Studio Lighting 101

Studio Lighting 101

Photo: © Dail Deri

The good news for commercial photographers is that everybody needs a portrait at one time or another. The bad news is…everybody needs a portrait at one time or another.

It’s great news if you measure the potential size of the market. Bad news if you’re not trained to handle the ordinary-looking, the subject who has four left feet when posing, the unphotogenic, the overweight and underweight, the eyebags and big ears… in short, the average Joe. These are the regular clients of a commercial portrait studio in a mall or busy downtown area. Not professional models who still look perfect upside-down. Dail Deri photographs these types, and in this workshop she shares professional techniques for photographing students, office workers, housewives, businessmen, babies, and entire families.

What will be covered

  • What’s in a portrait studio:
    • Minimum size requirement
    • Essential equipment and accessories
  • Basic light set-ups for portraits
  • Taking indoor portraits with studio lights or compact flash
  • Correcting subject’s imperfections through lighting and posing
  • Posing your subject
  • Individual, couple, and group portraits
  • Overview on investment for commercial studio or on-location portrait photography services

Who should attend

Perfect for those who wish to:

  • Learn the basic principles of photographing people for personal of commercial purposes
  • Gain knowledge in taking indoor portraits with the use of studio lights or even compact flash
  • Put up a portrait studio, whether for commercial or personal use
  • Consider making portrait photography their business or supplementary source of income


  • Completion of the PCCI basic photography workshop; or
  • Equivalent experience in basic photography (must pass the assessment guide)

What to bring

  • Camera: DSLR or Mirrorless camera with hot shoe (for flash trigger) or PC socket for studio flash
  • Lens: with focal length of at least 50mm (ex: 18-55mm / 24-70mm / 24-105)
  • Subject: participants are encouraged to bring a subject with them on the third day. Subjects who are NOT professional models are preferred.
  • Compact flash is optional. But if you have one, you are encouraged to bring it if you wish to use it during the exercises.

Expected Outcome

At the end of the course, participants are expected to:

  • Be able to set up studio lights and equipment, and apply the necessary lighting techniques required to execute a vision
  • Get the correct exposure for studio photography
  • Pose individual, couple, and group subjects
  • Know what equipment or accessories they need to invest in for the type of portrait photography they wish to focus on

Course Outline

Day 1

  • Quick review on basic photography terms
  • Types of portraits
  • Setting up studio equipment
  • Getting the correct exposure in studio flash photography
  • The portrait studio:
    • Minimum size requirement
    • Essential lighting equipment
    • Essential light modifiers
    • Essential studio accessories
  • Importance of correct camera height
  • Choosing the correct lens/focal length for portraits
  • Effects of light in terms of:
    • Light modifier used
  • Two general light placement in portrait photography
  • Where to place the light: One light set-up
  • Basic portrait lighting techniques
  • Posing male and female subjects
  • Afternoon—Hands-on exercise objectives:
    • Set up one light
    • Get the correct exposure
    • Pose individual subject

Day 2

  • Review day 1 exercise photos
  • Effects of light in terms of:
    • Size
    • Distance
    • Location
  • Common two light set-ups
  • High-key lighting
  • Low-key lighting
  • Analyzing people’s features
  • Correcting people’s features through
    • Lighting
    • Posing
  • Posing two subjects
  • Overview: what make-up can do
  • Meeting a client’s lighting requirements
  • Afternoon—Hands-on exercise objectives:
    • Set up two lights
    • Execute a client’s vision
    • Pose two subjects

Day 3

  • Review day 2 exercise photos
  • Brief presentation of SP101 success stories
  • Overview on three light set-up
  • Posing three or more subjects
  • Opportunities in portrait photography
  • Planning your portrait photography business:
    • Type of portrait services
    • Location
    • Investment
    • Pricing your services
  • Model release and photographer release
  • Afternoon—Hands-on exercise objectives:
    • Conceptualize a pictorial
    • Execute a concept
    • Apply the required techniques discussed in day 1 and day 2


  • The order of topics may change depending on the need of the majority of the class.
  • As the objective of this course is to take photos of non-models, this class does not include/require professional models for the exercises.


A photographer, instructor, and writer, Dail combines her father’s technics with her own. Her experiences in running a portrait studio and on-location portrait service, and photographing celebrities and everyday people, have allowed her to understand what new photographers need and want to learn as well as how they can learn those skills the most practical way.

She has shared her knowledge in photography through her photography tutorial articles in IMAG Photography and Manila Bulletin, and through various seminars and workshops in the country. Dail took up Communication Arts, Major in Photography at De La Salle University and is one of the Canon Professionals holding lectures for Canon Imaging Academy events. She is also one of the Key Opinion Leaders of Asus Zenfone. A Photography NC II holder, Dail is also a certified trainor and assessor for Photography NC II.

Comments from participants

Very comprehensive course content, effective teaching methods, competent instructor. The activities promote good interaction with other photographers. This course bridges knowledge and skills leading to my great photos. Thank you.

– Maria Janice Lecias

The course covered all areas needed to jump start a photography business. All techniques taught were very vital to the subject matter and hands-on exercises were all very helpful.

– Ikie P. Binoya

… Money and time well spent.

– Ikie P. Binoya

It was very engaging. Lots of interaction with the instructor and my classmates. The instructor was very patient and accommodating.

– Cathy Santamaria (KUDOS)

I liked the hands-on application immediately from theory to actual.

– Charlton Seechung

Able to practice, complete equipment, good instructor.

– Erwin Jalao

We learned so much in this workshop. It was very fruitful and inspired us so much to become a professional photographer someday. Thanks so much, Teacher Dail. This is one of the best courses.

– Gay Lee (BestMed Healthcare)

I liked the sharing of personal/business experiences by the instructor.

– Alvin Hawak

Fantastic. Good for studio business.

– Nonoy Ubal (Photostyle Studio)

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