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Basic Five Point Studio Lighting

five point diagram
Basic five point studio lighting adds two kickers to the lighting mix

For this article I needed a studio and the assistance of a full time studio photographer, so I turned to Karl Leopold at imagesforever.net down in Melbourne Beach, FL. Karl was gracious enough to help out with this article and lend his expertise.

Last time we covered basic three point studio lighting today we’re going to kick it up a notch and add two more lights, called kickers, and see what difference that makes on lighting our subject.

Our gear:

A key light – Usually a softbox or umbrella. For this shoot we used an Alien Bees 800 in a Fomex rectangular soft box.

A fill light – Our fill is an Alien Bees 800 in a 48 inch Octodome.

A hair light – The hair light is an Ultra 1800 fitted with a grid screen on a boom.

Throughout the shoot we used only a single modeling light on the Fomex soft box.

We’re adding two Alien Bees 400s in softboxes placed off axis on either side of the subject. We’re going to use them two different ways: One is to gain further separation from the background by pointing them at the subject at -2 stops to match the hair light. The other is we’re going to switch to a white background and flip the kickers around to blow out the white background shooting them at +2 stops relative to the key.

First we used a light meter to verify we were hitting f/11 at the subject, then we maintained a consistent distance to the subject the old-fashioned way, with a string to the center of the key soft box.

All the lights are on PocketWizard Plus remotes and the transmitter on my Canon 7D was a PocketWizard MiniTTL. The lens was a stock Canon 28-135mm zoom set my closest eyeball approximation to 85mm.

All camera settings were manual unless otherwise stated, we used 1/125 of second for a shutter speed through the entire series.

I did minimal post processing adjustments on the pictures so you can see the difference in the lighting. Standard color correction and cropping is all that was done.

Our basic set up was Rembrandt lighting at a 3:1 ratio between the key and the fill,.

light subject on dark background
The kickers really help separate the light subject from a dark background

The photo with the dark background has the kickers pointed at the subject, which helps separate the light jacket from the background. You can see in the pattern of the background that we’re getting some back scatter off the white jacket from the kickers. Not a big problem in this case because there’s so much separation with the contrast.

In the second photo with the red jacket we flipped the kickers around, bumped up the power settings and used them to blow out a white background. If you look closely you’ll notice I should have raised the kickers up a little higher. You can see some gradient in the white background because the kickers are too close to the floor.

Raise them up to about shoulder height on the subject, bump the power up to full and blaze away.


dark subject, white background
Using the kickers to blow out the white background - We should have raised them up a bit

1 responses on "Basic Five Point Studio Lighting"

  1. Thanks for the article. Quick question……….
    I also have the AB 800 strobe lights. How to I adjust the kickers to the -2 and +2 power on just those lights? The slider on the back of the units is power output right or is it f-stop configurations?

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