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Beginner’s guide to studio light for portrait photography

One of the major advantages of taking portraits in a photography studio is that you have complete control over the lighting. However, studio light for portrait photography comes in several types and can be set up in a number of techniques. It is hard to master if you are a novice photographer. In this article, we will dive into the above topics so you can have a general understanding.

  1. Compare natural and studio lights for portrait photography
  2. Introduce three types of studio lights for portraits
  3. Studio lighting for portrait photography tutorial: One- and two-light setup
  4. More tips to get high quality portrait photography

COLBOR CL100X video studio light is used for studio portrait photography.

Left: Use COLBOR light for studio portrait photography; Right: Output image

Portrait photography lighting: Compare natural VS studio lights

For novices, the entire 'portrait lighting setup' thing might be scary. Most people believe that working with natural one will be simpler. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Dedicated studio lighting has several significant advantages:

  • They provide you considerably more freedom and creativity in illuminating your model.
  • They provide better exposure control.

You must match your camera settings to the natural light for proper exposure. Even when using a combination of on-camera flash and ambient light. The risk is that you will wind up utilizing a shutter speed that is too slow, especially if you do not have fast f/1.4-2.8 lenses.

With studio lights, instead, you can set the aperture, ISO and shutter speed as you want. It’s easier and you can shoot with any lens that are available on the market.

Three types of studio lights to use for portrait photography

There are three types of studio lighting equipment for portrait photography that you can choose from.

Continuous Lighting

This studio light for portrait photography involves keeping the light on in the backdrop while taking photographs. It is simple—you turn them on, observe how they illuminate your scene, choose your exposure settings, and begin shooting. With continuous illumination, you can even utilize your camera's auto setting. You can also use this type of LED studio lights for video since they offer continuous illumination.

As you can see, it is easy to grasp, and if you're a novice, you may start here. However, there are some drawbacks. To power your lights, you must always use an external power supply. And because you're leaving them on for longer, the setup will rapidly heat up. This is extremely annoying in a tiny studio.

In mixed lighting circumstances, such as in a room with fluorescent or tungsten lamps, a more powerful light may be required to completely overcome the mixed lighting.

The good news is that many light brands have spent time and efforts overcoming these shortcomings. Take the COLBOR CL100X as an example. It adopts COB LED beads that produce less heat. Besides, It has multiple sensors that assess the operating temperature in real time and adjust the fan speed to provide optimal working conditions. As for the power output, the CL100X is in the PowerCube design. You could combine up to 10 models together to generate 1100W power by sliding the rail of one light into the chute of the other.

You can check the video below to see how it performs in portrait photography.


Speedlights only flash when your camera takes a photo. They are rather powerful but light, portable, and take up little room in your camera bag. They run on standard AA batteries, so you don't have to worry about finding a power source when traveling to different sites for picture sessions.


Monolights, often known as studio strobes, are self-powered flash devices that can produce bright light for a short period of time. They are larger and heavier than speedlights, but they recycle faster between shoots. They are so intense that you may use them outside to overpower the sunlight.

How to set up studio lights for portraits?

When it comes to studio portrait photography, whether you use one light or four, you can create excellent results with a little ingenuity and some setup knowledge.

Four common setups of single light studio portrait photography

As a novice photographer, experimenting with a single eqipment and learning how to utilize it efficiently is the greatest approach to learn about lighting. And here are four common ways to position your studio light for portrait photography

1. Classic 45-degree light

This studio portrait photography lighting setup is the most basic one that beginner photographers start with. Place the light source in front of the model roughly at a 45-degree angle. Place it as close to the subject as possible without getting it in the frame.

As expected, you can see some nose shadow on the side of the face that’s away from the light source. There’s also a fall-off to the shadows on the parts of the neck and shoulder that are away from it. A better approach is to have the light coming in from a greater height. You’ll end up with softer shadows this way.

2. Side lighting for dramatic portraits

Move the light to the side of the subject for a more dramatic and melancholy photo. This will result in more lighting falling on one side of the model's face and a rapid falloff on the other. If you don't want something too dramatic, simply shift it forward a little. This will cause some light to flow over to the opposite side of the face.

3. Butterfly lighting

This setup is typically used for female subjects. It provides equal illumination over the face, eliminates most shadows, and makes the face look thinner. As a result, most beauty portrait photographs employ this technique.

