Basic two light set up for portraits, editorial, video, etc.

This setup is one of the most commonly used lighting schemes for both studio and location assignments. The motion picture and video industry uses this setup as its default starting point for more than half of all scenes and interviews. If you’re new to lighting, this set up should be one of the first to learn.


The simplicity and versatility of this set up makes it a favorite because the subject will look good whether they’re facing left, right or center. The soft key light on one side and a more direct spot light above and behind the subject provide good illumination of the face and good separation from the background. Much of the success of this set up depends upon having the two lights fall on opposite sides of the subject, leaving the middle portion of the subject in shadow. Note how the subject is turned in the larger photo so the highlights fall onto the frontal plane of the face.

The smaller photo illustrates a creative way to ‘eclipse’ the subject with a prop or product. In this example the subject, glass blower Jason Furlong, wanted his artwork to take center stage so I broke a rule and covered one eye with the vase. There are endless ways to utilize this simple lighting setup. Once you familiarize yourself with it, you’ll find thousands of uses for it.



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