≡ Menu

Table as a reflector – portrait lighting setup

Studio-like portrait of a bearded man sitting at a table.  Using two lights/flashes and the table as a reflector

One assignment I had 2009 was to take portraits of the jury members of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), the world’s largest prize for children’s and young adult literature. The room I had to my disposal was a small conference room full of books (of course). Other than the bookshelf, it had one really useful piece of furniture, a light light grey, almost white, plastic table.

With me I had three Profoto flashes, all Compacts, but with the tight space I ended up using only two of them.

Studio lighting setup diagram for portraits at a table using two lights from Profoto

Main light medium sized but close

After trying out different angles, I chose one where my models/subjects would sit at the white plastic conference table. The main light was a Profoto Compact in a 90 x 60 cm (2 x 3 feet) softbox. The softbox was placed right outside the frame so the medium sized softbox would give a big and soft light.

I usually prefer my models to stand when I do portraiture, mainly because of the fact that people tend to have a better posture when standing up. But, this time, having them sit at a table in front of a bookshelf felt appropriate.

Table as fill light

Other than framing the portraits with the table it served another purpose. It was light grey, almost white, with a matte surface, so it worked perfectly as a soft fill from below. Without it, the shadows in the faces would have been a lot stronger and darker.

Separation from the background

To make the subjects stand out a bit from the bookshelf background I used the other flash to create a rim/hair light from behind. Placing it on a stand beside the bookshelf and pointing down gave a hard edged light which worked fine as a separation, I think. Maybe a bit strong in blonde hair, but the added highlights adds something to an otherwise dark photo.

I only used the standard reflector for this flash, but it might have been better to have had something with a softer light? But, on the other hand, the space was really tight so I’m not sure if I could have been able to place something bigger than just the flash without it becoming visible in the frame.

Postprocessing and retouch

Most of the portrait where more or less good to use directly from the camera, but I had to clone away a hole in the table used for computer cables. I experimented a bit with adding more blur to the background to simulate a bigger distance between the model and the bookshelf, but that didn’t look good, so I went for the natural look instead.

If I were to do the same thing again, I would wish for a slightly bigger room or a shorter table, so I could get some more blur on the background. That, or using ND-filter on the flash heads to bring the effect down a bit so I could use a larger aperture and getting a smaller depth of field.

For this shot I used my Nikon D700 together with the 85mm/1.4 that I use for most portraits in or outside the studio.

Click here for more studio lighting setups and diagrams. Or visit my portfolio with larger images.

Thanks for stopping by.

{ 4 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: