Have you ever found yourself wanting to practice your portrait lighting techniques, but you don’t have a subject available? Do you get nervous when you are shooting someone, because you are afraid that if you run into a problem with your lighting, your subject will lose faith in you? You’re not alone – these are common problems that photographers deal with everyday.
I recently stumbled upon a great learning tool that will help you avoid these problems and definitely take your lighting skills to the next level. The German Software company named Elixxier Software has developed a studio lighting software, an awesome learning and prep tool for photographers of all skill levels.
I literally found this software when I was doing a Google search because I was looking for a better way to create the lighting diagrams for my The Last Frame videos. I downloaded the 15-day free trial version and was hooked. I just knew that I had to share it with you.
The studio lighting software is called set.a.light 3D, and is available for both MAC and PC.
The software comes pre-loaded with studio set-ups and models that you can experiment with, but that’s not what makes it so amazing. It is completely customizable. So let’s dig in…
Below is the interface of set.a.light 3D with the Demo Setups loaded:
Let’s pick a simple one-light set-up with the model posed in front of a gray background:
In the center of the display we can see a 3D rendering of the studio set-up. With a few simple mouse commands, we can move all around the set-up and look at it from the side, or top, zooming in or out.
In the camera panel in the upper right we can see what the finished shot will look like. Want a better view? Switch it to the main panel. Thinking about vertical instead of horizontal? That’s one click away.
You will notice along the top of the display here we have all of our camera, lens, and exposure settings:
If you make adjustments here, they are immediately reflected in the camera display rendering of your finished shot.
Now you may be asking, how accurate can that possibly be? It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good, right down to the histogram in the upper right corner for those of you that are slaves to the numbers.
Let me show you how well this works: if we move down to the lower right and select the strobe, you can see on the left side of the display that all the controls are now dedicated to that strobe.
We can adjust the watt seconds of the strobe and then adjust its power output. If we turn the power up, the image is now over-exposed. But if we adjust the aperture or ISO we can correct the exposure.
We also have the ability to change the reflector or the modifier on the strobe, as shown above in the screencap above in left-hand corner.
Set.a.light 3D studio lighting software has all kinds of modifiers, including reflectors, soft boxes, grids and beauty dishes. It also has speedlights built into the software, so you can choose between a speedlight or a monolight as your light source.
If I switch back to the Studio Light display, you will see that by clicking on the strobe, I can easily adjust its location, height and the angle:
All the while, the real-time camera display updates and renders my adjustments as a finished photo.
I can select the background in the setlist and change its size or colors. I can also completely modify the room to match the size and wall colors of my own studio.
I can add a light with a blue gel for a more dramatic effect and then change to an 85mm lens instead of this short zoom. Now back the camera up, re-compose and there you have it. My version of this set-up using the studio lighting software looks like this:
I can check it out in black and white, or take a snapshot of the finished set-up and then decide how I would like to output my information as a jpeg or pdf file. I can also save this setup for future use in set.a.light 3D.
This is just a brief look at the capabilities of this studio lighting software. Oh! I almost forgot posing… the models can be posed and you can change their clothing, clothing colors, hair color, skin color, and expressions. I mean how cool is that?
After I found this software and tried it out, I reached out to Elixxier Software in Germany and had the opportunity to speak with their founder Johannes Dauner. What’s great about this program is that it came about for the very reasons that I talked about in the beginning of the video. Johannes had started his working life as an engineer in the automotive industry in Stuttgart Germany. He had decided to make a career change and was working as a photographer and using his girlfriend as a practice subject to test out new lighting arrangements. He wanted to find studio lighting software that would let him do this when she wasn’t available, and to his disappointment he found that nothing like this existed. So he decided to create his own. In 2009 he put together a team of photographers and designers and programmers and Elixxier Software was born.
The potential applications for this software are incredible. From learning to light and choose lenses and camera angles, to understanding how different light modifiers will impact the final outcome of your shot, to even being able to use the software to learn posing techniques.
I sincerely consider this software a MUST-USE for any photographer who is serious about learning to photograph people in a studio setting.
Johannes shared with me that they are even working on a future upgrade that will allow you to use the program to plan lighting outdoors in different lighting conditions.
You can learn more about set.a.light 3D on the Elixxier Software website, linked here. They have some great video tutorials and manuals, but I can tell you that I taught myself how to use the software in about two hours. It has a very intuitive interface.
If you want to see this software in action, be sure to check out this video: How to shoot a fitness magazine cover shot. Prep, poses & lighting for fitness photography.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman