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  • Writer's pictureRuss Tierney

Kicker Lights - building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits.

Building a multi light studio set up for photography portraits

Kicker Lights

A kicker light is placed behind your subject, off to one side and aiming back at them towards the camera. They (you can use one each side) are exceptionally useful for tonal merging, which is where two separate subjects/parts of the image share the same colour values and blend in to one. While this can look great creatively with say someone merging from the shadows, often you'll want to have definition between the two aspects of the image for both that implied 3rd dimension, and so the less important part of the image isn't competing and camouflaging the subject.

As with most lighting techniques, you don't need to leave them in the studio, and you can get creative with their execution. Harder, punchier kicker lights often look great for sports styled images; giving a sense of power to the subject. I used kickers for the following image for all the reasons mentioned above. It was a fitness based shoot, on location, that needed tonal separation of the punching bag/model from the background, and that I had also creatively gelled the lights red to match the neon sign. The added bonus of course being that red is also a colour that symbolises passion, power and courage.

Fitness Photoshoot, North Wales.
Jodi Rebecca at Beach Body Studio, North Wales shot by Russ at Splash Point Photo

A single kicker light can massively help the shape and the form of the body, which of course also gives us that implied 3rd dimension too. As we know from the previous blog, a hard light leaves hard shadows as it passes over lumps and bumps that it can't quite spread around, so using them on curves and muscles can greatly enhance the figure. With them coming in from behind, they're not competing with the lighting pattern from the key light, but you may wish to be wary of distracting highlights that could be placed on the nose.


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.

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