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Light set up for Portraits
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Mar 14, 2019 15:38:04   #
I need help in setting up lights for Portraits. I have a Canon 600ex rt and a 430 ex rt and soft boxes, is it possible to use these two together and where to position them? Thank you in advance!

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Mar 14, 2019 15:47:04   #
Bob Smith (a regular here)
Look at Omar Gonzalez on YouTube he has some good tips. Ignore the fact he likes Fuji the advice is good for all equipment

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Mar 14, 2019 16:00:56   #
Check out the Strobist website
Note the Lighting 101, 102 & 103 archive tabs on the right side.
Chock-full of great information.

Facebook had several great groups:
Learning to light- an OCF lighting community

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Mar 14, 2019 16:38:28   #
Gene51 (a regular here)
gmango85 wrote:
I need help in setting up lights for Portraits. I have a Canon 600ex rt and a 430 ex rt and soft boxes, is it possible to use these two together and where to position them? Thank you in advance!

Try just using a huge reflector(s) for portraits - they will give you good practice and better light than a modified speedlight. But if you insist, then look at as has already been suggested, and also: for examples of good portrait work

and his blog at:

With these three websites, you won't find a better set of references for what you want to do

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Mar 14, 2019 17:00:20   #
CO (a regular here)
It's great to set up one as the main light and the other as a hair light. I did this photo using two studio strobes. The main one was firing into an umbrella. I had a beauty dish for the hair light strobe. The hair light strobe is behind her a little and high up. Be careful not to let the hair light illuminate any of the model's face. If you have two different size softboxes, you could possibly use the smaller one for a hair light.

Neil Van Niekirk, as recommended above, is very knowledgeable. He's using hair lights in one of his videos.


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Mar 15, 2019 09:22:51   #
Thank you very much for your help

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Mar 15, 2019 09:38:12   #
The examples shown are old, but the posing advice is timeless. By one of the great portrait photographers of years ago.

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Mar 15, 2019 12:04:41   #
You dhould look at the Speedliters handbook by Syl Arena. He will tell you every thibg you need to know about lighting portraits with one or multiple sppedlites.

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Mar 15, 2019 13:08:41   #
tonyantony (new user)
try 1 soft light,+ 1reflector or just window light. keep it simple.

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Mar 15, 2019 15:46:42   #
E.L.. Shapiro (a regular here)
I hate to answer question with more questions, however, if you let me know what kind of portraits you are setting up for, I can give you some nuts and bolts advice.

Your Canon flash gear is very good but theses speedlights have no modeling lamps so you can not see your actual portrait lightg as you set it up and you won't see in in your viewfinder before you shoot. I don't know what knowledge or experience you have with portrait lighting. Experienced portrait shooters can make do without modeling lamps because they can guesstimate lighting positions. Setting up according to diagrams or instructions can enable a decent enough general lighting- better than a single on-camera speedlight but there is no finite control.

So...tell me what you are up to (headshots, kids, adults, groups, pets, business shots whatever?) and I'll suggest a setup. All the suggestion about various websites and tutorials and all the various kinds of reflectors, modifiers, and othere contraptions are all good but they might not necessarily suit you purposes or skill level.

If you're into portraits, you are welcome to join us here (UHH) in the advanced and professional portrait section- its for everyone who is interested in improving their portrait work.

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Mar 15, 2019 16:30:58   #
With the model above, I would light as follows:

1. Soft box, camera left (to the model's right).
2. Adjustable reflector (probably gold to soften the light), camera right (to the model's left).
3. Hair light, behind the model, camera right (behind and above the model's left shoulder). Adjust the angle to achieve just a thin hair light, not add light to the shoulders or face. Works best with darker hair.
4. Optional background light (to gently light the background, if desired). Can use various colors of background light depending on what mood you are trying to achieve.

Notice that the model has an asymmetric face. Draw an imaginary line between the corners of her eyes and another imaginary line between the corners of her mouth. When there is facial symmetry, the two imaginary lines are parallel to each other. In her case, the lines converge to her right and diverge to her left. The converging side is called the "closed" side. The diverging side is called the "open" side.

