MagMod and 17 Lighting Setups with Trevor Dayley

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon4 Comments

MagMod For Beginners

I want to start off the show here looking out for my fellow hobbyist photographers out there.  Trevor, I am a hobbyist who dabbles in every type of photography there is and I kind of see it as my job on the show to make sure we speak about the needs of the hobbyists.  

I don’t want to spend a ton of time on it, but can we quickly run through the different gear from MagMod.  If you go to the website and you click on the product link you see “featured” products, so maybe we should go through those and talk about what they are and how they are supposed to be used.

Starter Flash Kit
  • MagSphere
  • MagGrid
  • MagGrip
  • MagGel (not part of the kit but there are Creative, Artistic, Standard, Advanced gels)
MagBox 24 Starter Kit
  • 24” Octa softbox
  • MagRing
  • MagShoe
MagBeam Kit
  • MagBeam
  • Tele Lens
  • Wide Lens
  • MagMask Standard

Lighting Setups

In 2018 at WPPI you did a presentation called “17 Fast, Easy, Awesome Lighting Recipes” and there is a YouTube video of the presentation that we will link to in the show notes.  It is nearly an hour and a half. You presented these 17 lighting setups in a story fashion as a way to remember them, which I loved because it seems to take me longer than the average person to remember things.  

Sadly, we don’t have an hour and a half left in the show to revisit all of it and probably wreck your story.  Listeners can go check out the full video for that by finding the link in the show notes, but Trevor what do you think we can get through in the next 30 minutes or so? All of it. We can go fast!

17 Lighting Setup Story (Helps With Memorization)

Here is a little story you can use to help you memorize the 17 lighting setups that you can do with MagMod gear or any lighting equipment. Mostly 1 or 2 flash setups and only the last one requires 3 lights.

You’re at your house. The alarm clock goes off. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning. You go out the door and cross the street. You look up and see a double rainbow. Behind it, the sky is changing colors. Suddenly clams start to fall from the sky. Then a beam of light starts zapping the clams. Then an SUV pulls up with huge rims. The beam of light zaps it and it splits in half, and out pops a ninja who’s entirely blacked out. The ninja causes an explosion of light. As your vision starts coming back, you start seeing colors. Suddenly you hear fireworks and you see them shooting over the stadium in the distance. You look to the side and there’s the ninja smoking a cigar and standing inside of a glowing triangle.

The 17 Lighting Setups

Through these lighting setups here is how they are going to be depicted. We are going to imagine the subject is in the middle of a clock and you with your camera are shooting the subject positioned at 6 o’clock. Then with each of the setups we will show you where the flashes are placed in reference to the clock.

Unless otherwise noted, each of the lighting in these examples was done using Godox AD200 flash/strobes with a MagMod MagGrip on the flash a MagMod MagGrid attached to that via the strong magnets of the MagGrip, and then a MagMod MagSphere attached to the MagGrid.

Through December 2019 you can get $10 off your MagMod order using any of the links above and coupon code MASTERPHOTOGRAPHY
Setup #1: One Light

A single light placed at about 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock, or 8 o’clock depending on the look you want and where you want the shadows to be. In this example it is at about 4 o’clock with the couple carefully posed and positioned to have the shadows not show on them and allowing the natural colors in the sky to show up because they are well exposed.

Setup #2: Cross Light

Very similar to the “One Light” setup, but you use a second light at the back of the model so that there is a little rim lighting defining the darker side of their shape and making it stand out from the background. In this example the lights are at about 4 o’clock for the primary light at a higher power than the second light at about 10 o’clock. This works especially well if you have the model turn towards the primary light and look at it.

Setup #3: Double Rainbow

This is one of our favorite lighting setups! Two lights again, this time at equal power on either side of you at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock or 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock. Play around with the setup maybe starting off with the lights closer to you and then put them out a bit wider to see how you like it better in your particular setup.

Setup #4: Changing Sky Light

Two examples on this one taken moments apart. That is the same sky in the background! You will look like a photography magician if you use this lighting setup. Understanding color balance, you can put a CTO (color temperature orange) gel on your flash (here a MagMod MagGel was used and you will need one of the MagMod gel kits) and then set your camera white balance to 3200K and the sky will turn blue. If you use a CTB (color temperature blue) gel on the flash and set the white balance of your camera to 10,000K then the sky will look orange.

If you do this and show the results to the model/client they will be amazed at your skills and I promise more engaged in the shoot! Even if you don’t use MagMod lighting modifiers, find a way to give this a try!

Setup #5: Clam Shell Light

Hard to tell on the graphic above, but this is a two light setup even though it looks like it is only one. You put one light higher up where you might with the One Light setup above and then a second light down a little lower at the same spot. Try it out right with you and your camera at the 6 o’clock position.

Setup #6: Beam Light

This setup requires a fresnel lens for your flash to turn it into a beam of light that can go a longer distance than it normally would. Similar to how a lighthouse produces a strong beam of light that warns sailors of a rocky coast. In this example the MagMod MagBeam was used so that the couple could be further away from the camera and the light stand didn’t have to be precariously balanced over the volcanic rock the couple was standing on. The light was placed at about 8 o’clock from the camera and carefully aimed to reach the couple and light them a little more than the background.

Setup #7: Rim Light

A lighting setup every photography knows because it is super easy to do, but we don’t often think about it. You put the flash at about 12 o’clock, behind the model, and add a little bit of lighting around the outside of their shape to separate it from the background. Helps draw attention to the model and away from other lighting in the photo.

Setup #8: Split Light

A two light setup here. One on each of the models from the side. In this example the two lights were fairly close together at about the 9 o’clock position but aimed at each of the models independently. Produces a very different, creative, and beautiful effect.

