Once the lens choice and modifier is set and working I’ll position the subject into a space I think works then start positioning the lights. Shadow definition is all created in camera so lighting position is absolute key to the look you want to achieve. I wanted shadows and definition on this shoot so I started with the lights close, high and angled. An inch movement can give drastic results. A good starting point with the light is 45 degrees looking down onto the subject. This will give decent pronounced shadows and definition.
The main rules I follow with studio lights are :
1 : Closer the light source quicker the gradient between highlight and shadows (resulting in higher contrast).
2 : Further away the light source, flatter the image will be due to the inverse square law. Great for lighting a band when uniformity is needed. Move the light source back and high to give an even spread whilst still promoting shadows and definition (due to angle of light source) to your liking across all subjects.
3 : Bigger the light source, softer the shadows. A small spotlight will give a contrasty deep shadow quality vs a big octabox that will wrap soft light around the subject resulting in soft shadows.
4 : A light source doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the subject to illuminate/function, play with feathering as this can give the best combination of shadows and definition. One light setups can be tricky to get the correct background colour/luminosity your after. A white seamless and black seamless background will both show middle grey if your camera meters exactly in the middle. You will need to spread light onto the white background for it to become white and loose light on a black background for it to show as black. You can play with this and the more light spill that background gets the lighter it will become. Feathering will help you achieve the luminosity/colour relationship between the subject and background your after. Commonly you will see two or three light setups with two out of the three lights on the background. One light setups can be tricker to get the background colour/luminosity your after but will work just fine if lights are correctly placed.
These rules are my own opinions and they can all be broken, that’s the beauty of Art, everything depends on the shot your trying to achieve. But they are tried and tested starting points. Super contrasty or super soft shadows, it’s all relevant within studio photography.
Images should be coming off the camera with the exact qualities in light you want in the final. It’s difficult (not impossible) to add shadow and highlight definition to the shot in post and something I personally stay away from. Small changes in the studio can save loads of time in post. Below you can see a screen capture of the settings used when shooting and any adjustments made in Lightroom. Click right for an out of camera shot, notice the light qualities will not change, all shadow and definition built up is captured in camera.
Compositionally i’m always taking note of the dominant eye in the frame. A classic compositional trick that will work every single time is dominant eye straight down the middle of the frame. I’ve demonstrated this look below and in the final images (first two). It will always work and is proven to give strong composition to your frame.