Today I’m Sharing a Few Studio Lighting Secrets

by | Mar 10, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Lately it seems that my portrait and glamour posts seem to be getting the most page views, so I’ve decided to write a few more on this topic this week to, you know, see what happens…

Richard Avedon once said, “I think all art is about control—the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.” I think that’s what a dedicated studio, no matter what it’s size or where it’s located, brings to any portrait photographer. Your studio, even something as small as my home studio, becomes a safe haven from the world where, like the Outer Limits voice says, you can control the lighting, the background and—to some extant—the subject

The real secret, if there is any, about studio lighting is having the right attitude about the kind and amount of gear you really need. And choosing the right equipment doesn’t have to be expensive, which is why in other upcoming posts I’ll show you how to make images that look like they were made in a big time studio even if your studio is in a garage or your home’s basement, like mine.

What often emerges from all of this control is a style. Photographic style is not something that I’m always conscious about when shooting but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature way of shooting. The danger is, of course, that we keep shooting the same way or different versions of the same shot over and over again for the rest of our lives. I believe that any style you develop must grow and change over time as you learn more about the art and craft of photography, especially lighting. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Your own starting point for developing a style can copying another photographer’s and since it’s almost impossible to exactly duplicate the exact way that someone else’s images appear you will gradually have to make accommodations as far as your own equipment, space and experience is concerned. As you continue to shoot and learn from experience and reading books and maybe even blogs like this one, you should see and improvement in these results until what emerges is truly your own personal style.

My tip of the day, which was used to make the above right image of the incredibly sweet Kelly Alexander, is to start by keeping the lighting relatively simple. For example, here’s how I made this shot:

The above image is a classic Joe Farace-style shot that was made in my 11×15-foot home studio. The model is more often than not, in a three-quarter length pose and she’s looking directly at the camera. Lighting was provided by a DigiBee DB800 with 52x38x14-inch Plume Wafer Hexoval softbox mounted. A second DigiBee DB800 with 18-inch Omni reflector was at camera left and left and slightly behind the subject. The Carbonite muslin backdrop is from Silverlake Photo Accessories and was hanging on my (yes) falling apart JTL background stands. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 31mm with an exposure of 1/125 sec and f/8 and ISO 200.

It’s worth mentioned that  because of their ruggedness, dependability and affordability, I’ve standardized on the use of Paul C Buff’s Alien Bee and DigiBee monolights in my home studio. This is not a paid or sponsored endorsement, just my experience.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to buy ($2.50) Joe a cup of tea, click here.


If you’re interested in knowing how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from for $31.84 or used starting around three bucks as I write this, a bargain if ever I saw one. The Kindle version is $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.