Lighting styles, it seems, change as often as hairstyles do. And like hairstyles, everyone wants what’s in right now.
Recently, the go-to lighting style has become centered on backlight (where the primary light sources come from behind the subject rather than the front). Typically, the subject is lit from behind by at least two lights, and one (or more) fill light near the lens. The fill light is designed to add some pop to your subject’s face, while the backlights frame the subject in a crisp outline.
Let’s get technical:
Imagine your subject is sitting at the centre of a flat clock. The lens of your camera is at 12 o’clock, facing your subject (and your subject is facing the camera). A light appears to be shining directly from behind your subject.
Here is a standard setup to light your forward-facing subject:
Place two backlights behind your subject— one at 4:30 on your horizontal clock, and one at 6:30. Make sure their intensities are the same. Now, add a fill light right beside your camera at 12:30, but make it half an F-stop lower than your two backlights. Note the light intensity ratio and remember/record it for later (on your phone, notepad, etc.). From a bird’s eye view, your setup should form a sort of triangle around your subject, with the two backlights serving as two corners, and your fill light serving as the pinnacle of your triangle.
The difference in intensity of your backlights and fill light ultimately depends on your camera. Dynamic ranges and sensitivities differ between sensors, and therefore, cameras too.
- Expensive camera? That likely means that your sensor boasts a wider dynamic range and more sensitivity. You’ll find more options for exposure here.
- Cheaper camera? Expect less range from your sensor, as its quality will be lesser to accommodate the lower cost. You’ll find fewer options for exposure here.
Keep this in mind when shooting on different cameras— yesterday’s setup on a $100,000 camera may need adjusting for today’s shoot on a cheaper camera.
Did you remember to remember your light intensity ratio? Good! You’ll need it to keep your intensities matching, to achieve a consistent look on any day, no matter what camera you employ for your shoot.
Camera: Red Epic
Lighting plan: 4:30 and 12:30 lights set at eye-level. 6:30 light elevated at twice the height of eye-level. Light intensity ratio: 3 F-stops.