Lighting Diagrams


Lighting Diagrams

Help Us Build Some Assets!

Community member Eric Mesa asked on the forums the other day if there might be some Free resources for photographers that want to build a lighting diagram of their work. These are the diagrams that show how a shot might be set up with the locations of lights, what types of modifiers might be used, and where the camera/photographer might be positioned with respect to the subject. These diagrams usually also include lighting power details and notes to help the production.

It turns out there wasn’t really anything openly available and permissively licensed. So we need to fix that…

These diagrams are particularly handy for planning a shoot conceptually or explaining what the lighting setup was to someone after the fact. For instance, here’s a look at the lighting setup for Sarah (Glance):

![Sarah (Glance) by Pat David](upload://2BGwD9lJedsSDKGLZTJzdErJK9D.jpeg)
Sarah (Glance)
![Sarah (Glance) Lighting Diagram](upload://fFdDQ2rfrib4Aj6X0SDyPoixL2U.png)
YN560 full power into a 60” Photek Softlighter, about 20” from subject.
She was actually a bit further from the rear wall…

There are a few different commercial or restrictive-licensed options for photographers to create a lighting diagram, but nothing truly Free.

So thanks to the prodding by Eric, I thought it was something we should work on as a community!

I already had a couple of simple, basic shapes created in Inkscape for another tutorial so I figured I could at least get those files published for everyone to use.

I don’t have much to start with but that shouldn’t be a problem! I already had a backdrop, person, camera, octabox (+grid), and a softbox (+grid):

![Lighting Diagram Assets](upload://2wrE6zyb38W8veWTe8CEYITY8vN.png)

PIXLS.US Github Organization

I already have a GitHub organization setup just for PIXLS.US, you can find the lighting-diagram assets there:

Feel free to join the organization!

Even better: join the organization and fork the repo to add your own additions and to help us flesh out the available diagram assets for all to use! From the on that repo, I compiled a list of things I thought might be helpful to create:

  • Cameras
    • DSLR
    • Mirrorless
    • MF
  • Strobes
    • Speedlight
    • Monoblock
  • Lighting Modifiers
    • Softbox (+ grid?)
    • Umbrella (+ grid?)
    • Octabox (+ grid?)
    • Brolly
  • Reflectors
  • Flags
  • Barn Doors / Gobo
  • Light stands? (C-Stands?)
  • Environmental
    • Chairs
    • Stools
    • Boxes
    • Backgrounds (+ stands)
  • Models

If you don’t want to create something from scratch, perhaps grabbing the files and tweaking the existing assets to make them better in some way?

Hopefully we can fill out the list fairly quickly (as it’s a fairly limited subset of required shapes). Even better would be if someone picked up the momentum to possibly create a nice lighting diagram application of some sort!

The files that are there now are all licensed Creative Commons By-Attribution, Share-Alike 4.0.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Let’s see if a direct .svg upload works. CC By-Attribution, Share-Alike 4.0


[edit - @patdavid - I switched these to links to the files instead of embedding them as images, the links should work ok (Right-click, Save link as…)]:


Looks like I should shrink my pages to to size of the drawing first.
For some reason the images aren’t showing in the post. I tried both Inkscape .svg and Plain .svg.

The first is a mirrorless body with kit lens.
The second is a white V-flat.


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Perhaps there should be two images for each component: a plan; and an elevation.

This would make it easier to create a pair of diagrams; one diagram showing the plan or layout of the various elements, and the other showing the relative heights of those elements.

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Is an elevation view that common in lighting diagrams? I always put any height information as a note on the plan view personally but I can see where having an elevation would be helpful.

The diagrams I’ve seen only use an overhead plan view with the elements themselves having hints at a 3D effect. Otherwise you’re getting into the problem of having multiple elevation views of an object depending on your point of view, or going to a full 3D CAD style format for the objects and the point of view. That would require Blender or something more complex with a steeper learning curve.

The diagrams often include text notes about object size and placement (especially vertical placement). I think the aim here is for something relatively simple to use. That’s not the case with 3D software and objects, whereas something like Inkscape is relatively simple and available on all platforms. Also doing this in Inkscape and .svg makes far more sense to me than using The GIMP or Photoshop and .psd.

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Pat: Almost all “modern” diagrams come from one application (or are created on a Website that uses that application). It does not have side-on diagrams, so neither do most modern diagrams.

