≡ Menu

One light Profoto Magnum portrait (+ setup diagram)

One light portrait in photo studio using Profoto D1 and a Magnum reflector

Before helping some executives with business portraits in my studio the other day, I had the chance to experiment with a one light setup using only a Profoto Magnum reflector shot through a Chimera panel with diffusion fabric.

Luckily, Fripp, a guy I share office with, walked by and I didn’t have to use myself as a test dummy setting the lights right. It makes all the difference to have someone other that yourself to test different setups on (after a while, all the boring test shots I have of myself looks almost the same and it is hard to create something new).

One Light Studio Lighting Diagram

Lighting Setup Diagram - One Light Profoto Magnum Portrait

My idea with this setup was to have a simple light that could both be a large light source as well as create hard shadows. The only light comes from a Profoto D1 250 Air and a gridded Profoto Magnum reflector aimed down from high up on a light stand, shoot through a 2 x 2 meter Chimera panel with diffusion fabric (which also takes away around one f-stop of light).


(Note that the only light in use is the Magnum)

Studio-Photo-Profoto-Magnum-Portrait-One-LightThe diffusion fabric between the light source and the model helped soften everything without making the light too flat or boring. A black book-end blocked reflected light from the white walls so the shadows stayed deep and black.

The large silver reflector (also a Chimera panel/frame) from below made the light side a little less contrasty, plus added a little sparkle to the eyes.

One of the thing you have to look out for is if some of the light from the Magnum (in this case) hits the silver reflector panel without going through the diffusion, it might create very bright reflections from below (usually somewhere in the middle of the chest). That does not look good, (see example further down) or maybe just strange?

I used a white paper background for these portraits, and the distance from the model to the background (about 1,5 meters) turned it into medium grey.

One light Profoto Magnum portrait

During this day, I had three different portrait sessions for three different clients, and I used this as a base setup which I modified a bit during the shots.

business-portrait-smallThis business portrait to the right is the same setup, plus a rim light coming from behind camera right, a medium sized softbox, angled so that just a small portion of the opening peeks out from behind the book-end (similar to using a strip softbox).

And here you can see the result when some parts the main light misses the diffusion and creates a very bright reflection in the middle of his suit.

When I shot publicity portraits for a Swedish singer, I let her sit just behind the silver reflector, and lowered the main light a bit so the light would come from approx. the same angle (see link above). The big difference here is that the effect from the silver reflector is much more visible.

My initial idea was to try to create the light that happens beneath large white umbrellas in the summer time, or under a white sail. But that might require a much harder and much more directional light, as well as some fill light.


Even if I didn’t succed in my original idea, I think I found a setup that is very useful and can be used in many different ways.

What do you think?

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Philip September 19, 2011, 22:51

    Hey, I found your blog by searching for light setups. I just wanted to say thank you for providing insights into your work. It’s very inspiring and i like the way how you describe the different setups and how the single light sources work together.

  • Yucel March 14, 2012, 01:35

    I never woulda guessed… well, I mighta got close… except a grid into a diffuser…

    That mighta stumped me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Stefan Tell March 14, 2012, 02:32

      That is why I have all these diagrams, so you don’t have to guess 🙂

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: