Feb 10, 2012

How to Use a Fill Light

Using Main and Fill Light

In this episode we cover what’s called “clamshell lighting,”  with a beauty dish as our main light and softbox as fill. We go over the power Levels of each and how they can best be used together.

All the Info

  • 0:20 News and Updates
  • 1:35- Using a main/key light and issues
  • 2:35- Why a fill light will help, why it shouldn’t be as strong as fill
  • 2:45- Our Light setup with softbox
  • 3:20-  How the light will affect the Shadows
  • 3:55- Measuring ratio using the light meter
  • 4:35- Metering for the main light
  • 5:45- Turning up the fill Light to full power and showing example
  • 07:15- Lowering the light to half power
  • 08:18- Explanation of a stop
  • 09:20- Using ratio with the light, not in camera
  • 10:10 Using the 3:1 ratio
  • 11:48- Putting this ratio into practice

Why Fill Should be Based off the Main Light

Your key or main Light is the primary source of Light in the image. The fill is simply used to add detail back into your Shadows, and if you add to much or too little it can throw off the look of the photo. Using a 3:1 ratio will help you bracket so that you have an image showing detail in every area.

Click on image to view it larger

Related Tutorial

How to Select and Change Colors in Photoshop Selecting Color Range To select out the different Colors, create a New Layer and go to Select - Color Range. Click on the Color you want to sample wi...
How to Remove a Tattoo in Photoshop "Do you think we got any bloopers..?" I don't know, you tell us! And learn how to remove a tattoo in Photoshop while you're at it. Section 1: Basic R...
Sin City Inspired Photoshoot (Behind the Scenes) The City: Photography Tutorial In this Photography tutorial we focus on three key elements necessary to produce this image. You will learn about ligh...
Check Out Phlearn’s Behind the Scenes Shoot Entitled: Newfangled... View the Newfangled Pinup Cola Tutorial HERE!   Concept We've wanted to do a pinup shoot for a long time, but we also wanted to make it stand ...

Related advanced tutorials

The Flood
Film Noir
The Last Athlete


user image You
(will not be published)

  • user image
    Caroline Southpaw Glabik

    Hey guys! Could you do a episode on background lighting? For an example, how to get different background color if you only have one type of backdrop. Without the helfp from Photoshop.

    Thanx again for this week, needed to be reminded!

    • user image
      Sebastian Ortiz

      If you have a white background, you could change it in shades of black to white, just by the placement of your light, the further away from your subject, the lighter the background the closer to your subject the darker the background, this works in conjunction with the distance your subject is from the background, as well… now if you’re looking at Color itself, a flash with a colored gel will work for giving you color in the background…. hope that helps,at least till Aaron nad the gang, does an episode on it… Hee! 🙂



  • user image
    Chuck Griffin

    For better audio, maybe try wireless lapel or lavalier mics. If you don’t want to spend tons of money on a wireless system try using wired mics with a zoom h2n or zoom h4n recorder. Might add an extra step for processing videos as you have to sync up the audio. But the quality you gain would definitely be worth the extra time.

  • user image

    I am little confused 🙂
    You have measured key light at F16. Then you turned off key light and turn on fill light and mesure  fill at f9.
    Ok now you turned on both light but you did not mesure your exposure and shoot at F16. Shouldn’t the sum of both light together give yo more then F16. 
    Better yet shouldn’t you use your light meter to find out final exposure with key & fill? 😀

    • user image

      Yes, like Marius said the fill light doesn’t affect the brightness of the main/key light but brightens up the areas that the main light doesn’t hit (shadows).

  • user image

    Aaron, you don’t have to thank us for buying the PRO tutorials. They totally worth the money!!! 

  • user image
    Barrett S.

    Wireless lavalier microphone is a black ball looking mic but would be perfect for this. I would look into one of those as opposed to a face mic..

  • user image

    love these episodes 🙂 ive been getting really into studio work recently and I cant wait to experiment much more 🙂

  • user image

    In school, we learned that for portrait to have a 3:1 (twice as much for main than fill) was only a one stop difference, a 5:1 was 2 stops and 9:1 is stops.  
    Commercial photography is different in that one stop difference between main and fill is 4:1, 2 stops is 4:1 and 3 stops is 8:1 (I think).  For some reason portrait adds a 1 to the ratio and they say it’s the fill or something.

    P.S. Not trying to be a smarty pants…I literally just graduated on Friday, but I was a bit confused when you said a 3:1 ratio was 1 1/2 stops difference.  Anyways, I’m trying to watch all your videos, I absolutely LOVE this website!!  I’ve learned a ton!!