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Portraits with studio lights and spotlights


This is a portrait from a client’s showroom I took when they needed new photos for their image bank. In fact, this was from the second time I visited them. The first time, they asked me if I could snap a few portraits while I was there collecting new products for a shoot in my studio.

I had my camera with me, but nothing else, and with only very bright spotlights in the ceiling, the test shots turned out pretty ugly. Trying placing them near their windows didn’t help much that day, it was a bit too dark outside. And raining, so that ruled out outdoor portraits.

Behind the scenes in a showroom


Trying to take good portraits in a room lit only with spotlights is a real pain, all light comes from different directions, high up, with very bright spots here and there. To battle that, I just placed a large softbox, a 5 foot Profoto Octa camera left and very near the wall where they showcased their products.

This was my main light, I didn’t even need a reflector on the other side for these portraits. But you can see in the above picture how dark it was everywhere the spotlights didn’t shine.


I could have placed them against a white wall and it would have looked good, but being in their showroom full of their products, why not let that be a part of the background. It is what they sell, after all.

To light the background, I placed the other Profoto D1 250 Air far away, and with no light modifier, just the bare bulb, close to the windows (the small red ring in the photo above).


The effect on the bare bulb studio light was high enough to make the background almost blown out in some parts, but not stronger than to let the light from the spotlights be visible.

portrait-flash-and-spotlightsMy background light also acted as a rim light, but just with a sliver of light on the side of their heads. Enough to make it separated a bit more from the background.

Except for details in the background, the light from the spotlights added very little to the photos. Maybe a little to the backgrounds.

The girl in the first photo has one of the spotlights pointed high up on her forehead, but for the taller guys, the highlight became almost blown out so we had to turn that spotlight away.

I really like to use available light when possible, but living in Sweden with less and less hours of light it is almost always better to bring some light of your own to any assignment.

And, it I need to take similar portraits of new employees in the future, I can do that without having to wait for the right season.

I just have to find a way to make my equipment lighter, but that is an ongoing project I am always struggling with.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • sade December 18, 2011, 08:28

    great setup! i would have thought the background was lit by natural light if you had not explained everything. your blog is helping me a lot – i’m a beginner when it comes to using off camera strobes.

  • Stefan Tell December 19, 2011, 00:24

    for even more realistic background, I might make the windows brighter, but this looks good I think.

  • Tom December 19, 2012, 19:43

    I love this simple setup! Great work!

  • Stefan Tell December 21, 2012, 15:22

    Thanks for the comment.

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