Two-Light Portraits

01222213296 350X350 Two Lights Reflector 2

This lesson explores how to use two strobe flashes to effectively create 3/4-length portraits in a studio setting. We will also show you how to take a two-light portrait to the next level by simply using a LiteDisc® reflector.

Topics Covered:

  • StarFlash® 150 with 45 inch Umbrella
  • One-Light Portrait
  • Two-Light Portrait
  • Paramount Lighting Patterns
  • Using the StarFlash® 150watt as Background Light
  • Using a LiteDisc®

Before Beginning

To make your setup more convenient and versatile, we have now included the Photoflex® FlashFire™: wireless kit. Using this equipment allows you to move more freely with your camera instead of limiting yourself to within a few feet of your lights.

Even adding just one trigger and one receiver you can set your secondary lights to slave so that they fire through the infrared sensor. Either way you choose to use the FlashFire™, you cannot ignore its ability to provide your “tool bag” with a great amount of flexibility.

First Lighting Setup

A 3/4-length portrait features your subject from the thigh area, up. Our first lighting approach to this 3/4 length portrait was to create nice even lighting across the image and to eliminate any harsh shadows on our model with one lighting kit.

We began by setting up one StarFlash® 150watt with a 45 inch Adjustable Silver umbrella. We set up our first strobe at 45 degree to camera left and raised it up to about five feet. We also tilted it down towards our model at a 30 degree angle.

We started with our StarFlash® at full power to give us room to make slight adjustments to our main light and to also, later on, help us make easy adjustments to our fill light.

This first image has decent light, but the lighting ratio is really high, about a 1:9 (meaning a three-stop difference between highlight areas and shadows areas). This is a great style of lighting for dramatic character portraits or fine art photography.

For the most part when creating a clean portrait like we are aiming for you don’t want the ratio to be any higher then 1:3 which is about a one and a half stop difference between highlight and shadow areas. Next we will bring in a second fill light to add light to the shadows on the left side of our model.

Adding a Fill Light

We brought in a second StarFlash® 150watt also with a 45 inch Adjustable Silver Umbrella and placed it about 30 degrees to camera right. We powered our second StarFlash® down to 3/4 power to create a slight ratio between shadows and highlights, but we kept enough power to eliminate the chance of getting extremely noticeable shadows. We raised our fill light to about four and a half feet and pointed it directly at our model.

Here in our final image for this first setup we have created nice lighting across the entire image. Bringing in our second light eliminated the dark shadows running along the left hand side of our model in the previous one-light setup. The second light is also spilling onto the background helping to brighten it up. In this case, we liked the effect of the extra light onto the background, but in other instances you may not want this.

There are a couple simple ways to solve this issue. You can simply move the model farther away from the background and light the background separately or you can use a 39×39 inch LitePanel reflector with a black fabric to block light from hitting the background.

Lets see the difference the umbrella made side by side.

Second Lighting Setup

We decided to reposition our lights to create a portrait with a slightly more dramatic feeling to it. There are many things you can do using only two lights and these are only a couple different ideas of the many possible lighting combinations.

We placed our first StarFlash® 150watt with a 45 inch Adjustable Silver Umbrella at about 30 degrees to camera left, at about six feet high, and titled it down at a 45 degree angle.

When placing a light above eye level of your model and directly in front of his/her face you can create a portrait lighting pattern that is referred to as a paramount. The shadow cast from the nose will be halfway between the model’s upper lip and bottom of their nose. This type of lighting creates definition to an individual’s face because the light will create shadows under the cheekbones and under the person’s neck making their facial features appear to be more defined.

Here is our result with this one light setup. The positioning of the main light is creating flattering light on the model’s face, created nice shadows under her cheekbones and neck.

Adding a Background Light

We brought in our second StarFlash® 150watt strobe with a 6 inch reflector and placed it on a Photoflex® extra small LiteStand, which allows you to place your light almost directly onto the ground.

We pointed this StarFlash® up slightly and powered it down as much as we could. We did not try to aim it directly behind our model because it would have created a bright hot spot on the background. By allowing it to hit the background lower down toward the ground it allows the brightness of the light to fall off creating a pleasing quality higher up where it appears in our frame. Other options for softening the quality of light would be to use a Grid on the light or any type of SoftBox.

Lighting the background helped to create separation between our model and the background.

We were somewhat happy with this result but decided we wanted to see more separation between our model and the background. We did not want to complicate the set by bringing in another light so we chose to use a 32 inch white/soft gold LiteDisc®, with the soft gold side reflecting light to add a rim light to our model.

Adding a Reflector

We grabbed our 32 inch white/soft gold LiteDisc® and set it up on a LiteDisc® Holder at about 135 degrees camera right. We angled it in such a way so that it would bounce light from our main light onto the back of our model creating a rim light.

We decided to use the soft gold side of the reflector to add a little bit more flavor to image. When using colors in your photographs a good guideline to remember is that warm colors tend to jump out and move to the forefront, while cooler colors such as blues and greens tend to fall back. This is just a guideline, we can all think of examples when this is not the case, but it is something fun to play around with.

The addition of the reflector created a great rim light that gave us the separation between our model and our background that we have been looking for. Using just two StarFlash® 150watt strobes and one 32 inch LiteDisc® we were able to create two images with completely different moods. There are many things you can do with the StarFlash® 150watt as it is a simple, lightweight, yet powerful lighting solution for still photographers.

Here’s a quick overview of our progression in this lighting setup.

This shows our final images from each lighting setup. Our first is an even lighting, which is great for photographing a variety of portrait styles and the second is a more dramatic take on portrait photography. Both are acceptable images and just like most things in photography: it comes down to personal taste. Try something old or try something new because you can’t go wrong as long as you are creating something you enjoy.

Basic Lighting,

Indoor Portraits,


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