Lesson 1. Full body lighting scheme. Part 3

by Oleg Ti



The second important source in my lighting setup is the fill light. The task for appearance of this source is (not being seen in lighting scene) to add some light to illuminate the dark side of model, to pull out the details, to get the information in the shadow areas of photos.

Requirements for this kind of light are very clear and easily articulated. The light should be as soft as possible, to go from the camera, not to make shadows at the background and surrounding objects, not to have any color or tint, to be as far from the model as possible to cover all areas of photography not just the model. The best solution is a reflector directed to the opposite wall from the background. If the reflector is set directly behind the photographer, turned toward back wall, such a solution gives us a soft light coming from camera, and lighting evenly the whole scene.

I often use the terms “slightly”, “little”, not because I do not know the exact values of the power of this light. I operate with these terms, because for every type of photography, for every color and type of background, for every color and brightness of the clothes on the model, the hardness  of the key light, and at last for the style of picture, these values will vary considerably. So I attempt to use different values of power, looking at the image on the screen (and I always use the screen of computer connected with my camera) and trying different capacity of the fill light which is appropriate for the task.

In this case, I reduced the unit power to minimum level, adding one step of the power of the lighting source which forms the fill light, then choose the right, the most appropriate value.



In the pictures presented above you can see only the fill light. I turned off the key light in order to see how the fill light works. The reflector is directed to the back wall behind the photographer and I, as well as in the previous series of pictures, added one stop of the unit power to see how changing the intensity of the fill light.

It should be noted that such a scheme of light, when I use the reflected light from the walls of the studio, is quite common in my practice. That’s why I like to work in studios with white walls. After all you can put black flags around the model. Eliminating the unnecessary reflections in a white studio is much easier than to add the suitable reflections from dark or black walls, getting the necessary to dramatically increase the power of lighting units and receiving various tints from usually not neutral walls. Using the reflected light gives us so many advantages, one of them is changing its direction and softness very quickly.

In this case, I was limited by dimensions of the studio (It was just 9 meters of length, and it is a small studio for me) and I couldn’t use the unit at the big distance between the lighting unit and the wall so I got not very soft light but you can not see the shadows on the background behind the model. The lighting picture on the model is not quite soft and flat so I moved the lighting unit that produced the fill light slightly to the right so it worked more on “the shadow side” of the model opposite to the left side which is getting the key light.

I must say that not being able to shoot in a white studio, the photographer can put a big oktabox or softbox behind his back, directed to the model, which can also be quite effective for getting appropriate fill light.


The choice is made: the value that we see between the first and second images. Compare it with the lighting that was made without the fill light.

The shadow side of the model now is not just the darkness but the shady areas with existing, visible information on them. At the same time, the pattern of the key is saved, it is expressed and visible not less than the photo taken without the fill light. The background got a little gray, evenly lit.

Not often we do need an absolutely black background, and in this photo I received a little lighted background which we could imagine not as a clear white sheet but as a tinted page of the album we will fill with our beautiful lighting picture.

The photo has become more similar to the picture we see with our eyes.The dynamic range of the camera is more narrow than the human eyes have . We often see a nice picture in the studio with our eyes, with very wide range of tones. However when we shoot, we get a picture having absolutely overexposed areas or vice versa parts of it falling in the darkness. Thus applying the fill light, we push seeing picture dynamic range into a dynamic range of the camera, making it the same way we see with our eyes.

In general, it is clear that the picture broadly consistents with stated objectives, however, I do not have good and well-lit background. That we are going to get.


Lighting of background is no less important thing than the lighting of the model. That’s right, beautifully lit background gives the volume to photos, creating compositional perfection, highlights, emphasizes certain parts of the model, adds the dynamic style to the picture and generates interesting color solutions.

Here I would like to put the light with a distinct, but soft and feather spot on the background and using reflector with honeycomb grid would be more than the great decision for this purpose.

In that case the lighting source should be as far from the background as you can approach but it is not always possible because of the dimensions of studio, the width of the stage. The farther away we move the lighting source from the axis perpendicular to the background, the more we change the shape of the circle spot formed by the honeycomb – the one edge of the light spot would be softer than the other, which is not very well for harmony and composition with the vertical frame.

For me, the ideal solution is to use the background light on the rail system or on the boom, just above the model’s head. The difference of the shape and hardness of the upper and lower edge of the spot will not be so noticeable, but here as in the case of key light, I decided to use the solution with the stand which is possible in any studio.

I placed the reflector such a way that it was as close as possible to the axis of the lens, but knowing that I’d use the extra frost frame I moved it slightly to the right to operate comfortably with so very hugh equipment as the frost frame is. I chose very narrow honeycomb grid to get very small and sharp spot behind the model. But it was suitable for me because of knowing that I am going to use a diffusion gel with this frost frame that would made this spot more wide and soft. But this is the next story…

To be continued…