Portraiture lighting, how to light like this...

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by n_r|9, Mar 20, 2012.

  1. Hello all,

    I have been so intrigued by this photographers simplistic portrait shooting, I really want to learn how he has achieved this lighting so well
    and efficiently, with what kit and techniques for these simply headshots (shown throughout his portrait gallery below)


    My simple questions to those of you who are experts and experienced in portraiture of this manner...

    What equipment has been used in front of the lights such as softboxes etc etc?
    What kit is used to reflect light, anything positioned above, to the sides or below the light, or around the subject perhaps?
    How is the soft lighting achieved?
    Is this a basic butterfly/clamshell lighting setup and technique (just two lights, either one above and one below, or one to the left side ad
    the other to the right)?
    What camera exposure settings could have been used for the  

    Basically I am looking for an overall technique assistance please... :) I have read through my portrait books but havent exactly found what
    I am looking for... 
    I have attempted to shoot in this style as best I could but have ended up with shadows from the sitters nose... I think I am neglecting or
    overlooking an important aspect taking a photograph successfully in this way. 

    Im just looking to formulate a formatted, routine like structure of shooting to get this lighting and sort of portrait at any location at any

    I'll be using a evenly split combination full frame digi 35mm and 120 mf.

    Thank you for taking the time to look into this and help me out!
  2. (p.s you have to push through using the right arrow on the gallery in til the fourth or fifth image to find the specific
    photographs I am referring to)
  3. Look at the reflections in the subject's eyes. Looks like a softbox above, and a reflector below. He sure knows how to use open shade, too.
  4. The reflector below is a pretty shiny one, and close. The overhead light source (in the lit shots that aren't in the open, as Luis points out) isn't very big, and it's close enough that there's some very quick fall-off across many of their faces. It might even be a small-ish gridded beauty dish. The same general strategy is present in a lot of those, but there's actually quite a bit of variation that seems to depend on location and ambient light.
  5. Kind of an Avedon feel, square to camera, minimal expression, often light background. Avedon's job in the Coast Guard was taking ID photos. Here a high front light low enough to get light in the eye sockets, low reflector. Like above poster mentioned, look at the catchlights. A couple seem to have eliminated the low fill. Butterfly on one of the ladies, maybe some subtractive on the right side of one of the men. Nothing too exotic. Your nose shadows are a function of how high you raise the main light. Raise and lower the light with the modeling light on and watch the size of the shadow. If no modeling light, try a flash light. If the light is on nose axis slightly above eyes, shadow will be below the nose. Many of these shots the main is low enough he is not producing much if any, nose shadow. Probably want it boomed so you can get under it. Oh the fellow wearing glasses, the top light is rectangular softbox. Could be used low on some. I like a socked beauty dish high and a 3x4 sbx with circle mask low. Some look like beauty dish or just light with 7" reflector low instead of reflector for bounce. Reminds me, I need a new passport photo.
  6. Have you tried writing to the photographer and simply asking? It could save you a lot of guesswork...
  7. Marks method is of course the best, but the light looks pretty easy and you have already answered your question in the beginning you get the effect with one light above and a reflector in the bottom play with the distance and hight white give you less reflections than the silver side on the reflector than some of them might have got a touch of dodge and burn in the post process. The reflections in the eye is often a good way to see how the light was positioned.
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I would try like this.​

    Avedon worked without lights for that series, as the setup shows. The images the OP is asking about have lights in quite a few. The difference in the images is obvious.

    Also, many of the images have had the whites of the eyes brightened in post. Coincidentally, Avedon's In the American West images also had the eyes worked over in post, but with bleaching on the prints.
  9. The first photo is no ligths I think, I refer to it.

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