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Introduction to 3 Point Light Setup

Updated: Jun 12

Let's have introduction with Three-Point Light Setup technique.

Three-Point Light Setup is the most basic light setup of all known lighting setup and this method is being in used in wide range photography. This lighting setup is well known for being used in video documentary and for interviewing where person taking interview stands between Key Light and Fill Light "here we will not go deep in videography and keep our discussion limited to photography.... :) "

#photography #learning

This Light Setup method as name suggests needs 3 sources of light from different directions (see the below image for reference purpose). #lightsetup

Lighting your subject from different points of view to control shadows and balancing exposure to enhance contrast in image. Any source of light makes you see the subject but having light from 3 different directions makes your subject look and feel amazing.

This is most simple lighting method but have great impact on final image.

In this lighting technique we use three lights which called as;

1) Key Light (Main Light)

2) Fill Light

3) Back Light (Rim Light)

Here we will know more in details about these lights and understand how they got their name which as whole called as '3 Point Light Setup'.

Key Light:

This is main source of light (also refer as Main Light). It is strongest from other light source and could be placed either 'Left' or 'Right' side in front of subject. It is advised to keep the Key Light #keylight between 15 to 45 degrees when pointing to subject. This would create interesting effect of light when compared one side of face/subject to other side. One side where Key Light falls will be brightly lit up and other side will falls under dark shadow. These shadows can be created by a person’s nose, cheek, eye-sockets, chin, or by any other part of the body. There is no standard formula for light intensity (photographer needs to assess the light conditions) and light expect to be 2 or more stops stronger (this is advise and no hard rule) from Fill Light on other side.

Fill Light:

As name stands this light 'fills the light' and provide balance to the Key Light by lighting the subject on other side with softer light (less power or diffused light source). This would be always opposite to the main source of light and light intensity would be 2 or more stops lesser (again this is advise and no hard rule :) ) compared to Key Light. By just moving the fill light away or near to the subject can also assist in increasing or decreasing the amount of light it gives. I am using Sekonic L-308X Flashmate Light Meter bought from Amazon.


Back Light:

The back light also known as 'Rim Light' which creates a rim like light effect around subject and separate the subject from background. This can really improve the quality of image and should be near to subject when pointing (get near to subject until camera starts seeing the light). This light #backlight could be right on top just above the subject or either side of subject and all depends on what feel you need in final image. Light intensity could be around Fill Light or even lesser to make sure edges are not burnt and details are retained around edges where rim light #rimlight is falling on subject.

Having Only 2 Lights?

Consider other supporting elements for lighting setup for a situation when you not have all 3 lights but you could make your day even with 2 lights.


Having gels for speedlight or even a large size round diffuser could be your best friend to save your day and this also helps making light more softer to present a lot more nature look on subject. This helps to keep glare at minimum and enhance the overall feel.

Bounce (Reflector):

A bounce card or large reflector could easily cover as a fill light and this works great as per my own experience which gave amazing results for my creative still life art work. You could have the reflector near to subject to increase light intensity or put it further away to get dramatic light effect.

Below is the list of equipment's used for making this article,

Nikon D750

Nikkor 85mm 1.8g Fx Lens

Large Silver Reflector (Fill Light)

Neewer Professional Photography Studio Strobe (Back Light) + Godox Softbox 60x90cm

Godox Ving V860ii Speedlight (Key Light)

I hope above information will help you in photography work. I did always looking online for three-point lighting content. So just for your interest, I tried to be comprehensive as possible.

Please let me know if you need any further help in the comments section below.

One more thing, if you want to join me and thousands of other photographers around the world, make sure to click here to join my FREE private Facebook group.


I would like to see your view in comments for information shared under this blog.

Also share your feedback on this photography blog on using 3 Point Lighting technique.

Keep Create - Inspire - Share your work with photography lovers.


With this note I would say good-bye and I will promise to keep continue all efforts for making photography learning more easy with articles like this we just gone through above.

Author: Sumit Dhuper

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