­cal strip­box — con­tour light. Need­ed to empha­size the sides of the sub­ject;
  • flash with a reflec­tor — direct­ed towards the back­ground (not dark, you can col­or), bright­ens it.
Anoth­er way to arrange 3 light sources for por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

A simple parabolic umbrella light scheme

Such an umbrel­la of the usu­al large diam­e­ter (1–2 m). Its pecu­liar­i­ty is that the “deep” shape allows you to cre­ate a dense and intense light flux. It becomes more direct­ed. The object is com­plete­ly well lit. Now it is enough just to high­light addi­tion­al areas so that there is a clear­er out­line.

You will need:

  • par­a­bol­ic umbrel­la, which is locat­ed behind the cam­era;
  • 2 ver­ti­cal strips. They are placed behind the mod­el. Used as con­tour sources.

This method can be used to pho­to­graph a sta­t­ic por­trait. The back­ground for work is best to choose a light one.

Scheme of arrange­ment of light sources with a par­a­bol­ic umbrel­la. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

Light scheme in a photo studio with a parabolic umbrella No. 2

This scheme dif­fers from the pre­vi­ous one in the arrange­ment of ver­ti­cal strips. In the pre­vi­ous case, they high­light­ed the mod­el itself. In this they are aimed at the back­ground. The option is suit­able if the back­ground is not light enough, white, eye-catch­ing. And the task is to make it lighter, brighter, so that the object stands out against its back­ground.

Umbrel­la can be tak­en 165–180 cm in diam­e­ter. Thanks to such a large size, the light­ing will be soft, del­i­cate, with­out harsh shad­ows.

The scheme is used for fash­ion shoot­ing, por­trait shoot­ing, shoot­ing for pho­to stocks.

Anoth­er way to use a par­a­bol­ic umbrel­la. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

Studio light lighting scheme — 6th option

To cre­ate a styl­ish black and white pho­to, you need a uni­form dark gray paper back­ground. You need to put the mod­el as far as pos­si­ble.

For work you will need:

  • reflec­tor — it is placed on the side of the mod­el and moved clos­er to the back­ground. The task is to place it so that it illu­mi­nates the left side of the back­ground;
  • octo­box — placed behind the back of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er. It is bet­ter to choose with a large diam­e­ter (1.5 m). It is need­ed to form shad­ows;

a reflec­tor with hon­ey­combs is the main light source, which is locat­ed almost above the face of the mod­el. Need­ed to illu­mi­nate the face, hair­styles.

A sim­ple three-light scheme for a spec­tac­u­lar black and white pho­to. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

Light scheme in photography with color sources

Option for fans non-stan­dard. With it, you can make beau­ti­ful col­or accents on the sub­ject. The back­ground is black, paper. It is bet­ter to dress the mod­el in white so that the com­po­si­tion looks as impres­sive as pos­si­ble. The girl becomes at the max­i­mum pos­si­ble dis­tance from the back­ground.

one. First light source — a reflec­tor with hon­ey­combs and cur­tains, on which a red gel fil­ter is installed. The task is to high­light the hair of the mod­el from below, while pre­vent­ing the light from spread­ing to the back. The exact loca­tion of the reflec­tor depends on the height of the mod­el.

2. Sec­ond light source — reflec­tor with­out hon­ey­combs, with a blue gel fil­ter. Need­ed to make cold shad­ows from below. It must be placed at the bot­tom right so that the light beam is from the bot­tom up. It is impor­tant that the blue beam does not light up the face too much. Oth­er­wise, the pic­ture will look dirty.

3. Lat­est source (main) — a plate. It must be placed high and close to the sub­ject so that the light beam is almost ver­ti­cal.

Unusu­al scheme with col­or fil­ters. Illus­tra­tion: Eliza­ve­ta Chupiko­va, Photostore.Expert

Lighting scheme for portrait shooting — 8th option

For a black and white pho­to, you should take a gray back­ground (any shade, from light to dark).

3 source types are used:

Very impor­tant. It is he who cre­ates a beau­ti­ful shad­ow, adds vol­ume. The light from this source is hard. You can take a beau­ty dish (how to work with it, described in our guide), a stan­dard reflec­tor, a reflec­tion umbrel­la.

Makes shad­ows soft, ful­ly illu­mi­nates the sub­ject. This light must be scat­tered. You can take an umbrel­la to the light, soft­box.

Need­ed to high­light the back­ground, add vol­ume, high­light the object from the back­ground. To form a bright spot, you can take a flash with a reflec­tor, a tube.

A sim­ple scheme for por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy with three light sources. Illus­tra­tion: Photostore.Expert

In the pre­sent­ed scheme, the sources of key and fill light must be placed in front of the object, on oppo­site sides of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er. And the tube is direct­ed to the back­ground can­vas.