An Ultimate Guide to 3 Point Lighting System

Master The Art of Still Photography with 3 Point Lighting

Do you want to enhance your photographs without editing? Well, there’s a way to do that. For years, photographs have struggled to find the right way to use light so that they can make their photographs stand out until one day they discovered three point lighting.

3 point lighting is the art of using artificial light in such a way that one can differentiate the subject from the background. Whether shooting a model in a studio, doing product photoshoot or doing similar types of photography the method can improve the way your pictures turn out even before bringing the photos to the editing table. 

3 Three point lighting


What is a 3 Point Lighting System?

Three-point lighting is the standard way of using artificial light in visual mediums such as still photography, video, theatre etc. It is comprised of three different elements – Key Light, Fill Light and Back Light.


3 point lighting, Spyne

3, Three point lighting

3 Three Point Lighting


Here the key light is the hard light, fill light is soft light and backlight is the light that illuminates the subject from the back and makes it stand out. So, here’s how it works. You put key light at 45° from the main subject and fill light at the adjacent side of the key light. While the key light (being a hard light) illuminates the object and create shadows, fill light (being a sift light) cuts the shadows. Fill light is a light of low intensity, generally used with a softbox or other kind of clutters. This evenly highlights the subject and brings it to life. When Back Light falls on the subject, it brings that glow which differentiates it from the background.

Wait there's more...

Apart from the usual three-point lighting, there's also the concept of four-point lighting that you'll come across after stepping into the photography business. 

In 4 point lighting, you add another artificial light to lit up the background. Now, this fourth light is used when want to show the background too in the photographs. It all depends on the demand of your photoshoot. 

While doing a fashion photoshoot or regular still photography, three-point lighting can improve your photography game and bring the best out of your pictures. So, if you are shooting in a studio next time, make sure that you use three-point lighting as a way to click the best pictures possible. You will feel the difference right away.


Problems While Shooting A Still Subject

1.Too Much Exposure

While photographing a still subject in the absence of three-point lighting, most photographers directly hit the subject with artificial light. Now in a studio setup where the light is already low, this becomes a problem. When hard light falls on the subject, the exposure becomes too much. Changing camera settings can help a bit but the subject doesn’t stand out as expected.



2. Shadow Formation

When hard light falls on a subject, shadows form, period. Artificial light can illuminate the subject but form really bad shadows that can ruin your whole picture. Using a filter on hard light can help with the shadows but the photo won’t stand out as much.


3. Subject Dissolved In Background

One of the biggest problem while doing studio photoshoot is that the subject gets dissolved in the background. One can differentiate a rookie photographer from a professional one by seeing if the photo clicked stands out from the background or not. 

Frequently Asked Questions on 3 Points Lighting System


Q. What is the 3 point lighting system and what are the 3 different lights?

Ans. 3 point lighting system is the basic lighting setup in the photography industry to capture the subject in the best light. In 3 point lighting system, there’s Key light, Fill light and Backlight. The key light is the dominant light or hard light that works towards illuminating the subject. While the key light (being a strong light) creates shadows, fill light (being soft in nature) cuts those shadows. The backlight is exactly what the name suggests. It falls on the back of the subject.

Q. Why is 3 Point Lighting System important?

Ans. As the name suggests, in a 3 point lighting setup each and every light holds a value. While the key light’s job is to bring out the colours and brighten up the subject, the fill light is used for purposes such as cutting the shadows, adding softness to the light. The backlight is important too as it is the one that makes the subject stand out from the background.

Q. Why is Backlighting used?

Ans. Backlighting is what enhances the subject when there’s a loud background. Backlighting gives the subject a sense of identity as it shines the edges of the subject. 

Q. What is One Point Lighting?

A one point lighting setup would just involve a single light which would also be called the key light. The one light will be the key light that will be responsible for most of the illuminance of the main subject.


Written By - Ramnish on 12 Sep, 2019