I think at some point or another every photographer walks into a studio and heads to their “go to setup” and it just doesn’t feel right for what you’re looking to achieve on the day. You end up doing some guesstimating and you land there eventually, But studio time can be expensive and time is precious especially on those shoots where you need to get the shots needed quickly for one reason or another. So i decided to work on 5 lighting setups that i could use as a baseline in a range of situations to achieve a range of looks so i can walk straight in, Get the look i want in the most freeing way possible and be free to get creative. Here are the 5 setups i use everyday in commercial and editorial work.


This setup widely known in filmmaking as “Book Lighting” comprises of a white V card or two poly-boards in a V shape with a single flash or continuous light pointing towards it with a diffusion sheet at the front to soften the light and help to wrap around your subject, Beautifully soft consistent light. Optionally add a second light with a shoot through white umbrella to add a slight addition of directional light to your frame. This setup is GREAT! for those moments where you wish you had natural light but don’t or if you know it’s a long day and you want natural light heading into those winter evenings when it gets dark far too early!


Setup 2 is a great all rounder for beauty shots. It’s a softer more even setup which gives you the ability to shoot quite wide frames and macro for details. I like to keep quite a quick pace on my commercial beauty shoots as we’re often doing multiple full makeup looks. Which means i need a setup that gives me plenty of options and movement while working. The setup here it a 70cm beauty dish with a sock overhead pointing down at a 45 degree angle on a boom, a 135cm octa to the right at a 45 angel inward and a bounce card at waist level to fill some of the shadows under the chin. It gives you alot of room to move around and get the shots left and right, Which is so freeing. Remove the sock and move the beauty dish a little to the right and this setup is great in editorial fashion shoots too!


I see this up used quite a lot in e-commerce, But i think if you play around with your power values this setup is so much fun for full length fashion editorials and even campaign shots. A 120cm Deep octa or a 135cm octa to the right depending on how punchy you want the key to be, With a small octa or softbox on the floor as a kicker to fill in some of the shadows being cast by your key light. A super versatile setup you can pull out for a range of shots.


As the name suggests, This setup is for those high key white shots you see in high end e-commerce, Magazines and Campaigns. It’s 2 Medium softboxes or stripboxes to the left and right firing at equal power onto the background to blow out those highlights with a flag (black polyboard or card) eitherside to prevent spill onto the sides of your subject. Finally with a large octa on a boom overhead pointing down at a 45 degree angle acting as your main light. This setup has to be quite controlled in terms of the positioning of your subject so i’d recommend marking their position on the floor to save time while shooting.

SETUP 5 - Directional with hair light

I can’t really give you just one option where this setup works well because it’s so versatile depending on the modifiers you use. From hair photoshoots, to beauty, to interviews in video. It comprises of a beauty dish with a sock (or an octa) to the right facing inwards at a 45 degree angle with a bounce to the right of your subject and a silver umbrella to the rear of your subject facing in from the opposite side to help your subject stand out from the background and to also bring in some details in the hair and a little on the shoulder. The setup is really great when you’re working with darker backgrounds and you’re starting to feel like you’re losing your subject in the frame.

So those are my 5 setups, I hope you found them useful and they come in handy next time you’re feeling like trying something new.

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