A few portrait pointers

Today, a few quick portrait pointers.

Here’s a picture from a very recent portrait shoot:

Why did I shoot this the way I did? What went into the decisions? I thought it might be good to share some of my thoughts.

  • I used a standard key/fill light arrangement, with the key light a small softbox aiming straight into the face, and the lower-powered fill light an umbrella-mounted flash on camera right.
  • I ensured the positioning of the key light gave me a catch light in the eyes.
  • I used a low-powered hair light in a snoot.
  • I selected a dark background (grey paper) so that I could emphasise the subject.
  • I used a background light with a Honl grid, so get that nice oval shaped light behind the girl.
  • I also used a Honl gel from the “Hollywood” and “Autumn” sets. I chose the blue-ish colour for its subtlety and for the way it so nicely contrasts with the girl’s hair and skin colour.
  • I took many pictures with the girl in many poses – mainly her own natural poses. Here, I particularly liked the S-curve in the pose and the triangular shapes in her legs. “S”-curves and triangles are good!
  • Finally, the bit of the stool that is visible and lit provided balance with the other yellow colours.

Every shoot is different, but here you see some of the decisions that can go into a portrait.

6 thoughts on “A few portrait pointers

  1. Thanks for the insights. I like the lighting, and I don’t mind the pose. But the girl looks terribly bored. Like a teenage daughter pulled reluctantly into the studio to pose for a lighting demonstration.

    Trust me, I know what that looks like.

  2. You perceived that very well. So I captured her personality! (though I’d call it “calmly resigned”). I think it is important to catch the personality of the subject as well as the idealized personality. πŸ™‚

  3. Haha, that portrait totally captures her state of mind at the time- definitely doing this as fast as possible to get along and get to the next item in her agenda! πŸ˜€

  4. Michael, I have been experimenting with portrait shots…what is the best way to get the background darker. Currently, the background I am using is a light gray…would making the background darker mean just getting a different background? Or is there any other way I can have the background darker…maybe the room I am using is just too small.


    • Easy.

      1. Avoid spilling light onto the background (use softboxes and snoots etc, not umbrellas)

      2. Move the subject away from the background.

      Yes.. I know. Now you need a large studio.That’s why studios are large.. πŸ™‚

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