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  • Writer's pictureCreative Balance

A Tale of 3 Portrait Styles

This week's post is about portrait lighting. There's more than one way to light your portrait and we're going to share some of our studio lighting techniques with you. A variety of lighting techniques allows you to be prepared for different needs your clients may have. All three versions of portraits were taken in the same space.

Model: Cali | Natural Light

Natural Light

Our first portrait lighting technique is natural light. If you are fortunate to work in a space that allows a lot of light inside, this is a very easy-to-set-up option.

When you have a large enough window that gets sunlight directly shown through it, a tip that helps tone down the harsh lighting so as to not blind your model is to hang up translucent white curtains or even thin white bed sheets. This diffused light gently blankets the subject and allows for a softer look. There's no rule but it is our preference to open up our lenses to let in as much light as possible. This photo was taken at F/1.2.

Model: Kaile | On-Camera Flash

On-Camera Flash

Yes, an on-camera flash. Time and time again, novice photographers are advised not to use an on-camera flash as it does not deliver a flattering nor natural looking light on subjects, particularly in the case of portraits. But, as with all things in photography: you "never" do something until you do.

The secret to on-camera flash photography is using the proper set-up. A couple of items we can suggest and use ourselves are the CB-200 Speedy Camera Rotating Flash Bracket and OCS-C1.5 Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras (1.5'). This bracket and cord allow you to raise a speedlight above the subject and eliminate shadows to the sides and on the face. Best of all, the flash bracket allows you to turn your camera body vertically for portraits without changing the position of your speedlight.

Model: Haley | Two Strobe Lighting

Two Strobe Lighting

Last, but not least, we have two strobe lighting. The set up is very simple to arrange for a solo portrait.

For strobes, we used 2 Flashpoint StreakLight 360 Ws Flashes. From the eye of the viewer, our first strobe is placed three feet to the left of the subject and shone at the subject at roughly 45 degrees. The strobe should be raised taller than the subject and angled down 30-45 degrees. For this strobe, we applied a Photek SoftLighter II 60" White Umbrella and designated this as our primary light source. The umbrella allows a soft layer of light to wash over the subject.

The second strobe is set to the right of the subject, two feet away. We use this light source to lightly fill the darkness to the right side of the subject. To soften the light, we use a Glow QuadraPop 28X38" Portable SoftBox.

Generally, the primary light source is set to full power (1/1). The secondary light source for this shot was set to 1/64 power allowing a darker light on the side of her face without losing it completely.


Please take these techniques and test them out, rearrange them, prove them wrong, just get out there and take photos! These are just three styles for solo portraits to get you on your way. Try it out and find what works for you. Thank you!

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