If you light the closed side with your soft box (in this case the model's right hemiface), it will tend to open the right side and through the shadow to the closed side (model's left hemiface), closing it a bit. You use the reflector, positioned to her left, to adjust the shadow on the closed (left hemiface) side until you are pleased. By adjusting the lighting in this manner, you can make the model look more pleasing (more symmetric).

If you light her in the opposite manner, e.g. soft box from camera right (her left hemiface), you will open up the open side of her face (left hemiface), throw the shadow to her closed side (right hemiface), and make her look much less pleasing.

Many professional models are professional models because their faces are symmetric e.g. the imaginary lines through the eyes and lips are parallel to each other. They can be photographed from either side and look very pleasing. Part of it also has to do with our western concepts of beauty that involve symmetry.

If you ask a professional model which is her "best" side, she will usually tell you one side or the other. However, she will not know why one side is her "best" side. Her best side is her "closed" side (unless she is symmetric). When she is lighted on her closed side, her images will look more pleasing.

Take a good look at people's faces. You will be able to tell immediately which side is their open side and which side is their closed side. Light the closed side and throw the shadow to the open side. You will like your results. Give it a try!

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Mar 15, 2019 18:07:30   #
Bipod (a regular here)
gmango85 wrote:
I need help in setting up lights for Portraits. I have a Canon 600ex rt and a 430 ex rt and soft boxes, is it possible to use these two together and where to position them? Thank you in advance!

The sources and advice given on this thread have all been useful to me.

I second --- with one privso: the equipment recommendations
(while excellent, and with links to an excellent supplier) are for portable lighting, not
studio lighing. (Of course, you can use portable equipment in the studio if you -- and the
sitter--are careful not to tip it over or step on it.)

Zeltsman gives excellent advice and covers all aspects of conventional portraiture,
but you'll have to read 16 chapters. And it deals only with "traditional, classic portraiture".

When you need fill light, reflectors are the best bang-for-the-buck and also give you
matching color temperature outside regardless of the time of day (but don't work in the
wind unless you have an assistant to hold them).

You might also try to track down a copy of an old Kodak publication that helped me.
It focuses on portrait lighitng, particularly light ratios:
Eastman Kodak Co., Professional Portrait Techniques (Kodak Publication ; No. 0-4), 1980.
It's a bit more hip than Mr. Zeltsman (i.e. not every sitter is white and made to look
like an accountant from NJ.).

To get decent results quickly, start with one light source (probably your soft box) and if you
need fill, use a reflector (and vary its distance to vary the amount of fill light). Use the
fastest shutter synch speed, so ambient light will not be a factor. Later you can use as
many lights as you want, but initially simpler is better.

You asked about lighting, but of course there are other factors: using the right focal length
lens for the area shot (head & shoulders, sitting, full-length standing), standing the right
distance away (or the most flattering distance), avoiding a confusing background, etc.

If you run into any problems, please post on this thread because every photographer's
sitaution is different, so some of the advice here may not be applicable to you.

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Mar 16, 2019 00:55:34   #
Timmers (a regular here)
You may want to begin with some of the early basic recordation's, that would be Pictorial Lighting - William Mortensen. He had a simple and basic approach for studio lighting, he called it The Basic Light.

Essentially it is to place a single light close to the lens*, slightly above the optical center of the lens. This creates a sharp shadow to the opposite side of the head and creates the effect of seeing an egg as a human head. The nose is the only part of the face that has real dimension to an other wise flat field.

V insisted on two lights, one illuminated the subject the second was used on the background. This was before light meters existed so his basic guide lines were to place the light behind the sitter and pointed at the background. In effect this mostly removed the shadow on the background. The only correction in modern times that can be given is that the light on the subject will add about 1/2 stop of light more to the background so the sitter should be a small amount of distance closer to the subject light than the light on the background. This basically means that if your subject light were placed 6 feet from the sitter then the sitter should be 7 feet from the background.