In the “good old days” when diagrams were sketched by hand, elevations were often shown when the relative heights were important. For example, I was just looking at a Behind the Scenes photo of a Sue Bryce workshop. She had two lights and a reflector, all at different heights. The height differentials were very important.

lee: I suggested “elevations” to avoid CAD type applications (perhaps “profile” or “side view” would have been more appropriate. There is no need for 3D modelling. But a “side view” would make diagrams that showed heights a lot easier.

In some cases there would be no need for a “profile” (eg, rotate a diagram of a softbox 90 degrees, or 270, and you have a profile). But, how does that side view show the diagrammatic representation of a model?

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The problem with an elevation view is choosing the point of view and having appropriate representations of the objects. A softbox or flat reflector at 45 degrees right of the subject and 35 degrees up would look very different from the camera perspective, from stage left, or from stage right. And then there’s the horizontal angle relative to the subject (“feathering”), which would get confusing with only one representation of a lighting or reflecting fixture. I agree this is a similar problem with vertical angles in a plan view. One would still need notes.

I certainly understand Robert’s concerns. I’m just having a hard time conceiving of how one would draw this without many versions of each lighting fixture drawn from different angles.

How’s this for an idea? Use a set of two graphs, with x,y axes graduated in degrees, 90 degrees left and right, 90 degrees up and down. Base one on the subject’s point of view with the camera at 0,0, and the second graph with 0,0 at the point opposite the camera relative the the subject’s position. Place elements at the correct vertical and horizontal angles relative to the line from subject to camera. You might still need some indication of how to “feather” fixtures relative to the subject, but this would take care of what I think are your basic concerns about lighting source placement angles relative to the subject.

Almost anything will work provided one doesn’t get carried away with realism. After all, it is a diagram not a painting.

Of course, a lighting diagram should amplify or supplement the notes, not replace them.

If the elevation proves too difficult (in the sense that figures might have to be rotated through 30, 45, 60, 75 … degrees) then maybe the elevation should not contain images at all. Perhaps a thin vertical line to the relevant height for each element. Then we would have a plan and a graph (like a bar chart) with the heights.

So here’s a quick setup in the grid view I suggested, based on the point of view of the subject. Each line on the grid is 10 degrees (unlabeled for now).
Based on the camera at 0,0 degrees, the silver flat is 90 degrees left, the umbrella is about 45 degrees right and 45 degrees above the subject-to-camera angle, and there’s a white reflector about 40 degrees below the subject-to-camera line.

The thing is, I’ve already been down the rabbit hole of possible full 3D lighting setup arrangements (in Blender).

I think in this case the use case should probably start simply with the aim of being simple, clear and sufficient to get another knowledgeable user pretty close to the intended results. (imo).


Agreed. No easy to use 2D tool is going to be explicit enough to describe a setup fully without good notes. Even with completely explicit renderings, it’s best to talk about how the light should strike the subject, lighting ratios, etc. In the case of portraits how chin and nose shadows should fall, etc. And that’s different with each individual subject.

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I just updated the umbrella shape to not be transparent from the inside when using it (in case you wanted to grab the updates).

If you have git installed, navigate to where you want to clone the repo and:

git clone

Then if you want to grab updates it’s:

git pull

Or, alternatively, you can download the .zip file:

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That might seem like a silly question but what are these ‘lighting diagrams’ actually used for?
Planning? Documentation? If for documentation wouldn’t it be easier to just take a photo of the setup?


I agree that it’s easier to take a photo of the setup, but sometimes it might not be easy, practical, or desired? (I sometimes shoot wherever I can wedge a model and lights…)

Or sometimes you just plain forget to take a shot of the setup while working.

Also, on a Google+ post, user Artur de Sousa Rocha made a great point when mentioning possibly using something like Sweet Home 3D (GPLv2+) to do layout + 3D view of a setup? I thought it was a neat idea worth mentioning.

Not sure how this Github thing works.
I’ve created a Boom arm from the original stand asset along with a beauty dish. Working on other things too like an apple box and stool.
how do I add them?

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If you’re not a git (or github) user already, you can drag-and-drop them into the post composer here. The forum will try to embed it as an image (and fail) but the file will get uploaded. I can get it from there.

You can also PM me if you’d prefer (or email at


[edit, @patdavid: I modified the attached files to links instead of embedded images]