Joe: Personally, I generally steer clear of a “standard” 3-point lighting scheme (which is anything but standard).
What is it that you don’t like about the three point set up? Seems to work great, especially when used in conjunction with some form of indirect lighiting.
Generally, people do what I call “lighting for purpose”. You design your lighting scheme so that it helps you achieve your goals for the image. If you used a 3-point lighting scheme, for example, when photographing a gorgeous red Maserati for a car ad, it would look terrible and uninteresting. You wouldn’t see the flashy highlights and the deep reflections and tones of the multi-layer paint, etc.
Same thing applies to whatever you’re photographing. 3-point lighting gives a very specific look, and is used for a very specific and very limited purpose. People in the commercial photography and film business have a wide variety of purposes for their images. And in the same way that a carpenter would never use a hammer for everything, you wouldn’t use 3-point lighting for everything, or for every portrait.
My only point with my previous posts in this thread was to try to get the point across that if you look at what type of lighting people are actually using for commercial photos and films, you’ll find that there is a huge variation. Fashion photographers doing portraits for fashion magazines are trying to be extremely trendy and new, as well as sell clothes, so they use the lighting scheme that will highlight the clothes and sell their magazines and sell clothes and most of all, look cool and trendy. You might even change lighting methods based on the fabric that the clothes are made of. If you have a shimmery fabric you’d want to bring that out with lights that would highlight that. A 3-point lighting scheme, as I tried to show with my poor example, would probably not serve the purpose for many fashion photographers, partly because fashion and consumer trends change, and so do lighting schemes.
An example would be something like what’s called a “ring flash”, which is a fluorescent/flash tube shaped in a ring that attaches to the front of a camera lens. It is extremely popular with fashion and portrait photographers, and gives a cool, new look that people like a lot. You’ve probably seen it a lot but may not have realized what it was. If you’re interested you can probably find some stuff on the web about it. But that’s just one of many, many examples.
There is nothing wrong with any type of lighting if you want to use it. My only caution would be to not assume that everyone uses it for portraits, and it’s the type of lighting you should use for portraits, because they don’t and it isn’t. When you’re filming 60 minutes, and you have to travel to some guy’s house to interview him, you want a simple lighting setup that you can unpack and put together fairly quickly. So you take out three spots on folding lightstands and set them up in a 3-point scheme. And it gives a nice general lighting of someone’s head as you interview them. And that’s pretty much what it was originally designed for. Though in fact they probably also use a softbox, since those are extremely popular in many commercial industries, though they didn’t exist way back when.
When I said I used a softbox for my last image, the purpose was because I know that black rimmed glasses look a lot better with a big, soft, white light because the broad highlights look really cool. Same with the slightly shiny dress, the broad highlights give a black fabric like that some life. Same reason I don’t use GI, because you tend to lose those interesting highlights. And I also wanted a very soft light because the sense of the image was very soft.