Building A Studio Portrait

A “standard” studio portrait is very simple to build if you have three or four flashes; and it is entirely repeatable, that is its beauty. Here’s how you do it in six easy steps:

ONE set the camera to settings where the ambient light does “nothing”. Like 100 ISO, 1/125th sec, f/8. Test this by taking a non-flash picture: it should be dark.

TWO set up your main light, using softbox or shoot-through umbrella, at 45 degrees from the subject, 45 degrees up. Turn your subject into that light.

THREE then add a fill light on the opposite side. You can use a reflector, or another flash with umbrella, set two stops darker than the main (“key”) light.

FOUR then add a hair light, for that shampooey goodness™. This is a light from behind at an angle, using a snoot or grid to avoid lighting all of your subject.

FIVE then add a background light – another flash.

SIX then decide if you want colours anywhere – like the background. I used a complementary colour here – complementary to the subject and her clothing:


Here’s my Sheridan College class on Monday, practicing this:

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