Best lighting for simple portraits

Started Dec 13, 2007 | Discussions thread
mg73 New Member • Posts: 2
May I suggest you try this...

My suggestion would be a one light "clamshell" arrangement with a foam core reflector. This is probably the simplest, cheapest setup, gives a highly flattering result, and is very easy to setup.

Go here for examples:

All the portraits in this gallery were done with this setup.


One strobe: a simple AB 800 or WL 800 or 1600 will suffice. I used a Calumet 750 travelite for all of the portraits.

A large softbox: bigger is better is that it gives softer light. I used a calumet 48".

Light stand for the strobe.

Background of some sort. I use the calumet background stand with rolls of sheet paper. I think the stand was around $125.

White Foam Core board for a reflector: get at any art supply or craft store. A 2x4 foot piece for about $5 suffices for most 1/2 length portraits.


1. Seat the model on a stool about 2-4 ft in front of the background. The further away the background, the darker it will be, and also more out of focused it will be.

2. Mount the softbox on the strobe and position is directly in front of the model angling down about 45 degrees. The closer you place the strobe to the model, the softer the overall lighting will be. Try about 4-6 feet in front of the model to begni.

3. For upper body portraits, have the model hold the foam core board in his/her lap so the light from the strobe is reflected up into the model's face. This will even out the lighting and give a classic "glamour" look which is highly flattering to most people and works with men as well a women.

4. Position youself and the camera just underneath the lower edge of the softbox and shoot from there. In other words, the softbox is above you and the camera, pointing down at the model.

You can see the results of this technique in all the portaits on my website. It's a great way to begin because it's simple an requires a minimum of initial investment.

An a simple word of advice for the best results with women: ALWAYS use makeup. Having someone there who knows how to apply makeup is one of the key ingredients to having satisfied women customers. Good makeup is almost as important as proper exposure, post processing, etc...

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