Lighting is what photography is all about. The word photography comes from two ancient Greek words: Photo meaning light and Graph, meaning drawing. (Drawing of Light)

Sometimes we get too focused on subjects and not enough on lighting. The right lighting can make or brake an image and it can and will take your snapshots and turn them into photographs.

Fortunately for us poser users, we don't have to wait around for the proper lighting, we can simply just create it in the studio. In this entry I will show you the different types of lighting and how to apply them to your photos.

This is not the final copy and will add more things regarding Studio NEO

Before we start I highly recommend you download HSshortcut (HS studio) or HSshortcutparty (Studio NEO) before you read further. This guide revolves around those two plugins. Although not required I also recommened HS_StudioNEOAddon as it will provide additional lighting control.

For the Purpose of this tutorial I will not be using any post processed images. All images will come straight out of studio. This also means no ReShade effects were used.

Using HSshortcut and HSshortcutparty

This is where you are going to spend most of your time tweaking the light settings so I recommend you get very familiar with it. It's actually pretty simple to use and I will go over what the settings do/are. Both plugins have the same light control it's just the NEO version is not yet translated. The first picture is NEO and the second is the HS Studio. As you can see the controls are exactly the same.


HS Studio

The first slider is the intensity of the light.
X Slider controls vertical light (Up and Down) Yes it's backwards and it has always been in every single Illusion poser

Y Slider controls horizontal light (Left and Right)
RGB is pretty straight forward. It controls the color of the light.
Shadow Bias controls the distance of the shadow. I usually leave this at 0.

DirectionalFront (Main/Key light) DirectionalBack (Fill/Rim light)
I will be using the terms Main/Key light and Fill Light throughout this guide.

The Key/Main light is as the name implies, the main light source in your shot. I normally use DirectionalFront for my main light for outdoor shoots. I will sometimes use it indoors depending on what I'm shooting. In studio NEO you can also use Overall Light (ALL) or Overall Light (Character Only) as your main light. It might be easier since you can actually see which direction it is pointing and it's easy to control.

Fill light is used to fill in shadows that are being cast by the main light. Sometimes when setting up your light, particularly back lighting, your subject's face will be in shadow and a fill light is required to brighten up their face. It's not necessary to use a fill light but I like to use it since it's much more flattering than leaving their face in shadow. I sometimes will use DirectionalBack for fill light but with NEO I keep it as a rim light and use either Point Light (Character Only) or Spotlight (Character Only) as my fill light.

Hard Light vs Soft Light

There are 2 main types of light that you should familiarize yourself with in creating your photo or even spot when you are looking at a photo. And they are as follows:
------Hard Light------

The Wikipedia definition of hard light in terms of photography is "Hard light sources cast shadows whose appearance of the shadow depends on the lighting instrument. That is, the shadows produced will have 'harder' edges with less transition between illumination and shadow."

In lament terms, hard light casts strong and harsh shadows. Some examples of Hard Light includes:
  • The sun on a cloudless day (anywhere from 9am to 4pm pretty much throughout the year)
  • A light bulb without a shade (also known as a bare bulb)
  • A spotlight
  • Fluorescent Lights
  • Direct Flash

Hard light is best used to create scenes that are more serious, dramatic, moody, edgy or with a lot of contrast. Hard light is also best used on males to make them look more masculine and serious. Can also be used on females that are more serious, evil, dramatic, etc.

To create Hard Light in the Studio make sure Shade Mode for DirectionalFront is set to Soft or Hard. I prefer soft since hard has jagged shadows. To get even darker shadows have both Main Light and Fill Light set to the same coordinates. Ex. DirectionFront X=90 Y=0, DirectionalBack X=90 Y=0. Have both Shadow bias to 0 and use Soft or Hard Shadow on both.

If you want to even further darken the shadows then you'll have to use HS_StudioNEOaddon. Play around with the settings until you reach the desired look.

------Soft Light------

The definition of soft light is "Light that tends to "wrap" around objects, casting diffuse shadows with soft edges. Soft light is when a light source is large relative to the subject."

In other words, soft light is the opposite of hard light. The shadows are not as harsh and the transition between light and shadow are much smoother and less dramatic. Some examples of Soft Light Includes:
  • A cloudy day
  • Window light (but not with the sun coming through directly)
  • A lamp with a shade
  • Sunlight coming through white curtains
  • Indirect light (light that is bounced off walls, ceilings, floors etc but we don't have to worry about this in the Studios)
  • Sunset light (Magic hour. This takes place an hour or two before sunset and creates that magical yellow/orange glow)

Soft light is what I use most for my photos since I do mostly portraiture work. This type of lighting is best suited for portraiture. Soft light is best used on females. In the real world it helps hide blemishes and imperfections in the skin but in the world of poser such things do not exist but it's still a flattering type of light.

To get Soft Light simply turn off your shadows. Or if you want to keep the shadows have your Key Light point in your desired direction and use the Fill Light to fill in the shadows. Make sure the fill light is not brighter than the Key Light.

Lighting Patterns For Portraiture

There are 4 common types of lighting that are used in Portraiture. In this section we're going to look at the different types of lighting pattern: what it is, why it's important and how to use it.

Lighting pattern is how light and shadow play across the face to create different shapes. In other words what shape is the shadow on the face. The four common types are:
  • Split Lighting
  • Loop Lighting
  • Rembrandt Lighting
  • Butterfly (Paramount) Lighting

There are also Broad and Short lighting which are more of a style and can be used with most of these patterns but we'll look at that later.

