Being a photographer working a lot with studio lights, in the photo studio and on-location, trying out new setups is a big part of me wanting to learn more.
Usually I do that by experimenting, often at the end of photo sessions when I have what I and the client need.
But now I have bought a program for Mac and PC that helps me doing that and getting very close to the final result in my computer. And I can document shots even better.
Lighting Setups in 3D (and more)
Set.a.light 3D STUDIO is a program for Mac and PC that gives me a virtual photo studio with a lot of different lights and lighting modifiers to experiment with.
After installing the software you can chose the size of your studio or room, and after that you can begin to drag and drop lights and other equipment into it.
Simple and easy to use
I have worked with 3D software before, but that was a long time ago. It has helped me a lot to understand light before I started using it as a photographer. Maybe not the details, but the principles.
But I would say that this user interface in set.a.light 3D is so intuitive that a novice should have no problem navigating and creating a scene within minutes.
If you want to change something, just click on the right arrow to move/raise/turn the light in your desired direction.
There are three views in set.a.light 3D from the start, one large where you work and do all your adjustments and two more for details. One of the other two shows you exactly what the camera see. And the last is a top-down and simplified view of your setup.
Chose your lens and focal length and aperture, and the image will change accordingly. Change the effect from one of the lights and the scene will render into something different to reflect the new settings, for example stronger main light.
Chose your version
At the moment you can buy the Basic version with some limitations, or the Premium to avoid watermarks and work with spaces and other things without limits.
I thought that 140 Euro was quite cheap (I got a special offer online, standard price is 170 Euro) for such a useful tool in my work, so I bought that version directly. If you want to try it you can chose the Test version or buy the Basic, and then upgrade later.
I started this blog as an output for all the Studio Lighting Setup Diagrams that I made from shooting portraits and other stuff. Mostly to document them and to remember what I have done, but also to learn what worked and what could be improved.
Now I have this tool to better being able to plan my setups in advance and experiment with new ideas. And to better show them to the world after the job is finished.
When you want to export your work from set.a.light 3D you can chose from different templates with all the information you would need to plan or remember a specific setup.
That part of the program is maybe the least fantastic, all the information makes is a bit hard to get a clear overview of it all, but hopefully they will work on that. Maybe offer different ways of displaying the info, like a map legend, that would be very useful and a lot less cluttered.
If you are a photographer working a lot with studio lights, or wanting to learn, I think this is a wise investment. For me, as a long-time Profoto user, I would love to have more specific equipment from Profoto, but as it is you have quite a few to chose from already.
If they could develop an app that works for iOS and Android, I would buy that as well. It might be a bit too complicated to work with on an iPhone or similar smartphones, but on an iPad it would be great.
Please try the test version and let me know what you think, or link to examples you have made.