Portrait Lighting Arrangements for the DIY LED Studio Lights – How to light a portrait

Portrait Lighting Arrangements for the DIY LED Studio Lights – How to light a portrait


now that you have your own DIY studio set up or maybe you’re planning to build one you need to learn how to use it I’m going to walk you through a dozen different ways that I use these lights I’ll give you some tips that I’ve learned along the way and I’ll show you a few of my finished shots as well stay tuned hey gang just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say DIY LED studio lights be sure to check out this video and also be sure to stay tuned until the very end and I’ll share some really useful and not so obvious lighting tips for portrait photography so this is a 4 light setup that I built with the idea of having two main lights that are 11 and 1/2 inches wide and 48 inches tall and also two additional lights that are 5 and 1/2 inches wide and 48 inches tall my plan was to use them as rim lights or background lights you can even add strobes to extend the possibilities so let’s start out by using just one main light on camera left here’s the result on white on gray and on black if we add a Walmart reflector on the camera right side this is what we get on white here is how it looks on gray and on black please note the reflector is parallel to the subjects face and slightly higher you don’t want to be adding light from below the face unless you’re trying to make a zombie photo I also place the reflector slightly in front of the subjects face experiment moving the reflector closer or further from the face to get the amount of fill that you’re happy with remember there’s no right or wrong now if we add rim lights to the mix we get this look now I created this setup intending to use it as a clamshell lighting setup turn sideways remember that clamshell lighting is when you have two lights one above and one below your lens and you get lighting that looks like this now if we turn the clamshell set sideways and set each light at an equal distance from the lens we’ll get a lighting arrangement that looks like this now if we set up our two main lights on either side of the subject on a white background we’ll get this and on grey and here’s what we have on black my subject is about five feet from the background in all of these examples if you place your subject and lights closer to the backdrop it will course make the white and the gray backgrounds look lighter now for those of you that like a more traditional lighting setup if we turn off the inside strip on the camera right main light we now have a two-to-one lighting ratio with two lights lit on the left and one light on the right here’s how it looks on gray and again on black now before some of you asked if these lights only work on white or black or gray the answer is of course not they’ll work on any color you want be patient I’ll get to the different colors so here’s the setup that I had in mind when I built these lights four lights two lights in the front and two rim lights in the back here’s how it looks on gray and here it is on black now remember my subject is about five feet from the background if we turn the two rim lights and face them towards the backdrop we make the backdrops later here’s the gray version if I move the two single strips closer to the background I can make the backgrounds even brighter here it is on gray I can also get a nice gradient on the backdrop if I take the two single lights and simply lay them on the floor to light the gray background this will also work on white for those of you that really want to go old-school the hair light you can use a super clamp made by Manfrotto or impact and a swivel tilt bracket with a stud to mount the super clamp mount this on a heavy duty light stand and you also need to use a small counterbalance bag to level it an important warning here this works really well but be sure to tighten that super clamp with a death grip and use a stand that will support the weight of your counterbalance and the light you don’t want the light falling on your subject if you think you’re going to do this more than once it’s a good idea to mark the spot where you got the light to balance with a sharpie that way the next time you set it up you won’t have to experiment with finding the balance point okay so let’s look at just a few more variations and I’ll use colored backgrounds for these if we take both main lights and we move them to the same side we get a much broader light source and if we keep the subject close to the background we can get away with just the main lights or add a simple rim light like you see here if we add a strobe to light the background we can use all four LEDs in a sideways clamshell set up with two rim lights and then light the background with a separate strobe that gives you the option of adding color gels to create even more color possibilities now I can go on for another hour or so but I think you get the point the possibilities are endless and you’re really only limited by your own ability to see light now I promise you some useful tips the first one notice the height of the lights in relationship to my subject I always try to keep my subjects face in the lower half of the lighting fixture if you set the fixture too low you’ll have a lot of light coming from below the face which can cause shadows on the top of the cheeks and the nose the second tip be very careful with the rim lights you don’t want them to be so close that you lose detail in the hair on the skin and you certainly don’t want to have a nose that glows take your time adjust the lights accordingly also pay really close attention to the hair when you’re using the rims if the hair is too far forward on the subjects face it will cause a dark shadow on the side of the face you do not need to move the light to fix this move the hair a little hairspray will keep it in place long enough for you to get your shot so there you have it regardless of whether you using my DIY LED lights or if you already had the t8 fluorescents or if you’re using speed lights or mono lights all of these arrangements will work depending on the modifiers you have available and the backgrounds you have now please the key here is practice and then practice some more experiment and always remember that your best shot is your next shot so keep learning keep thinking and keep shooting adios thanks for watching if you find these videos helpful please give them a thumbs up and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode and if you’ve got a question that you’d like answered post it in the comments section below your questions could be my next video


41 thoughts on “Portrait Lighting Arrangements for the DIY LED Studio Lights – How to light a portrait

  1. I just randomly found your channel and as a beginner I am amazed! The DIY LED light strips is such an awesome tip, thank you!

  2. Awesome tutorials!!! I'm a newbie on studio lighting and more interested in diy studio lighting. Any link? Thanks!!!

  3. Dear Joe thank you so much for sharing all your expertise and excitement
    I like your videos because you are so creative and because of your likable authentic style
    I stay tuned!

  4. What an awesome tutorial full of positive vibes and without the commonly found in other channels "I will shove my sponsor´s gear down your throat"

    please MORE like this!!!

    Thank you Joe for sharing with us and keep up the great work!!

  5. Are you putting any kind of diffuser on the lights or just using them bare. These things seem so bright that I squint when I'm looking at them.

  6. I have looked at many of your shows. You are one of the best at getting the points to us. Thanks for your wiliness to give to us. I don't know why you do it. But thanks so much. I wish I was you or more like you. your so cool. Some of the best portraits I have ever seen. You live the dream or my dream. Look me up some timeif you ever have the time. On flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/patnode-rainbowman/

  7. Nice tutorial. Just an FYI, I think you mixed up your close crops from 4:14 to 4:20. Thank you for sharing your project!

  8. With the LEDs do you need any color balance Or shot as is? I did a church photo not long ago and it was very blue and they have the church lit by LEDs. Oh And thanks so much for all the videos you do. I know you must work day and night to do all you do for us. Thanks for being so kind and giving. May many blessings come your way.

  9. Just discovered your videos……and they are awesome!! Thanks for sharing all those great tips and trics. Greatings from the Netherlands

  10. I've watched this video 3 ~ 4 times to help me think about LED T8 light placement. I'm puzzled as to why people spend time reading about the new this and that lens / camera and there are only 23.5K views in this video. But then again, that does explain why so many photos look just the same – the "preset mindset". Joe, if you get to read this, I'd welcome a tutorial with a real model and more radical light placements. I'm taking a day out of my schedule to experiment some more but it's always good to see what other people come up with. Tks!

  11. Joe, I actually had bought an LED shop light recently thinking of doing this. So great that you share your experience in making and using them. It helped me see that you can get great results, not just adequate results using them!

  12. Hey Joe! You have the most informative, inspirational photography channel out there. Thanks for all you do. Makes me feel like I can shoot anything.

  13. Curious about the modeling chair you use. I've cycled through a couple and havent found a good one yet.

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