top of page
  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Hair Light - building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits.

Building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits

Hair Light

Still in the territory of stating the obvious, a hair light is typically right above the model, adding in the texture of the hair in beauty, and of course, hair images. There is a whole world of hair awards that exists in photography. I only know this because I used to assist a photographer who had a few clients each year, where he was tasked to shoot them annually to help them win recognition.

However, as always, it's a very useful tool for separation and tonal merging, so it is pretty much the go to of every film or TV show ever, albeit typically as a bigger source that catches the shoulders too. Unless you're using ambient light from off of the set as a kicker, or are in a nice a tight close up crop, then in TV you can't just have kicker lights dotted around the set, so the solution tends to be a hair light that catches the shoulder for good measure. Seriously, check it out the next time you're watching shows, especially older stuff before the green screen days. Maybe not so much with static interviews, as of course unless you have wide shots, you can slap in some other tonal separators.. but seriously, you'll never watch movies in the same way again when you start looking out for lighting!

Straight in with the opening clip of this, you see it used in Guardians of the Galaxy:

So, with these following two images, I was actually using a 'hair light' as the key. In both instances I had a huge soft box above the model facing directly down. In the first image, I had Amo raise her chin a little, and we still get all the planes of the face lit for dimension, but with the moody shadowy eyes.

The image below of cosplayer Meg was intentionally more low-key, again using the hat, this time to create the brooding shadow on the eyes/face. The kicker lights add in just enough to help with dimension on the face, but without losing that mysterious feel. This is one of those times where tonal merging and a loss of details in the shadow areas are used creatively to help with the narrative and overall vibe of the image.


If you fancy learning live with a model and are local(ish) to North Wales, check out - we'll pack in wayyy more information than these 101's, it'll be less awkward than my cheesy voice-overs, and I'll be able to show results in real time via a 4K projector while fielding questions. It'll cover everything from setting up lights, syncing and shutter settings, lighting patterns, to a multi light set up where at the end you'll get some one on one time with the model to try it out and kick-start/bolster your portfolio.

21 views0 comments
bottom of page