This is what Mortensen called The Basic Light and it makes solid sense. From this Basic Light you can move the light out from the lens to alter the way the light falls or even raise the light or do both to alter the look. Reflectors can be added to reduce the depth of the shadow.

All that said there is ONE cortical issue that is rarely spoken of in many of the great wealth of portraiture writings. After the end of WW II there was a massive shift in the way portraiture was made. It is subtle and yet it is a monumental shift. Classical or traditional portraiture was done to mimic the sculptural structure of the bust. This was to have the head shown attached to the neck and shoulders.

There was a HUGE shift after the war to render the persona as what could be a persona. That is, like a fashion image. There is a way to achieve this effect often sought in the styling of a modern portraiture. In your camera there is a small centrally located area usually marked as a dot or circle. This is the optical center of the lens. All perspective 'grows from this central location and anything placed on that point and close to it will have it's perspective flattened.

In the modern version of portraiture you want to flatten the nose to the face but more importantly you want to separate the FACE from the rest of the body. This is the MODERN LOOK. It is the FASHION LOOK. So, the photographer takes and moves the camera to place the optical center just below the nose, often and generally just above the lips but never below the lips. If you want a classical (Bust Like Look) then lower the optical center down below the lips to the chin and sometimes ever so slightly below the chin. What you are doing is showing the head joined to the neck/shoulders like the classical head and shoulders bust rendered in sculpture.

Jump to the fashion photographer and model. A trained photographer and a trained fashion model will do a type of dance. The photographer raises the camera, the model 'strikes the pose' with a final gesture of freezing the last part by placing the head in a position. The photographer then adjusts the camera to place the optical center under the nose basically center5ed on the nose and slightly below the tip of the nose but above the upper lip. The shutter is released and usually the flash discharges, singling the completion of the image with both the photographer and model moving into the next pose.

Some photographers and art directors refer to this as a snake or dance of the cobra.

Ever gone to have your portfolio reviewed? For a landscape portfolio the reviewer looks to see the early morning images, none then you are probably not much of a landscape photographer. Glancing at modeling portfolios is harder but to evaluate a fashion photographer you glance at contact sheets, is there a lot of head room, if not you are not seeing fashion shots because the top of the frame has nothing in them or crop clutter.

If you have never herd this or seen this then you are probably not seeing or hearing the information necessary to understand the importance of camera technique. By the way, the open top does not apply to view camera work. Photographers know to place the optical center at the right place but to move lens or rear standards to exclude unwanted areas, the beauty of the view cameras.

Now the most and singular and critical thing in portraiture, pupils, them things in the eye. Reference is to Dr. Leslie Strobel, Dean of the Rochester Institute of Technology. He researched this subject of portraiture and expressed it to be the single most critical item in portraiture, so much so that he referenced this as it's own term, pupilation. In the area of electronic flash what is most critical for portraiture is having control over the modeling lights. Too much light and you get snake eyes, no or small amounts of lights and the pupils dilate making you look like you are on drugs. With men it is mostly slightly half open or more, women it is what is called 'Bedroom Eyes' Sexually excited or dreamy. Most lamps in many flash units are much too powerful for a session. That is why there are 50 and 75 watt modeling lamps for variable out put modeling lights. If you need a focus light get a separate floor lamp to the side of your main light. You will discover that 75 watt modeling lights turned down in a soft box and just one lamp on is all you need to focus using auto focus.

* To the left of the camera lens because you read from left to right, top to bottom.

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Mar 16, 2019 19:10:26   #
E.L.. Shapiro (a regular here)
I'm impressed- lot's of learnid responses and good links. I didn't know there were so many aficionados of fine portraiture around here. Why don't Y'all join me and Captain C in the Advanced and Professional Portrait section- we stated it up a few months ago bet there is very little traffic. Everyone who is interested is welcome.

While we are having a conversation, I thought I would put out a few comments.

