That cryptic title means “Animated GIF at the Granite Club”. Which is where I was teaching portrait photography last night.

I cannot image a more fun way to spend an evening: some of the most committed, fun, outspoken, and friendly people I have had the pleasure of teaching.

So let’s start with how I set up. Click below to see it as an animated GIF. The time elapsed here was over an hour:

Studio Photography Lesson Setup, by Michael Willems

Studio Photography Lesson Setup, by Michael Willems

Last night was a lightning-fast lesson in portrait photography basics, from lights to pocketwizards to positioning techniques.

The interesting thing, I think, is that while for full control, the more “stuff” you have the better, you can often keep it remarkably simple.

A shot with “the standard four lights” might be this:

Portrait at The Granite (Photo Michael Willems)

Portrait at The Granite

That uses a key light (softbox), a fill light (umbrella), a hair light (Honl snoot), and a background light (Honl Grid).

But you can also keep it simpler. For a lady with light hair, I would not light up the background. We would also not really need the hair light. So now indeed it is simpler:

Robbin at The Granite (Photo: Michael Willems)

Robbin at The Granite

Beautiful, no?

But the real surprise is the simple setup on the left: you can just see it. A TTL flash through an umbrella. A reflector to provide fill light. And a background light to add a bit of brightness to the available background. Now all we are using, then, is two flashes and some affordable stands and a reflector.

That gives us:

Matt at The Granite (Photo: Michael Willems)

Matt at The Granite

You see: you can often keep a studio setup simple. Why use a light when a reflector will do just as well?

Studio photography is incredibly rewarding. If you think so too, I strongly recommend you take a course or private coaching and learn how to do it.

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