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When it comes to studio lighting setups, there are a few classic recipes that are proven to work. That is if you know how to use them correctly. These setups can be as simple as using one light and a reflector, or they can be complicated setups with three, four or even more lights.
For any photographer with a little experience in studio photography, all these setups can be confusing. We're going to help you understand at least one of them: the three point lighting scheme.
This is one of the oldest and most effective setups for portrait photography. It is essentially made of three components: a main light, a fill light and a hair or rim light.
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Let's break it down. In every lighting setup you're going to need a main light. It's the most powerful light in the setup and in this setup it is positioned at about 45 degrees from the subject's face. Since the main light is the most powerful, it might cast some nasty shadows.
That's where the fill light comes in. With other, simpler setups, the fill light can be replaced by a reflector. Whichever the case, its job is to soften up those shadows and put a bit of light on the side that's opposite to the main light. Using a second flash will obviously give you more light than a reflector and that's one of the specific things about the three point lighting setup.
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The hair light or rim light is positioned behind and to one side of the model. Its job is to separate the subject from the background and add a sense of depth.
This lighting setup really isn't complicated once you understand how it works. It can also be adjusted depending on the subject's position and on how you want the final image to look.
For a detailed demonstration of how the three point light setup works, check out this video made by Ed Verosky Photography Tutorials.