The Perfect Light Misses Your Subject.

X1123C-0038KW porcelain Doll

The Perfect Light Misses Your Subject.

The perfect studio light is the one that misses the subject. The center point of the light sails right past their nose.

Seems an odd approach. It is because photographers often mix up quality of light with the power of the light for best placement.

With the power approach you are trying to position your light so the maximum power output possible, lands on your subject. It will give you a higher f-stop but it won’t be as pretty as it can be.

The sweet spot on a light is the edge, the feather of the light. Even with soft boxes that put out a wall of light.


Here is the approach. Setup up your subject. Position your light. Usually this is at about a 45 degree angle. Regardless of your light modifier, (although lights with grids will not really work) angle your light so the edge closest to the subject lights the subject. The center of the light is aimed at the opposite wall.

The edge or feather of the light is the softest light from the modifier. It also wraps around the subject creating a very gentle shadow transition. The closer and larger the light is to your subject the more you will see the effect.

There is a drawback of less light to work with; or rather it is a weaker light that what pours out of the middle of the light source.

With natural light, like window light, you can accomplish the same look and quality by placing your subject at the end of the window to get the soft wrap light.

This lighting approach can solve another challenge too.


It is a perfect approach to get a group evenly lit with one light. Before you start this it is important to understand why this lighting approach works. In the group situation the weakest part of the light is the edge, the strongest the middle. By aiming the center of light across the group the person closest to the light gets the weakest light. The farthest person gets the strongest light but because of the distance it becomes the same value as the close subject.


At first it may take a bit of tweaking, a light meter makes it easier and quicker. A friend was doing a large group outside with his studio light. It seemed bizarre with the soft-boxed light 4 feet out forward from the group aimed in parallel to the group. Yet the light meter showed an even F 8 across the front of the group.

Missing your subject with your light, the center of the light, will give you an amazing quality of light. It will work with all the light modifiers but the grids. It will work with the grids but it is counter to the purpose of the grid, which is to focus the light source. The feathering of the light source will dramatically improve the quality of your images.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *