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Portraits of my pretty colleagues

Portraits of my colleagues. Photographer Stefan Tell

I mostly work alone, but I rent a desk in a house full of nice people doing different stuff. Some are copywriters, some write code, some are art directors and the rest work as project managers and planning production.

studio-lighting-setup-diagram-profoto-beautydish-octaWe all work on different projects for different clients, but share a house, so we really should have portraits in a similar style to present ourselves with.

{EAV:40344c0908895b35} (If you wonder what this is, I can tell you that it is a validation code for my Empire Avenue account so they know that this is my blog. If you are a member there, please buy some shares, otherwise, sign up for free. It is both fun and addictive, in a nice way).

Or maybe it was just an excuse for me to try out a different light setup with my brand new Molton fabric and two Profoto D1? I got more or less cooperative models, and they got new profile pictures.

Portrait with Profoto D1, a beauty dish and a Profoto softbox Octa

Recently I have been working more and more with fill light in a way that gives more details in the shadows. For this session I used a Profoto D1 250 Air and a Profoto 5-foot softbox Octa as fill.

fotostudio-profoto-octa-beauty-dish-D1 no diffusion

Right behind the camera stand, as close as possible, I placed the Octa, and removed both diffusors. I usually use it with just the inner baffle on, to get a good combination of soft light and contrast, this time it was a bit harder light from a large light source.


Using just one light from behind the camera would have been a bit flat, so I placed the second Profoto D1 with a white Profoto Softlight Reflector high camera left on an Autopole.

As seen from the model’s perspective


The beauty dish is angled down from about 2 or 2,5 meters up, depending where you measure it. To get a little fill from below, and more light into the eyes, I placed a silver reflector somewhere between waist and chest level.


I use my Chimera panels all the time, they are really great, but I only have large panel frames. To get a bit closer, I used the silver fabric from one of my reflectors and clamped it to a piece of cardboard. Voila, a smaller reflector and I could get closer to my models.

Three dimensional and natural light


I like this kind of lighting. It might not be the most flattering light as it creates shadows here and there that enhances wrinkles and facial features, but it gives a fantastic three dimensional effect and that is important in a portrait.

A dark Molton tunnel

Molton fabric instead of book ends

To get rid of reflections from the white walls in my small studio, I use to have book ends on either side of the model, when I want better control of the light/shadow transition.

This time I used my new light blocker, large sheets of Molton fabrics with eyelets, mounted on four Autopoles, creating some sort of dark tunnel where I could control the light without bounced light.

Molton fabric is quite heavy, so it will be a lot easier to use Autopoles rather than light stands, if you don’t have any very large light stands.

Studio Lighting Setup Diagram


This session was shot using a white paper background, and a Nikon D700 with a 85mm/1.4 lens. Shutter speed 1/200s as usual, and aperture f/5.6.

The only real problem I encounted with this setup was my own lack of discipline, as these where my colleagues, I didn’t instruct them as much as I use to, which led to a lot of photos being taken when they didn’t stand exactly where they should. Which led to the light appeared different on different portraits.


There are many good things about placing the main light close to the model, but if you are to take portraits of more than one, make sure they are at the same distance from the light. Otherwise the light in the portraits will differ.

But, the same is the case with different skin types, different hairstyles and everything else that might be different from one person to another.

And, as usual, if you think I missed something, or have any questions regarding the lighting, please write a comment.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Antonio December 27, 2011, 16:53

    Very great setup, very interesting that you removed diffusors of octa: great result.

    • Stefan Tell December 27, 2011, 21:07

      There is a lot you can do with the Octa, just by removing the inner or outer baffle, you can create many different lights. I should do this more often, I think.

  • Ryan January 3, 2012, 21:47

    Good Post Stefan,

    Quick question though. What is the benefit of using the Molton fabric rather than the usual bookends?

  • Stefan Tell January 23, 2012, 01:20

    Hi Ryan,

    bookends are great, and I will not stop using them. Our construction is quite heavy, so we would need to make new ones soon. Until then, Molton fabric will be useful, and with the use of a couple of Autopoles, you can make a lot of shapes or just have a black wall that doesn’t take to much floor space (just the small footprint of an Autopole).

  • Eugene January 24, 2012, 17:15

    Hi Stephan,

    Great tutorial! My only concern with your images is the dark shadows under chin of all the people you photographed. I don’t see why this is possible as you are using a “Chimera Panel frame silver reflector”. Wouldn’t it have been better to do a clam shell lighting set up to eliminate these dark black shadows.
    Replacing the Chimera Panel frame silver reflector with the softbox.

  • Ryan January 25, 2012, 19:14

    Ah, I see. Thanks Stefan! I’m considering building myself some bookends (V-flats, etc). Good to know some additional options.

  • Stefan Tell February 2, 2012, 14:01

    The angle of the beauty dish, and being placed so close to the models just bounces some of the fill light, not the light from the BD .

    I like hard shadows under the chin and nose, so that’s not a problem for me, and I guess the processing made them even darker.

  • Eugene February 2, 2012, 14:51

    Thanks for reply.

    Great images! The shadow under the chin makes them very dramatic.

    I just thought that this might have been an over sight on your behalf. As all your other images don’t show these shadows.

    Great blog!

  • Stefan Tell February 3, 2012, 00:08

    Well, some do.
    It might not always be the most accepted and commercial way to go for standard company portraits, but sometimes the clients want it like that, and I am happy to oblige.

    Here are three other examples of portraits I like with hard and dark shadows:




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