Sometimes you just have to shoot something, anything, to get rid of that itch in your finger. On those occasions I usually end up with a portrait like this. I would love to be able to go out and shoot an environmental portrait at sunset but unfortunately that option is rarely available (due to lack of time, laziness, bad weather etc). In order to make things a bit more interesting I try to vary my setups for these studio portraits, even if it’s just slightly different from what I’ve done before. That way, at least there’s a chance that I’ll learn something.

Have a look at the setup before I talk about it.


As you can see, the space in our living room is rather limited and it just keeps shrinking as well. The piece of black foamcore used for background was held in place by my wife during the actual shoot. Main light was two LP160s in an octabox to camera right. As an experiment to soften the light further, it also went through an additional layer of diffusion. On the other side of the subject we have another LP160 in a gridded softbox, which provides the rim light. It’s gridded to keep the light nice and controlled and off my background. The main light is also flagged to make sure it doesn’t spill over on the background too much. I didn’t want the background completely black but I didn’t want it lit either.


Here’s a bonus shot: I asked her to say “butt” and this was the reaction I got. Works much better than cheese for some reason. Telling her to smile is out of the question, you’ll only get very weird poses and a very stiff smile, nothing even close to the joy of a real smile invoked by a word relating to the human anatomy.

I quite like the results from this quick shoot (around 9 frames if I remember correctly). The rim is very pleasing and I like the subtlety of the background. I don’t know how much of a difference the extra diffusion made but it looks good as far as I can tell.

You might notice that there seems to be a slight difference in colour between the main light and the rim. That was actually done in post with some local white balance adjustments. You could certainly get similar results with gels as well though. I think the difference is enough to give the photo just a little more depth without looking heavy handed.

That would be all for today, until next time.