Position the LED studio lights for portrait photography directly in front of and above the subject. Make sure the softbox is slightly slanted toward the subject as well. This will equally illuminate the subject's face while casting shadows under the chin. Use a reflector to fill up the shadows if necessary. Or, use another light with a very low power level.

4. Backlighting

If you're trying for a dramatic picture, this might be an interesting approach to illuminate your subject. This technique, as the name implies, involves lighting your subject from behind. To obtain more light on the subject's face, have them turn their face slightly more toward the light.

Not all of these portrait studio photography lighting techniques will be effective for all subjects. Depending on your subject and light source, you'll need to make certain modifications.

2 light portrait studio setup: Three common types

You'll learn how to create stunning portraits with just two lights and a number of modifiers. If you want to improve your talents, these three setups are an excellent place to start.

1. Soft side lighting and fill

This basic studio lighting setup for portraits, ideal for either a small or big studio, employs only two lamps with reflectors, placed on either side of the model. When the lights are pointed away from the model, they reflect off the neighboring studio walls, creating a nice soft, flattering illumination for portrait photography.

This setup is really basic and employs inexpensive modifiers. It is also readily customizable based on the aesthetic you want. You may try different effects by experimenting with the position of the lights or your model.

2. Deep umbrella techniques

Two lights were used in this setup: one studio light for portrait photography to illuminate the subject and one for the backdrop. This is a fantastically adaptable modifier that provides a very concentrated light ideal for beauty and fashion photography.

One of the benefits is the ability to switch and focus the light from a stronger, more focused impact to a broader, softer one. The beam is broader in the somewhat softer position, making it suited for three-quarter and even full-length photography.

3. Enchanting two light result

This setup of portrait photography studio lighting, which uses two softboxes in unique places, demonstrates how thinking imaginatively truly pays off. This produce a wonderful soft light great for close up photography by using one huge softbox from above and one from below. This setup is also ideal for working in compact areas.

[You can also use studio light for newborn photography, Click Here to get more setup information.]

Six studio portrait photography tips

Choose the right lens. A lens affects so much more than how much you’ll capture from a given distance, and so our first tip for taking a great portrait is to choose the right lens. Our first piece of advice for capturing a beautiful portrait is to pick the proper lens. Because it has a significant impact on so much more than the amount of information you'll capture from a particular distance.

Zoom with your feet. Our second piece of advice for taking fantastic studio portraits at a photography studio is to utilize a prime lens, which is why we recommend to zoom with your feet. In addition to the fact that prime lenses often offer better image quality than zoom lenses, by making yourself walk about or "zoom with your feet," you'll find fresh perspectives and experiment with shooting techniques.

Take time to get the right lighting. We cannot emphasize this more! Making the most of your studio light for portrait photography is critical to producing amazing photos, whether you're shooting in a studio or in a field of flowers. After all, photography does imply 'light painting'.

Use single point focus. Without a question, focus is essential for making an effective portrait. One of the few things you can't edit in post-production these days is a badly focused photograph. Just select Single Point Focus. It will allow you to choose where your camera will focus. Whether you choose to focus on the eyes, a little flaw, or the subject's lips, the atmosphere of a photograph may be radically altered.

Try different shooting angles. Exposure and composition are two crucial aspects of photograph creation. While there are certain easy composition guidelines you may follow to produce a good shot, such as the rule of thirds, don't be afraid to experiment! Don't be afraid to move in, move out, shoot up, and shoot down while capturing photos! Experiment with different angles to see what stands out. The outcomes may surprise you! After all, rules were designed to be disregarded, especially when it came to creating art.

Shoot in RAW. This should go without saying, but shooting RAW is the key to producing good photos of anything, at any time. When shooting with a high-quality camera, the user is often offered the option of shooting in RAW or JPEG. While JPEG photographs are likely to seem better straight out of the camera, they are notoriously hard to edit. This is due to the fact that your camera has already 'chosen' the color of each pixel. A RAW file, on the other hand, has not been compressed and hence contains far more detail. You may use this information to bring out colors, tweak saturation, contrast, and hues, and significantly change exposure.


Studio light for portrait photography enables you to have complete control over lighting. It comes in three common types including continuous light, speedlight, and strobe. There are four common setups for you to create different shooting moods. You can build the best studio lighting kits for portrait photography for yourself according to your lighting preferences. Besides illumination, there are also some aspects to take into consideration to create outstanding portrait photography.