Master the basics
1 Get set up
A typical home studio kit includes two heads, stands and modifiers. The flash is triggered either with a sync cable or wireless triggers. Once the heads are on their stands, attach the sync cable to one light and set the other to Slave so that it goes off when it detects the first flash.
2 Adjust the power
Most studio heads have a control that lets you increase or decrease the power. On this Elinchrom head it runs from 2 to 6. Each numeral is a stop difference. You can also change the distance between light and subject – halving the distance quadruples the strength of light.
3 Attach a modifier
To control the quality and spread of the light, studio lights can be fitted with a variety of modifiers and accessories, such as the softbox and umbrella that you can see here. The modelling light – a constant bulb next to the flash bulb – will give you an idea of the effects of each modifier.
4 Experiment with exposure
In manual mode, set the ISO to 100, the aperture to f/8 and the shutter speed to the fastest flash sync speed (usually 1/200 sec). Take a test shot. If it’s too light, either lower the flash power, increase the f-number or move the light further away. If it’s too dark, do the opposite.
5 Strike a balance
With two lights, it’s all about the ratio between them. Turn on one light – we used a softbox from above – and expose for it. This is your Key. Now turn it off and turn on the other light – an umbrella from below, here. Aim for one or two stops of underexposure. This is your Fill.
6 Blow the highlights
We can get a fresh high-key look with just two lights. Here one softbox lights the face, while an umbrella is angled at the background. The umbrella is fired at a higher power than the softbox, so it blows out the backdrop. A little reflected light creates a nice highlight along the cheek.