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Studio Portrait, only indirect light


This lighting setup is something I have been thinking about a lot, but never gotten to try it for real. I really like the quality of light when it comes to reflected light you can find in the shadows outside near building. The sun, reflecting down light via big windows, can be very nice. And I would love to be able to recreate that light in the studio any time of the year.

But it was not that simple, and I am not even close to getting it right. Yet.


I wrote a long blog post on my Swedish blog, but I don’t have the energy to translate all the steps that I tried to get things right. If you want, you can see more photos and maybe understand some of it (via some translator, or just look at the pictures). Here it is: My Swedish blog post on indirect lighting.

To keep it a lot shorter (than the Swedish blog post), I started with a light from behind, a Profoto D1 250 Air with a Magnum reflector. Pointing it at a very large Chimera reflector frame with silver fabric, I had the idea that this would be enough to get a lot of light reflected back into the face of my model.

It wasn’t.


But I liked the rim light from behind, and kept that light on (it would maybe have been smarter to turn that off and continue to try to get it right with just one light, but no). Next time I will.

Instead I added a second light, and placed it very near the large reflector so I could easily see how the effect would be (also avoiding the problems with the light hitting my model’s hair and sides, being a lot stronger than the reflected light).

I put the light low, and bounced it on the reflector so the light would come from above, almost. Using a Zoom reflector, I could adjust the light beam to get the effect I wanted. The only restrictions were that I could not have it at a distance, but had to make do with it being quite near the model.


My goal was to learn a way to use indirect light in an easy way, but I didn’t really achieve that, but I learned a lot trying to. Maybe the best way would be to use an even harder light, a Fresnel or something like that?


But I like the light I got, it has soft transitions from light to dark but with a quick falloff in some way. And experimenting with ideas like this is something I a lot less than I should, it is a very learning experience in many ways. And frustrating.


And then I have to keep shooting with my new Nikon D800, even outside paid assignments, just to learn it better. It is a lot like my older D700, but also different in many ways. Just coping with the smaller margins for error in focus when you check an image in 100% is hard get over.

Hope this wasn’t to short and rushed, the post that is. If you have any questions, please let me know. Or suggestions on how to make it better.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Randle P. McMurphy May 14, 2012, 11:04

    Hello Stefan – first I have to thank you for your work wich I like to read verry much. You worry about the most important thing in Photographie – the Light – that´s what the most Blogs about this kind of Art are missing.

    Natural Light and Flash Light are hard to compare – so I dont try to do
    this any more.
    Pictures made outside in open Shadow like the North-Light-Windows
    have a different taste than these made in Studio with a big Lightformer.
    The Key is the massive Reflection of the Sky wich you can see in the
    Models eyes and the just feelable relaxed way the photographed Person
    deals with it in a different way as with a Flash.

    Maybe you understand what I mean while watching “Jim Raketes”
    1/8 Seconds – Familar Strangers (Book).


    • Stefan Tell May 18, 2012, 09:42

      Thanks for your comment,
      you are of course right in that there is great difference in studio light and how people behave. But I would love to get closer to creating that special look, we do have a very long winter in Sweden and I can’t afford travelling to Barbados for every assignment 🙂

  • Randle P. McMurphy May 18, 2012, 10:45

    Dear Stefan – I photograph since about 30 Years now – just one of the
    first here around who started production with digital Cameras (Kodak DCS 200) what wasn´t always a pleasure like doint the same today. But all the experience I made changed my point of view. If I look at pictures today I often wonder if they are reality or photoshop(ed). Advertisingforces us to
    do things and create illusions wich are close to a lie. If I take a picture today I reduce everything to minimum. One camera – one lens – one light.
    I see your studio isn´t verry big – but on the other side it haven´t to be to make great photos. I don´t know if it helps you but I use this Octa.


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