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Portrait photography

Shooting portraits on location is something I do a lot, and think a lot how to do in the most effective way. Of course, I want it to be as good as possible, but I also want to work faster and carry less equipment (those two things are very connected).

For most lighting setups on location I have a standard list of lights and stands that I bring along. Most of the times, I only use about half of all the things I pack.

Since I bought my two Profoto A1, there is now a mini-kit available as a good choice when I do quick assignments. If I know that the portraits are to be taken indoors, two lightweight lighting stands (Manfrotto Nano or similar) plus the lights and umbrella will suffice.

Sometimes less is all you need…

Shooting portraits on-location is always a gamble. Is the location as good as advertised? How will the available light affect my ideas about using the environment? Will it be worth the extra cost or time to use it? You never really know.

In this case, yes. That light pattern on the wall in the background would have been very hard to create without a very serious budget, but I got it for no extra cost.

Two Profoto A1 + two B1…

Using a white horse as a reflector works well - outdoor portrait photography

When I take portraits outside in sunlight I try as much as I can (but not always, of course) to have the model with the sun in her back, just to avoid harsh shadows from strong sunlight. With his/her back to the sunlight, you often also get the benefit of free hair light and rim light, that separates your model a bit from the background. Even if you shoot with a short DOF, it is nice to have that. I think.

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Actress headshot. Portrait of Swedish actress taken in photo studio. Clamshell lighting explained with diagram

Recently I helped an actress in Sweden with some headshots for her promotion material. The main idea was to take a couple of portraits in my studio without a lot of makeup and retouching, just her face, clean and simple.

As she has a calm face with a strong bone structure I opted for a classic clamshell lighting to focus on her eyes. Her black clothing and hair framed it nicely I think.

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This is to show how different a photo can come out by just having a different model standing in front of the camera. For this portrait I used the exact same lighting setup as for this portrait of a Swedish writer of children’s books.

Same light – different look

For both portraits I used a clamshell setup with one large light source from above and a silver reflector from below. The man and the woman were sitting on a chair in each session, and were about one meter away from the light stand’s base.

The light from above came from a Profoto softbox 5′ Octa on a boom stand as high up as I could place it in my small studio (2.6 meters).

Underneath it, on another light stand with a reflector holder I placed the round silver reflector for fill from below. The Profoto Compact 600R flash was on it’s lowest setting and I used a ND-filter on the lens so I could shoot at a small aperture, and thereby getting the depth of field as short as I wanted it.

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