How to Use Umbrella Photography Lights for Portraits

A photographer uses umbrella photography lights while taking portraits. Follow the guide below to successfully set up your umbrella lights and use them while taking pictures.

Step 1 - Place Your Lighting

Knowing how to place your lighting for a portrait shoot is important. The best placement of your lighting depends on the location and the studio space. If you place the lighting too close to the subject, you are likely to get too many shadow effects. You may need to experiment with your space. Once you have found the right spot, use tape to mark off the locations on your floor so you can easily place them in the future.

Step 2 - Place the Key Light

Place your key light by your subject. It should be bent at a 45-degree angle. Place the key light approximately 4 to 5 feet away from the subject.

Step 3 - Place the Fill Light

The fill light should be the closest light to your subject. Place the light at eye level with your subject to help to reflect the light in his eyes. This is what will make your subject's eyes twinkle and sparkle in front of the camera.

Step 4 - Setup the Hair Light

Place this umbrella light above your subject. The light should be behind the subject's body. If your subject has a head full of really dark hair, then place the light closer to the head. As the hair lightens, pull the light further away from the subject.

Step 5 - Meter the Light

Before you take any portraits, meter the light. The meter will help you to setup your lighting ratio for your portrait. A common lighting ratio is 3:1. You can choose whatever ratio you feel is best or fits best with the photograph you are looking to take for your subject.

Step 6 - Test the Meter

Now that you have all of your umbrella lights setup, you will need to test that the lighting ratio is working appropriately. This means that you will test the meter. To do this, first turn off all the lights. Then turn on the key light. Fire the strobe directly in front of the light meter (of your key light).  This will come up with a reading. Write the reading down on a piece of paper. Turn your key light on. Then, one by one, turn on the other lights and take the measurement as noted above.  Check to make sure your lighting ratio is appropriately setup. You are now ready to go!

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: