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Deep Dive into Spotlights – How and When to Use Them

Last Updated 7th November 2022

Male photographer taking photos of a female model in front of a black backdrop with a flame spotlight covering her body

Want to recreate the magic of theatre in your studio? Videographers now have the ability to light a dancer, actor, or musician with an affordable spotlight from Hypop. In the comfort of your studio space, you can record artists performing as if they are on stage, featuring the type of lighting their fans are familiar with. Instead of using standard softboxes, photographers can experience new levels of creativity by using spotlights instead. When you have been involved in portrait photography for a while, you risk becoming bored with traditional poses and lighting styles. The use of a spotlight revitalises portrait photography by adding emotional intensity. It produces dynamic images. In this spotlight deep dive, you will discover how this type of creative lighting can take your photography into exciting new territories with unlimited potential.

How to Use a Spotlight

Close up of a spotlight with coloured gel

Spotlights used to have tungsten globes, but modern units are LED-based, giving them many advantages: the light intensity is more consistent, they stay cooler to the touch, and they can be used with battery power. Unlike other studio lighting, spotlights have an intense, narrow beam, originally designed to throw the light a long distance towards a stage. These days spotlighting is used in videography to produce creative effects. And although they are underused in studio photography, they are instrumental in still-life setups to highlight one object in the scene. The restricted beam of a spotlight is also beneficial when a shot requires deliberate and focused attention on a person’s face or eyes. 

If you are wondering how to use spotlights for photography or videography, it is easier than you may imagine. The spotlight attachment mounts onto your LED video light and away you go. You'll be able to focus how hard or soft the shadow edges of the light are and even use additional modifiers like gobo kits or gel kits to create the look of a sun beaming through a window.

If you want to achieve a spotlit face against a black background, it’s important to remove ambient light. Using the manual mode on your camera, stop down your settings and take test shots until all the fill light is eliminated. You must ensure you are only capturing the artificial lighting. The spotlight will become your main form of illumination, but you may also like to incorporate a hair light. If so, set that up above and behind the subject to give them form. Make another test shot to check the strength of the light, and then it’s time to test the spotlight. The advantage of a spotlight is that you can just illuminate the face if you want to, without the distraction of hair, shoulders, and background. It’s perfect for a model with stunning eyes.

Just because you are using a spotlight doesn’t mean you have to eliminate the background every time. Spotlighting the face or upper body can be used with colourful backdrops for highly creative effects.


Photographer adjusting a spotlight while a male model sits on a light coloured backdrop

An entry-level spotlight for those who want to experiment with this type of creative lighting before committing too much cash should try the Godox S30 5600K in combination with the Godox SA-P Projection Attachment with an SA-01 85MM Lens. The Godox S30 light on its own has a beam adjustment knob that controls the range of light from 6 to 55 degrees, from spotlight to floodlight. It is rated for natural daylight colour temperature, and the purchase includes aluminium barn doors to precisely control the shape and direction of light. The Godox S30 is worth getting for its spotlight capabilities. And it’s a great investment because you can also use it for product photography and as a hair light for interviews.

With the separate purchase of the Godox SA-P Projection Attachment with an SA-01 85MM lens, extra creativity options are unlocked. With it, you’ll be able to quickly change the size and sharpness of the spotlight to recreate that harsh sunlight look for product photography.

One light is good, but three are better! Especially when they are the Godox S60 lights with 60 watts of power. The Godox S60 LED Focusing Light 3 Point Lighting Kit includes three S60 daylight heads, each with barn doors, controllers, three light stands, and two softboxes. The kit also includes one projection attachment with an 85mm lens and a wide range of gobo accessories that enable you to do everything from selective lighting to pattern projection. There’s even a travel case for wheeling everything onto location. Having three lights means you have a complete and instant studio setup with a spotlight, a hair light and one to brighten the background.  


Male model in front of a black backdrop lit up by a purple spotlight

Photographic enthusiasts and videographers who imagine themselves regularly using a spotlight should consider the Aputure Light Storm LS 60d with the Aputure Spotlight Mini Zoom. This reliable light kit is still affordable and has 60 watts of power compared to 30 watts for the Godox S30. It has daylight colour temperature with adjustable beam spread and light intensity options. The beam of light ranges from 15 degrees to 45 degrees. The included 4-way barn doors can further shape this light. Extra creative modifications for videographers can be made through eight built-in lighting effects, including paparazzi, fireworks, lightning, faulty bulb, TV, pulsing, strobe, and explosion.

When the Aputure Spotlight Mini Zoom is mounted to the LS 60d or 60x, it allows you to alter the shape of the light through built-in shutters and a drop-in iris. The Spotlight Mini Zoom is a 2X optical projection lens and also accepts M-size gobos, which are templates that change the shape of the light on a subject or backdrop. Along with the mini zoom, this package contains a gobo holder and 15 different gobo patterns. Also included is an 18-leaf iris that controls the size of the illumination circle. If you want to mix and match lights with accessories, see the full range at Hypop.

When Should You Use a Spotlight?

Female model in front of a black backdrop with a stars spotlight covering her face

Spotlights offer a different style of light than those usually seen in portrait shots. They produce a narrow beam of hard light instead of diffused illumination from softboxes. Apart from providing the traditional spotlight effect of theatre lighting, they offer many light-shaping features to control the appearance of the light on the subject. With the help of gobos (templates positioned in front of a light source), you can access a wide range of patterns or shapes on the subject or background.

Remember that spotlights don’t have to be a round source of hard light or feature shadows from a gobo. You are investing in equipment you can use in conjunction with any key light. A spotlight can double as a hair light, fill light, or kicker. The creative uses of a spotlight as background light are limitless when you include optional modifiers. In a photographic studio, they are ideal for headshots, portraits, and shots replicating the film noir genre. Spotlights are also suitable for video lighting, vlogging and interviewing.

Bowens Mount Options

Bird's-eye view of photographer taking photos of a male model under a red spotlight

If you already own a Bowens mount LED light such as the Godox SL-60W, Godox LA150Bi, or the Aputure 100X and Aputure 200X. Then achieving the spotlight look is as easy as purchasing a Bowens mount attachment from either Aputure or Godox.

Aputure Spotlight Mount Set with 19 Degree Lens

When you need a high degree of control, this lens combo will produce a dramatic beam of light. The spotlight’s design incorporates a dual drop-in slot, which accepts the included B-size gobo holder, gel holder, or an optional adjustable iris for further control of the shape and size of the light beam. This kit also includes a lens pen, a blower, and a cleaning cloth. It is all packed into a hard travel case to protect the lens and spotlight accessories during transport.

Godox VSA-26K Spotlight Attachment Kit

The Godox VSA-26K Spotlight Attachment Kit from Godox brings even more creative possibilities to the camera and video user. The attachment shapes an LED light into a crisp, precise beam with sharp-edge projection. The built-in shutter blade provides you with efficient and accurate control of light. Add a gobo to manufacture an artistic background or a captivating pattern on your subject. Or insert an iris diaphragm to increase/decrease the intensity. It quickly and effortlessly changes the beam between spotlighting and floodlighting. Then you can insert gels to make your shot a fantasy world of colours. With a design based around the popular Bowen mount, the spotlight attachment opens up creative possibilities from other accessories. A strong and stylish carry bag is also included in this essential kit.

Godox VSA-36K Spotlight Attachment Kit

The Godox VSA-36K Spotlight Attachment Kit is interchangeable among three optional lenses. This package contains the Godox VSA-36K spotlight along with the same accessories as the VSA-26K kit, enabling a variety of lighting setups. You can attach it to a C-stand, a combo stand, or overhang it from a grid.

What Should You Pair With Your Spotlight?

Male photographer taking photos of a male model sitting on a black backdrop

While a spotlight is often used to recreate the lighting of an actor or dancer on stage, it has many other applications. To expand your creative universe, you only need a few spotlight accessories. Popular options that enhance the creative elements of spotlight shoots include gobos, lenses, reflectors, and iris diaphragms.


A gobo adds texture to a photo by cutting the light into exciting patterns. Purchasing the Aputure 10-Piece Gobo Kit supplies a variety of B-size gobos for filmmakers. These templates add evocative shadow and light designs to add drama and flair to any image. Whether you want to mimic light slits, windows, fireworks, lightning or fire, it’s all possible with this simple tool.


Depending on the style of spotlight photography you choose to explore, lens options provide photographers and videographers with more alternatives to shape and direct your lighting. The Godox Projection Attachment Lens 36° is easily interchangeable in the Godox Spotlight system and presents a controlled 36-degree beam of light with a clean edge and faithful colour rendering. 


Spotlights have another advantage over ‘normal’ studio lights: they don’t take up as much room. If space is limited, instead of using a large softbox, bounce a spotlight off a reflector for a similar result.


When you want to control the shape and size of the light from your Godox spotlight, a Godox iris diaphragm is an ideal solution. It has an easy drop-in design that focuses the beam from a spotlight to a floodlight. 

Final Thoughts

Male photographer taking photos of a male model sitting on a light coloured backdrop

Don’t let your portfolio become predictable. Include innovative shots created with a spotlight. Beginner photographers will enjoy the experimental side of spotlight photography, and experienced users can expand their creativity in new and exciting ways. This is an opportunity to do something different for your customers and yourself. Spotlights produce modern, edgy results that can be applied to videography and portrait photography.

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