Studio lighting: Things you need to know


As a beginner studio lighting can be very daunting and hard to grab. It is somewhat true as lighting takes a lot of time and practice to master. To help beginners out there I have compiled a list of terms/ things that everyone need to know when it comes to studio lighting. 

Hard light

When the light is emitted from a source (Off camera flashes or strobe lights) and directly falls on the subject without getting diffused by any modifiers is termed as hard light. Harsh light creates strong shadows, defined textures & lines and create a dramatic look to your photograph. Portraits that require drama or story are mostly shot with hard light.

Soft Light

When light emitted from a source (Off camera flashes or strobe lights) is obstructed by a modifier like soft boxes or any other diffusing materials, then the light is diffused and the light fall-off on the subject is more soft and flattering. It doesn’t have much shadows and mainly used for wedding portrait photographs.

Key Light

This is the main source of light which illuminates the subject with most intensity, when compared to other light setup that you have or sometimes it could be the only source of light (Strobes/flashes/direct sunlight etc) that you use to shoot the photograph.

Fill Light

This is the secondary source of light which is used to fill in necessary shadows. This could be Strobes/flashes/direct sunlight/reflectors) etc

Light meter

In studio photography, the light that falls off on the subject is measured by a device called light meter. It measures the light that is falling on the subject and gives a suggested readings for camera settings – ISO, Aperture & shutter speed.

Strobe lights

A light source that is AC powered that requires walls or battery packs to power on. They have lightning fast recycle times


A portable flash that can be fired from the hotshoe of the camera or by means of  wireless.


The reflect light onto the subject that is falling on it from a light source. As a result it is used to lessen the intensity of the light and give a more diffused or soft or flattering look on the subject.

Lighting ratio

A comparison between the intensity (brightness) of the main light and the fill light and thus the difference of the lit and shadow sides of the subject’s face.

Kicker light / Kicker / Rim

Kick lights are used as highlights to hair or any other part of subject to enhance the photograph. There are modifiers like snoots, beauty dishes which will act as kicklights else hard light can be used with desired intensity as highlights to hair.


Modifiers are basically the diffusers which controls or modifies the intensity of light falling on the subject from the direct source of light. It decides the amount of light falling on the subject. There are number of modifiers in the market for various purposes like softbox, reflectors, beauty dishes, snoots, color gels, umbrella boxes etc.,

Color Gels

They add color to the flash that is fired onto the subject. So one can play with these color gels to create endless possibilities of looks to the photographs. There are serious products and many diy color gels which exactly does the same as that of any proper products.

Hope you have some idea about the terms used in studio lighting now. I will update this article from time to time with more information. Thanks for reading, happy shooting 🙂

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