How to Use Basic Floodlights for Portrait Lighting

Written by anya meave
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How to Use Basic Floodlights for Portrait Lighting
Handle floodlights with caution. (projecteur de studio photo image by Ploum1 from

Basic floodlights permit large areas of indoor or outdoor space to be illuminated. These lights are also used to illuminate objects or people in low-cost photographic studio settings. Photographers will need to choose a "two light" set-up or a "three-point lighting" set-up for best results with basic floodlights. Both lighting set-ups will create even lighting across the background and subject.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 150 to 500 watt tungsten floodlights
  • Light stands
  • Mounting lamps
  • Leather work gloves
  • Masking tape

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  1. 1

    Select and purchase basic 150 to 500 watt tungsten floodlights from a local or online photo supply store to produce the best natural colour. Place the basic floodlights on floodlight stands or mounting lamps. Always use leather work gloves when handling floodlights as they are extremely hot to the touch.

  2. 2

    Mark the ground where the photographic subject will be placed with masking tape. Identifying where the subject will be is known as "blocking" your subject. This will guide you as you set up the studio lights.

  3. 3

    Place a basic floodlight at a 5-o'clock angle to the right of the subject. This light will serve as the "key light," which will provide the main illumination required to light the subject. Position this light 2 to 3 feet away from the subject.

  4. 4

    Position another basic floodlight at a 7-o'clock angle, to the left of the photographic subject. The left basic floodlight will be used as the "fill light," which fills in the shadows left behind by the key light. Place this light 3 to 4 feet away from the subject.

  5. 5

    Add a basic floodlight behind the photographic subject to illuminate the background or top of the subject's head. This light will serve as the "back light" or "hair light," and will separate the subject from the background. Position this light at an 11-o'clock angle 2 feet away from the subject and out of the frame.

  6. 6

    Meter each basic floodlight using the camera's internal light meter. Ensure that all lights read at the same f-stop number, such as f/5.6, for even lighting results.

Tips and warnings

  • Mount the basic floodlight lamps onto a nonflammable surface, such as a metal rod.

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