Forty-Five Degree Lighting

In my opinion, forty-five degree lighting is one of the best lighting set ups around.

I like it because it’s easy to get great light on all your subjects with just one light.

I’ve shot entire families this way!

It’s also great when working with toddlers and kids who like to move a lot.  The way the light fall when set up like this allows for spontaneity.  I’ve even shot kids jumping on a bed, with beautiful results.

How do you set it up?

Exactly as it sounds, with your light at forty-five degrees to your subject.

Some photographers will use a reflector to soften the shadows when shooting like this. I personally like the shadows, especially when shooting with black & white film.

If those shadows bother you, however, try moving your subject closer to your light. The closer to the light your subject is, the softer your shadows will be.

And remember, when shooting color film you should meter for your shadows.  Metering this way will ensure that your shadows, the darkest part of your image, is properly exposed.  Your highlights will be two to three stops overexposed, creating a soft glowy image.

This is what a classic forty-five degree set up looks like.


Here are some real life examples of 45 degree lighting.

The image below was shot in a completely dark, windowless hotel conference room using just one light and one light modifier set at a forty-five degree angle to my subject.  

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