NOTE: Any of these Lighting Patterns can be made into Hard or Soft Light.
1. Split Lighting

As the name implies, split lighting is exactly what it sounds like. It splits the face into equal halves with one side illuminated and the other side in shadow. This lighting pattern is often used to create dramatic images usually for athletes, musics, artists etc. But in the world of posers we can use them for villains, males, and anything that are more serious. Split lighting tends to be a more masculine pattern and is usually more appropriate for men than it is for women. However there are no rules for what it can and cannot be used for, you can use it for whatever you want.

To achieve split lighting simply put the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of the subject, and possibly even slightly behind their head. This is assuming that your subject's face and body is directly facing the camera. If their face is turned you'll have to adjust accordingly to the face which means rotating or moving the light source 90 degrees to the left or right of their face.

2. Loop Lighting

Loop lighting is made by creating a small shadow of the subjects nose on their cheeks. It's harder to show this technique through diagram so I'll explain it through text.

To create loop lighting you must place the main light slightly higher than your subject and have it pointing downwards but not too downwards and about 30-45 degrees to the left or right of the face. Use the picture above for reference. Take note that the shadow of the nose DOES NOT touch the cheek.

3. Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting is named after Rembrandt the painter who used this pattern of light very often in his paintings. Rembrandt Lighting is identified by the triangle of light on the cheek. Unlike Loop Lighting where the shadow of the nose and cheek do not touch, in Rembrandt lighting they do meet which, creates a trapped little triangle of light in the middle. Rembrandt Lighting is more dramatic, so like split lighting it creates more mood and a darker feel to your image. Use it appropriately.

To create Rembrandt Lighting position the main light above your subject just like with Loop light but the difference is you must place it at a greater angle horizontally so it casts a longer shadow on the nose as shown in the pictures above. You'll know when you get this type of lighting right when you see the triangle of light on either side of the cheek. Use the pictures above for reference.

4. Butterfly (Paramount) Lighting

Butterfly lighting refers to the shape of the shadow under the nose that this pattern creates. It's meant to look like a butterfly in flight, viewed straight on. It's also called Paramount lighting when used on men to sound more masculine. This is a very glamorous lighting pattern and will make your girls look very pretty.

This lighting is fairly easy to set up. Position your main light so it's above your subject's head and have it point downwards until the Butterfly shadow is cast. If you point it too low there won't be a shadow and the light will be flat. If it's too high the shadow of the nose will cut into the lip. Again use the picture above as reference. You might want to add in some fill light if you feel like the shadow is too harsh. I used a fill light in the photo above to give it soft light.
5. Broad Light

Broad light is not really a pattern of light but rather a style of lighting. Any of the following patters of light can be either broad or short: Loop, Rembrandt, Split.

Broad lighting is when the subject's face is turned slightly away from the camera and the side of the face that is closer to the camera is lit. This produces a larger area of light on the face and the shadow side which appears smaller. This type of lighting makes the face appear broader or wider (hence the name). I typically don't use this style since it's not very flattering but I'm just putting out this info here because it exists and some might use it for their photos.

To create broad lighting, turn your subject's face to one side and shine your main light on the side that is closer to the camera so the far side is in shadow. In the example photo above I combined Split lighting with broad lighting.

6. Short Lighting

Short lighting is the opposite of broad lighting and instead of lighting up the side of the face that is closer to the camera, we light up the part that is further away. This is often used in low key or darker portraits and can be very dramatic.

To create Short lighting, turn your subject's face to one side and shine your main light on the side of the face that is further away from the camera. Now the part of the face that is closer to the camera should be in shadow. In the example above I combined split lighting with short lighting.

7. Flat Lighting

I wasn't going to post this lighting type but I'd figured it would be useful to somebody. Flat lighting is when the lighting is placed directly in front of the subject so there are no shadows that are being cast on the face. This type of lighting can be flattering in the real world since it will hide blemishes but it's very boring to look at.

To create Flat Lighting, shine your main light directly on your subject's face so that there are no shadows on the face.
More Lighting Types

1.Side Lighting

As the name implies, Side Lighting is when the lighting is coming from the side. This usually provides a great deal of contrast, can create strong shadows and adds depth to an image. Great for adding drama into your shot.

2. Back Lighting

Back Lighting is when the light is coming from behind your subject and is directed towards you and your camera. I use this lighting type very often in my work because it gives a very flattering look. If you combine this type of lighting with god rays it will truly make your shot magical. But because light is coming from the back it will leave your subject in shadow so you might want to use a fill light, or not, it's entirely up to you. Back Lighting is usually accompanied by Rim Lighting (see below)

3. Rim Lighting

When light hits objects at a certain angle it creates a highlight effect along the edges of the object/subject. This add impact to all sorts of images. This is also useful for separating subjects from the background especially if they are wearing dark clothing.


I'd like to thank you the reader for reading my guide on lighting. All information here is what I have learned in my 5 years of doing photography and sharing with you guys. This took me longer than I had hoped mostly do to outside influences and the real world. But I finally got it done! If this information was valuable to you please leave a like or a comment below. Also if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to leave a comment or contact me via PM. I am also on anime-sharing under the same username and I hang out over there more often than Hongfire so if you want a faster response you can message me on anime-sharing.