I would like to understand how this scene is lit:

enter image description here

I can see that sunlight is coming from two big windows on the right. But is there some kind of studio equipment, like a soft box or something similar on the left side?

It is a nice light on the couch and dark corners of the room. I would really like to be able to get the same studio-like feel within my interior shots!

  • 1
    Plantleafs on the right side are in the shade. Seems to me, there was no secondary light. Oct 30, 2018 at 14:40
  • @scottbb Will do when I get home :) Oct 30, 2018 at 15:15
  • 1
    Studio like Feel? I would argue that the point or the goal is not to have it feel like it’s staged or studio like. One should not be aware of artificial or staged lighting in architectural photography, it should just feel natural.
    – Alaska Man
    Oct 31, 2018 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


1. Some theory

The first thing you need to understand is the inverse square law.

This is that the light intensity decays quadratically (1/x^2) when you are further apart from the light source.

I normally post this diagram flipped, but I am posting it like this to match your window.

enter image description here

If you put a softbox to the right side of the couch the light will decrease and the far side of the room will be darker.

enter image description here

On a big diffuse light, this is a bit more complex to calculate that on a spotlight, but it is also true.

You then, need either to work on a large studio and put some lights further away, or you can use a softbox, take multiple shots, and compose them in post, (doing the opposite of what I did to simulate the darkening).

A. Shoot with a correct exposure of the different zones

enter image description here

B. Compose

enter image description here

2. It seems

In the case of this image, I think it is actually natural light. Notice the reflection on the glass.

enter image description here

It probably has a good space in front of the window. If you have a building or a wall, this is actually the source light and the square law starts from that point.

enter image description here

3. In some other cases

On a normal studio shoot of an interior, you set up multiple light sources building the interior, you normally do not rely on just one source.

This is not the case on this image. But if you cannot take several shots, as my prior explanation; if you have a moving subject, some people, you can use additional lights. In this diagram, the lights are bounced into the walls and ceiling.

enter image description here

I want to point out two kinds of shadows the coach is producing.

The shadow on the left (orange) would be almost black if you only use one softbox. This is partially filled with light bouncing all over the place. In this case from the light of the other window (behind the camera)

enter image description here

If you are using studio lights, you need some of this fill light.

  • 12
    @Stan Things that increase/decrease exponentially follow the form a^x, where a is constant, and x is the variable under consideration (time, in the case of things like population growth, for instance). Systems of the form x ^2, or even x^a, are polynomial. In the case of inverse-square law, the polynomial order is 2, and we have a special term for that because it's so common: quadratic.
    – scottbb
    Oct 30, 2018 at 19:22
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    @Stan, Rafael, I'd love to continue this exponential/quadratic thing (preferably in chat, so as to not clutter this answer), but for the purposes of the answer, I suggest removing both words entirely. I suggest something along the lines of: "This is that the light intensity is reduced by the square of the distance (1/x²) from the light source."
    – scottbb
    Oct 30, 2018 at 19:35
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    Brilliant effort! However, "decays quadratically" is the way to go. Oct 30, 2018 at 19:52
  • 4
    I misread your first sentence as, "The first thing you need to understand is the universe" and was thinking, "What, all of it? There's no hope." Oct 31, 2018 at 15:38
  • 1
    That is why I commented "On a big diffuse light, this is a bit more complex to calculate that on a spotlight, but it is also true" It is not slow, it is a matter of proportion, area, direction, diffusion, etc. A softbox could be considered for example square 1 on my diagram. But the same applies even to a light source several thousand km, like a star. At some point, it becomes a point light.
    – Rafael
    Oct 31, 2018 at 16:14

I see no evidence of the use of a soft box in this shot. It is a bright room with a white reflecting painted wall/doorway opposite the large translucent light source/window and the photo is properly exposed. Welcome to photo.stack exchange. Tip: The reflections on the glass domes are a good indicator of the light source.

Edit: There is one window (source). It might appear as if there are two sources due to a sheer curtain half-covering the tall window. This creates a two-tone source where one half of the window has a half-to-three-quarter stop less light than the uncovered half of the window.

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