Tips for Setting Up Multiple Studio Lights

Multi light setups are difficult to work with. Often the best approach is to start with a single light—a key light—and then build the arrangement of the remaining lights around it. In this video, photographer Gavin Hoey shows us exactly how it is done:

Key Light

Hoey starts with the key light, a large Flashpoint Rovelight 600 Ws Monolight. He places it on camera left, meters the light (f/8, 1/100) and then readjusts the power by a stop (f/11, 1/100) so that he can get more depth of field. If you don’t know how to check the power of a light source using a light meter, check out this article.

studio lighting arrangement

Key Light

Here’s the resulting image:

setting up studio lights

First image with just the key light

As you can see, the image is really moody and edgy. If this is what you want, stop right here. This is perfect. But if you want a slightly softer look, read on.

Fill Light

For the next shot Hoey brings in his second light, a Flashpoint SL-360 StreakLight. This will fill in those shadows from the first shot.

Setting up your fill-light

Fill Light Added

Again, the light is measured and this is what the resulting image looks like:

Key light & fill-light

Resulting image with the key light and fill-light

Separation Light

Hoey now has his key light and fill light set up. He brings in the separation light. A separation light is one that separates the subject from the background. A little bit of angle adjustment and here’s what he gets:

studio lighting setup tips

Key Light, Fill Light, and Separation Light

Background Light

Now’s the time for the final light of this arrangement.  The background light is only for illuminating the background and for creating a bright halo effect.

using background lights

Background Light Added

Here’s the final image with all the lights in place:

Multiple light arrangement

Final Image Before Post-Processing

Here’s a quick collage of how adding each of the lights impacted the image bit by bit:

Lighting setup for studio


pastel coloring for studio lighting

As a bonus, Hoey goes on to show you how to add a pastel look to your images (muting colors, reducing vibrancy, etc.) as well as how to blend different backgrounds to your image for the final look.

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2 responses to “Tips for Setting Up Multiple Studio Lights”

  1. Claude B. says:


    The two light is superb for me.

  2. Richard D. says:

    Gavin carefully metered each light EXCEPT the background light. Why? What should it have been?

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