15 Hard Core Lighting Setups To Have You Light Like A Ninja


If you are struggling with your lighting sometimes it is a good idea to drop your camera for a while (ok, not drop, gently put aside) and get some inspiration from photographers who excel at lighting. Japan based photographer Ilko Allexandroff has a strong lighting style and he was kind enough to share 15 of his lighting setups with us.

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Zampa Misaki

Sometimes lighting will not only be set your wishes and vision, but also by environmental constraints. Those could be number of strobes you have available, the power at your disposal and more. Strong winds called for a one light setup on the island of Okinawa



Time For Fun

Moving on to a 4 lights setup, this photo uses two shoot through through umbrellas for nice even key and two bare strobes for strong kickers



Shining Stars

Interestingly, the prop in this self portrait is a lighting modifiers, while the actual umbrella is used to protect the camera



Rainbow Stripes

this surreal portrait is using just about every lighting technique you can think of: from a beauty dish through off camera ring flash to gelling strobes and using a flashlight as a focus assist



In The Blue

If you ever wanted to learn how to creatively use hard light to create some drama this is a great shot. While the main light on the mode is coming form a softbox, the other light sources are either bare or gridded and gelled for effect



In A Cage Setup

This photo serves as a great example on a creative use of light. Aside from lighting the model well, a gelled strobe was placed under the dress and facing the camera to provide an orange glow



Heart Bokeh

The heart shaped bokeh is probably one of the easier and funnest techniques to experiment with. If you like the effect, there is an extensive tutorial here.



Haunted Tunnel

Hard light creates drama and hard light coming from the back created even more drama. The interesting “texture” if the light is generated with a Light Blaster fitted with a blue gelled strobe



Fairy Of The Golden Tunnel

Again, a tunnel is used with backlight. looking at these tow photos show the great effect a gel can have on the mood of a photo. While the blue photo above delivers a negative emotion, the orange gel deliver warmth and comfort



Dreaming Of Something Nice

But not always using light should be dramatic. Sometimes you can use it to deliver a subtle effect or to better direct your audience. Shallow depth of field and one shoot through umbrella was all it took to create this gorgeous portrait



Dancing Queen

Transparent fabrics work wonderfully with back light. Two strip lights were used in this setup to provide great separation and perfectly illuminate the scarf. Both strips are gridded so light does not spill or create unwanted flare



Color Spiral

This time gels were used to create a very specific mood. But unlike the previous photo the strobes are bare and the two colors bleed into each other. The model is lit with a non gelled softbox



Cherry Blossoms Wedding

There you go, just one light with a shoot through umbrella. The secret sauce here is to balance the strobe with the ambient light so it does not come in too strong and to have the model face the right way so she gets the light coming in



All I Want For Christmas

While the lighting for this photo is great – clamp light for glamor – I am showcasing it to show what a wonderful setup Christmas city lights can provide. Used with shallow enough depth of field, those the lights will smear up into wonderful ‘circles of confusion’ and create a cinematic backdrop



A Downwards Spiral

Some fan for the last photo, soap bubbles in an old church. The stairways (which you should be familiar with by now) hide a carefully positioned softbox


P.S. – too much drama? check out those 21 Photographs And Lighting Setups For Every Occasion

P.P.S. Want a deeper dive? Ilko shared a complete breakdown of  Pouring Rain portrait with us.

P.P.P.S. More? Ilko has a ton of really great setups on his growing blog.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ad.destecroix Ad De Ste Croix

    That would be pretty silly. Ninja’s work in the dark!

  • https://www.facebook.com/ness.viggo Viggo Næss

    How would you know? They are ninjas..

  • LSG

    Excellent work! :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/Tuaussi Bob Simmons

    Do Ninjas use black light?

  • http://www.ecufotografia.com Eduardo Enrique Cabello Urra

    Very cool…

  • http://www.lmjcreative.com Manny Jimenez

    WOW! Thank you for sharing such detailed info about your lighting setups. This makes me want to go play right now!

  • Abiel rodney

    you make me feel to go do a project !!! thanks for the inspiration !!!!

  • http://phototrims.com/ Sohan Dewan

    Great work and the light effect was awesome.