My Go-To Studio Lighting Setup

This is a shot of my son Joe taken with the classic clamshell, beauty setup — I had a beauty dish, high in front of Joe, shooting down and I had a reflector around his mid-chest level, tilted toward him to reflect the beauty dish light back up into Joe’s face to soften the shadows. If you click on the image to zoom in, you’ll see the light setup reflected in his eyes.

I think most photographers have a go-to lighting setup — that is a specific positioning of their studio strobes or flashes to give them a specific look they love. For me, I love the classic beauty setup using two lights or one light and a reflector in a clamshell orientation. Positioning the lights and/or reflector in that way result in a nice even light to the subject’s face that I adore.

In the video, Gavin Hoey, for Adorama TV, goes over how he does the classic clamshell beauty lighting — something every photographer should know how to do. He uses a softbox for his main light whereas I prefer to use a beauty dish.

There are times I will use a softbox instead of a beauty dish. In this image of Courtney, I wanted a bit of shadow on her face but I still wanted those shadows to be rather soft. To accomplish that, I used a softbox high above and in front of her head, shooting down on her face. I wanted the shadows to the side so I pulled the light to my right a bit and didn’t use a reflector or second light.