Lighting a portrait

Here’s a recent portrait of model Khoral in her rave outfit:

Cool, eh.

And here’s the lighting behind it.

We light each part of the picture separately. The model; the hair; and the background. Here’s how:

First, the main light, for the model. That is a softbox on a boom, close to Khoral. Why close? For two reasons, namely first that this makes it large as seen by her, and the light is therefore soft, and I can dispense with the fill light; second, that this way I do not light the background. And that is important: it needs to be dark.

Then the fill on her opposite side. I did not need it here, since the softbox is on a boom and lights her face fairly evenly. Any less light on our left and I would use a reflector, or a second light, for that side.

Then the hair. I have a light behind her on our right, aimed toward us, at a 45 degree angle. This light is fitted with a snoot, which restricts it to a narrow beam, so it lights only her hair, Shampooey goodness!

Finally, back to that background. First, I used a black backdrop. Then, the main light was close to the model so that the intensity is not high; hence., the background stays black. And only if it is black can I give it colour. Which is what I do using a flash on the left fitted with a grid, 1/4″, and a gel, purple. Why purple? Because it goes well with her hair and clothing.

And that’s it. Now all I need to do is set the lights to the right brightness, using a meter or trial and error. And then I am done, and we can shoot.

The flashes were lit by Pocketwizard radio slaves, except for the hair light which is operated by its cell (it detects a flash and goes off at the same time). The camera was set to the usual studio settings: 1/125 sec, f/8, 200 ISO.


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