How to Capture Shafts of Light in Your Photos

Shafts of light streaming down from the sky our through a window makes for wonderfully dramatic lighting in photography. These shafts of light, especially when you create an atmosphere using smoke or fog, can really make your images pop. The setup may appear complicated when you first try it out, but it’s not so bad once you get the hang of things. Jay P. Morgan demonstrates:

Bring in fog or smoke

Smoke or fog creates an atmosphere conducive to using shafts of light. Light needs to bounce off of something in the air to reveal itself and produce that distinct shaft.

using smoke machine to create light shafts

You need atmosphere for your images

Morgan recommends using something like the Rosco Vapour Fog Machine to produce the fog.

Adjust the angle of the light source

Bring your light in and aim it back toward your camera to create a realistic light shaft. Light shafts shouldn’t be aimed out and crossing the scene as much as back into the scene and aimed at the camera at an angle of about 45 degrees.

how to create shafts of light

The angle of the light is critical

Quality of light

Quality of light is more about how your lights are focused than anything else. To demonstrate, Morgan uses two similar lights—one in full focus and the other in full flood. The light on his right is in full flood, which makes it soft and spill everywhere. The light on his left is in full focus, which is why the light is more intense and creates a nice shaft.

tips to create shafts of light

Quality of light is essential

Continuous lights are a better choice than strobes for producing great shafts of light.

How to create shafts of light

But you’ll probably want to mix both continuous lights and strobes to get the perfect look. Use strobes to light your subject and continuous lights to create the light shaft.

Shape the light

Shaping the light is the final aspect of this setup. Most photographers prefer to use a window, especially if they’re using natural light as a key light. A window cuts the light and shapes it.

shafts of light

Add atmosphere using a smoke machine, and that’s it!

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