In this post, the OP requested a basic portrait setup for his existing 2 speedlight system. Of course, I can provide him with a diagram and a few tips for a very rudimentary method but as I alluded to, I have no idea what he is up to and to what leve he is informed. There are many suggestions as to equipment choice, some good advice about facial analysis and aesthetics (love it) and even some deeper philosophical, historical, and psychological and even sexual aspects of portraiture- ALL GOOD! The problem is, all we have to start with is a person with a camera and a couple of speedlights wh has not yet returned with any feedback.'s the point I'm trying to make- it is probably my pet-peeve when it comes to portraiture. Everybody gets hung up on all kinds of equipment issues and complex theories and approaches but neglect, negate or ignore the basics. There's so much devaluation of the "Old School" and traditional portraiture in one camp, a reactionary attitude toward modern approaches on the other side and a "cult" of break all of the rules and go crazy! It's hard for anyone to learn or progress with all this confusion.

I look at many of the portraits on thie site and elsewhere and find so many of them to be DISTORTED. I don't necessarily mean optical distortion that is caused by close working distances and short focal lengths. I see camera angle s, poses, and lightings that do not render a true likeness or a good representation of the face and body. I good likeness is one of the basic elements of a good portrait image. This may sound grotesque but folks in the images seem to have missing limbs, half an ear, dead eyes, unbalanced postures and facial asymmetries that they actually don't have. What's worse, is when folks who do have various aesthetic issues that they would find unfavorable- theses problems are exacerbated by inept photography.

When I say BASICS, I don't mean that everyone has to conform to rules, diagrams, specific instructions or laws. My complaint is that folks want to do "rocket science and nuclear physics" before the learn general science and basic mathematics. The wanna sit down at a Steinway Concert Grand Piano and play Bach, Gershwin and Rock 'n' Roll before the learn their scales.

Alright, enough metaphors s and analogies- they want to buy multi-thousands of dollars worth of gear and delve into psychological and aesthetic portraiture and the don't know how to make a clean flattering headshot, or a decent passport photo YET! They want a few tips and become Yosef Karsh, Annie Leibovitz, Philippe Halsman, William Mortensen, and Arnold Newman- all rolled up in one. Yeah, I know a left out ManRay and a few more!

The basics include facial analysis, lighting forms, camera positions, posing, body mechanics, postures, color management, harmony and coordination, creating dimensionality, control over the range, contrast, ratios, key and skin tone, background management, lens selection, and usage, group arrangements, composition and much- SO MUCH more and all of these headings have many sub-sections.

Once thes basics have been mastered the creativity, alternatives and psychology can be applied. You can jump out of the box if you have no box to start with.

Re: Zeltzman! If you are seriously interested in portraiture, those lessons are essential. Yes, they are "old" and classical but there is nothing on this Earth, other than formal education in a professional school or an apprentice with a master portraitist, that is as comprehensive. It's online and it's free.
Of course, styles have changed, clothing and hairstyle are different but so much is as applicable today as it was many years ago.

Joe Zeltzaman was one of my most influential teachers. So many successful photographers from many different fields and styles made certain to take his courses. They provided a foundation for many styles and approaches. Joe worked and did his teaching into his 90s. Many top shooters would come to him for critiques and guidance long into his retirement. The comment about "everyone looking like a white accountant from New Jersey..." is disrespectful and inane! If you want to seriously learn any art, craft or skill, you shod have enough patience and sticktoitiveness to read 16 lessons and get down to practice. There is no "quick" way to do anything in photography that is really worthwhile.

There no ONE lighting rule or lighting form or pattern that that will suit everyone. Books and tutorials are always helpful but learn from and being inspired by a true master is the gold standard.

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Mar 16, 2019 20:45:15   #
Timmers (a regular here)
Hi there E.L.. Shapiro, guess what, I have no idea what the location is. Yep, have no clue about where on this Forum these things are located. So your invitation does no good. Of course you could copy past the magical location, that would help.

Sorry to sound so obvious and curt but you long timers have become comfortable in this Forum. You forget that people who are new here have no clue as to how the originators have structured this place. So, I truly have no idea what and where your sub group is hidden.

There you go, and the other people with hidden locations.

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