Setup #9: Ninja Light

This setup isn’t as much about the positioning of the flash as it is to consider putting something between the camera and the model. Using a battery powered strand of Christmas Lights can be a good effect (though be careful not to let the lights create a color cast on the whole image). Leaves also make a really nice natural frame to draw attention to the models. Put the flash in a location that will do a good job of lighting the models to make the stand out from the background. About 6 o’clock here.

Setup #10: Blackout Light

Another setup a lot of photographers are super familiar with but may not think about when they are shooting. Especially when they aren’t in a studio. This can be done pretty easily outdoors, even in the middle of the day, using a stopped down (larger number) aperture like f/8, f/11, or f/16. Put the flash right next to the model on either side, say at about 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock, and then set the flash power accordingly.

This is a great setup for outdoor shots where the background is not very appealing. Like say shots in a parking lot as part of a wedding reception. Gets rid of the background and can create a very romantic kind of feel. Trevor said that many of his wedding clients specifically ask for this shot because they see it in some of his portfolio work.

Bonus Tip
To save on flash power and get better recycle times, set your shutter speed to your max sync speed first then stop down on the aperture until you get a totally black frame from a test shot. Start with f/8 and then keep stopping down until you get a totally black frame. Then add the flash
Setup #11: Explosion of Light

In the previous setup we are trying to eliminate all of the ambient light and now with this one we are trying to add so much light that the background gets blown out. This is especially helpful in a room where the background or environment is busy, drab, or otherwise unappealing. You can get rid of it using the blackout lighting above, or kill it with light and make that background white by putting flash behind the model at about 12 o’clock and have them point at the wall instead of at the model.

In this example the MagMod MagBounce modifier was used to help get that light really spread out and hitting that wall. Sometimes using the MagBounce can help get the light to actually wrap around the other walls of the room and light the model in a really beautiful way. Just have to play around with the lights and the room.

With or without the MagBounce, going to have to turn the power up on the flash to full or maybe you can get away with half and if you have two lights you may as well get them both in there so that you can put each at a little lower setting and get faster recycle times.

Setup #12: Seeing Colors Light

For this setup you need to be able to gel your flashes again. It is close to the rainbow lighting setup but with the gels this time. You can gel both, or as in the example here just gel one of the two flashes. The best thing about this example is the way the gel in the flash matches the dress of the model. Creates a more interesting contrast with the male model and his black suit! Really fun.

Bonus Tip
Colors from flash gels show up best on a gray or darker background than a white background!
Setup #13: Firework Light

For this setup you need a way to not only gel the flash but also mask it with something that creates the shapes in the lighting. In this example it was the MagGel and the MagBeam with a MagMask off to one side at about 8 o’clock and then a non-gelled flash at about 5 o’clock or 4 o’clock to light the couple. Totally changes a boring background into something unique!

Setup #14: Stadium Lighting

Another lighting setup that can change the background into something far more interesting. Put gelled flashes in the background at about 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock pointing toward the camera. You probably need a third flash at 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock to light the couple from the front too.

Setup #15: Side Light

It makes total sense when you think about it. This is just getting the flashes on the side of the models where they can actually go (the lake here makes it tough to get a flash there – though the MagBeam on the other side…). Here one light was at about 8 o’clock and a second at about 10 o’clock.

Setup #16: Cigar Light

If you want to light smoke, snow, or water droplets you need to do it from the side. It can be a really cool effect that adds to your photos. Put a light at 9 o’clock (like in this example) or 3 o’clock and then have the model face the light. Look at that beautiful gradient on the face of the model!

Setup #17: Triangle Lighting

Some photographers who have used these setups would say that we saved the very best for last. Triangle lighting requires three flashes be setup in a triangle around the model and it produces a really nice and even lighting on them. Best of all, when you place the flashes at an even triangle you have a lot of flexibility to move around the models and get pretty close to the same nice lighting no matter where you are positioned. Super helpful for a scenario like a wedding reception where you need to be moving around.


Jeff: Godox AD200 ($299).  Been my pick a few times now on the podcast and I just keep picking it because of how incredible it is as a light source.  Combine that with MagMod gear and you have so much potential for making creative and interesting portraits!

Trevor: DJI Maverick Air.  Google Home Mini



  1. SO helpful and gene rous of you to share this info. Thanks!!! (I also work in a camera shop and will defs pass this on!)

  2. Great episode, loved it! I’ve been a fan of IP for years and love MPP BUT can you please stop with the $1000 doodads! When Jim started with doodads, they were awesome little extras and accessories that you could throw in your bag that made life better – drones, tripods, cameras, flashes and strobes are not doodads – they’re equipment! Let’s revive the spirit of doodads and cap them at $50 maybe even $100 dollars max. Keep up the great work!!

    1. Author


      Thanks so much for the feedback and we are so glad you are enjoying the show. I wish I had more inexpensive doodads to share every week because I completely agree. Photographers in the media seem to lose touch with reality a lot and share recommendations on things I could never consider buying. I don’t have a drone like Brian had recommended in this episode, and while it is on my wish list the priority is so low I don’t see myself getting one anytime soon.

      The trouble for me is that photography is just so darn expensive and all of the things I have around me that are not expensive I have already recommended numerous times. While I agree some of the gear I am recommending with the doodad of the week is not inexpensive, it is gear that I am actually using. It is gear that is making a difference in my photography. It is gear that is on the less expensive side of things compared with other options that are similar.

      I will see about going through the little things that are helping me again in the next few episodes as I know we have a lot of new listeners and we haven’t done a great job of keeping up our Doodads of the week list on our site – something else I need to spend a little time on.

      Thanks again, and I totally get it.

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