One of the first multiple-light setups they devised was called, “Three-Point Lighting.” It’s still called that today, although it’s also sometimes known as “Triangular Lighting.”
Three Point or Triangular Lighting: Definition
Three Point or Triangular Lighting is exactly as it sounds: The lights are placed at three different points relative to the subject. Those three points usually consist of two lights in front of the subject (to the left and right of the camera) with the third point of light behind the subject, often used as a hair light. In the traditional configuration, the lights are designated:
- 1) the main light,
- 2) fill light,
- 3) the back light.
Many photographers still use this tried-and-true lighting setup, i.e., a main, fill, and back or hair light, for much of their portrait photography.
While traditional three-point lighting can certainly be used for glamour and nude photography with terrific results, I prefer using a modified 3-point lighting for most of my glamour/nude photography.
My Modified 3-Point Lighting for Glamour Photography
My 3-point lighting generally consists of a main light and two back or side-lights. If I decide to add a fill light from the front, it’s usually accomplished with a fourth light. (Although sometimes, rather than adding a fourth light, I’ll instead use a reflector for fill.) I might also sometimes add a separate hair light, boomed overhead from behind.
By doing these things, I achieve what I consider to be my personal, glamour, lighting style: one that relies quite a bit on edge or rim lighting surrounding much of my models’ hair and bodies. It also also allows me to orient my models in different ways relative to the lights and/or the camera, without needing to move the lights themselves.
By re-orienting my models to the lights in various ways, highlights (or accents) are revealed at important body locations for the glam/nude genre, those important locations often being their breasts and derrieres.
My camera isn’t confined to the location shown on the diagram I provided. I often move around, back and forth along that bottom horizontal axis. I might also place my back lights differently along the two diagonal axises. Generally, my main light remains where it’s shown in the diagram. There’s no absolute right or wrong ways of doing these things. The configurations I’ve mentioned are simply how I, for the most part, personally prefer lighting my sexy models.
In the image below, a behind-the-scenes photo of my standard, 3-point, lighting setup, I added that fourth light I mentioned for fill. With or without the fourth light added, it represents my go-to setup. One I use often regardless of whether I’m shooting in a studio, at some other interior location, or outside in daylight with strobes added.
The lighting instruments featured in this particular image are Profoto heads and power packs. My main light, on the left, is modified with a 5′ Photoflex Octodome. I was shooting in a client’s studio on their cyclorama.
Again, I think it’s important to note that my lights aren’t locked-down in the positions shown and I may move them around a bit. It’s what I call, “Shaking up the lighting.” I also generally keep all my lights at about the same distances from my models, and I often direct them to change their orientation to the lights as well as to my camera—more shaking things up.
Also, as I said, I sometimes move around with my camera, capturing the images from different angles. My feet aren’t in concrete when I’m shooting! By doing all these things, the lighting can look quite different from one group of images to the next when, in fact, the lighting setup remained relatively the same throughout.
Experiment And Practice With Three-Point Lighting!
I encourage other photographers, especially those who are developing their lighting skills, to experiment and practice with three-point lighting and the various ways it can be modified and employed. There’s a reason why three-point lighting has been around so long and continues to be used by so many photographers to this day, regardless of the type of portraiture they’re shooting: It’s proven and it works!
Here’s a recent image I snapped with my go-to three-point lighting setup. You can see the highlights, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, on her face and body. Through a combination of having my model quickly turn, snapping her body from one position to another, as well with an electric fan used to blow her hair, we created an interesting, brief-moment-in-time, pose.
Thanks for reading!