Lesson 1. Full body lighting scheme. Part 1

by Oleg Ti

To introduce you to one of many lighting schemes I use, and most importantly to show the sequence and the nuances of lighting, I took the most obedient, and most importantly immovable model – the mannequin.


It happens very often that photographers giving lessons on lighting installations use a dummy, and I decided to follow tradition and show you the process of building of lighting scheme on a mannequin. The task of this lesson is to create a light scheme for full body photo with dramatic but soft, not contrast style, with detailed shadows and beautifully lit background with a noticeable focus of light behind the “model” creating volume for the picture and giving compositional completeness of the whole picture. As you know, any nice lighting is a series of successive actions of photographer, where he sometimes works on the automatic, intuitive level, but visible easiness of photographer working is preceded by finding of numerous decisions, creating for algorithm, building his own rules of lighting.

So I try not to only give the complete solution – “Do this and that”, but to explain every action to compare them with yours, to discuss, to understand, to agree or not, and then put them into the treasury of your knowledge and your skills that I hope you would find useful and significant. I made this photos with medium 50 mm lens, but we could say that the main picture you see in the beginning of this article is made with 200 mm telephoto lens because this is a crop of the whole picture.

I used 2 Profoto D4 2400 watt/sec generators with three light sources. You will see two strobe heads in the pictures, but there is another one (it is responsible for fill light), which is directed to the opposite wall of the model. It unfortunately would never be seen in my photos.

For convenience, I will show one photo in every part of the article, so you can browse through them to see what changes occur, and then read my detailed comments by each of them. It is worth mentioning that the pictures were not corrected in RAW-converter, except for a small adjustment of color temperature, and presented to you in the form in which the picture is visible in RAW-converter with the initial values.

So, here we go:



At first let’s look at the first image. I just directed the softbox to the model, putting it on her left side. (I’ll use “our side” terms, although in studio working with model I used to operate with “model’s side” waiting for the clear, exact response to my commands). Too often photographers use soft box as an easy source of soft light, not really thinking about what a great instrument is in their hands! And what features to manage the light it provides! And they often stop just putting the soft box and making sure that it covers the whole model. We have decided (and if not, it is the good time to decide) to use all the equipment as efficiently as possible , and try to analyze what we see, and identify ways to effectively figure out the problems we are not satisfied with.

So, what do we see?

– The task of lighting model has been solved just partially. The upper part of the model is much more intense with lighting than the lower one. And although we not always have the task to light model exactly from head to foot, but in our case to get a perfect picture we have to do it very carefully lighting completely all parts of the model.

– The right side of the model (again, if we look from our side) fell into deep shadows. And this is a “blonde model.” What would happen if we put a real model into this lighting scheme. We’ll get absolutely black, uninformative shadows.

– The background is dark and flat. Even a soft shadow in the lower right corner of the background does not help the situation. It looks more like careless, negligent style of lighting, not like pleasant picture of light and shadows giving the volume and nice view to the picture.


So, understanding what kind of defects of the first image we encounter, we have to solve all our difficulties step by step.

The first thing we must do is to put a clear, audible key light on the model. My concept of working with light has the fundamental principle: we must be able to put key light on the model just with a single light source. To have the right angle of this light according to our task to have whole model covered with just one light. To have that kind of light not requiring adjustment with any addition lighting sources. To have that kind of light that works well with background and surrounding objects as we need, or on the contrary did not interfere with other lighting sources that we could add to this scheme in the light. You could see how many characteristics fit into my concept of the correct key light.

And to fulfil it, we should move the light source up and down, tilting, rotating around its axis, achieving all the above requirements for key light.

But first, let’s look how our key light works with background and just turn it around its axis toward the background.

You could see that the picture of the light on the model has not changed. Just only the light intensity has become slightly less. We see that the main light beam is directed at the background, and the model in such a situation of light becomes slightly out of the light field, standing in the field of gradients surrounding the spot of the soft box lighting.

The background is a little bit more lit up at the top left, while the right-hand corner  becomes much darker.

This is just a beginning…
To be continued…