3D Lighting Simulation for Photographers

Review by Gilmar Smith

I recently stumbled upon version 2 of set.a.light 3D by elixxier Software, which completely changed the way I plan my photo shoots. It also opened the door to lots of new possibilities when it comes to experimenting and teaching lighting. Available for Mac and PC, set.a.light creates lighting diagrams that are a 3D rendering of a studio setup. 

set.a.light 3D goes way beyond the average lighting setup diagrams that you’ve seen before. It’s more of a lighting-simulation program for photographers. In version 2, you have access to multiple configurations and options (studio, models, strobes, speedlights, modifiers, continuous lights, props, light gels, and more.). You can even enter the measurements of your studio for a more accurate view. 

There are three different view modes, all of them visible on one screen. The first is the studio, where you build the lighting setup, rotate views and objects, zoom in and out, add lights, adjust the height of the lights, add a model and props, etc. The second is the camera view mode, where you can adjust such things as camera settings, lenses, f-stop, ISO, and white balance; this is where the light calculations take place. The third is a view of the studio from above. 

You can customize pretty much everything while creating a lighting setup: e.g., the wall color, background, floor texture, model hair color, pose, nail color, and clothing. What’s mind-blowing about set.a.light 3D is that you can visualize in advance all the light and camera settings, without having to move a muscle. I find this extremely valuable when it comes to planning and sharing lighting setups with crew members/light assistants. It’s also a great way to learn, experiment, and teach photography and lighting. 

Photo by Gilmar Smith

After you finish creating a lighting setup, you can render it and save it as a JPEG. You can adjust the studio view, view dimensions between elements, add your logo, and pick different templates before you export it either as a JPEG or as a PDF. 

There are two versions of set.a.light 3D, Basic and Studio, and you can download a 15-day trial of the Basic software for free. (I’d give this software a six-star review, if that were possible!) ■