This must be one of the most simple studio setups with just one light and a very large umbrella. Works fantastic if you want to enhance a strong bone structure and have a large, wrapping light that looks good in the catchlights.
But, I wouldn´t rely on it for everyone, especially if someone might have very pale or oily skin, so it is not in my ordinary repertoire for corporate headshots. For that I chose a safer way with a large softbox or something similar.
The technique (if you even can call it that?) couldn’t be simpler. Just place the very large light source, in this case a Profoto D1 and a silver Profoto Umbrella XL above the camera and squeeze yourself in between.
With an umbrella you could easily modify this lighting setup by “zooming” the umbrella and get a different kind with different distance between the flash and the umbrella. If you use a silver umbrella, the effect will be quite noticeable just pushing the rod just a little bit so the light hits the reflective surface and bounces in different ways.
This was one of the last portraits in a session, so I had turned off all the other lights just to try if a simpler approach would produce any good results, and it did.
Another thing worth mentioning that I have noticed the few times I use a large umbrella as my main light is how just a small adjustment to the aim makes a lot of difference. Even if the light source is very large, relative to the subject and distance, the light beam is not as forgiving as with a white umbrella or a softbox. Try aiming it at a wall, standing just a meter and a half way, and you will see exactly how small movements can result in very different light hitting the wall.
But, that is part of the fun with lighting modifiers, that you can modify.
Here you can find more one-light studio setups and more portraits I have taken using a Profoto Umbrella XL, semi-transparent or with a diffusion attached.