Sunlight in the Studio

This picture has kept me busy for a long time; it’s actually that easy!
The goal was to create a summery picture, but shot in December. In the studio. Here’s how we did it.

Nikon D800, 85mm f1.8 @f8, ISO 100, 1/200s


  • 1x normal reflector with color foil (1/4 CTO) on a 500Ws monoblock
  • 2x Striplight with color foils (cyan and green) on 500Ws monoblocks
  • 1 reflector (Styrofoam plate)

Das Setup

I looked at a lot of pictures and I have to say: sun-drenched models against a perfect blue sky aren’t that common. But, there’s nothing like a challenge. What I did notice was the light in the bathroom after a shower: it often has a color gradient, and the sunlight coming in is extremely hard.

It’s something you can recreate relatively easily in the studio.

The background effect was created with two transverse striplights: the sunlight is simulated by a hard-hitting normal reflector. A reflector plate made of styrofoam brings some light back into the shadows, which brings some more definition to your model’s hair.

To give the model a beachy feel, we spritzed her with water from a well-washed perfume atomizer. The more that you pump, the larger the droplets will be.

The individual light sources

The main light

The main light is slightly behind the model, because we definitely want to see hard shadows on her face. Every drop of light on her skin shows: Hey, this is hard light – that’s the sun!

In any case, the camera-facing eye needs some light.

The reflector

Hard shadows characteristically become very dark but this is actually very rare in nature – something always reflects a little sun back. To mimic this, we used a polystyrene plate.

The background

The background light effect was created using a pair of striplights. The goal here is to produce the most subtle distinction between the colors. If you achieve the perfect color gradient then picture will resemble… heaven!

Some light clouds were inserted over the sky-like look in post-production.

Color mixing with light

To illustrate the effects of color mixing more clearly, I have used blue and yellow slides. In the photo, the gels were cyan and green.

No overlap

If there is too much space between your colored stripes of light, you get a dark patch. You don’t want this: it doesn’t happen in the sky.

Optimal overlap

The colors should merge smoothly without mixing too much.

Too much overlap

As the colors mix, their color values ​​add up. In the blue-yellow example this is more obvious than with the cyan-green version in the actual photo. Cyan is 50% green, so the color will simply shift further towards green if you overlap too much.


For the pictures in the article we used the light simulation “Set.A.Light 3D”. You can download the lighting setup and try everything for yourself.

If you’ve never worked with Set.a.Light before, you should give it a try!

There is also a free demo version on the website, which you can use to open our set.

all setups

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