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Umbrella XL


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.

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lighting setup diagram - 2-in-1 group and portrait, layers

This is, without bragging too much, my smartest lighting setup by far.

Or so far. It is a combination of things I have learned when struggling with making the standard group shot more easy to manage and one of my standard portrait setups I use in the studio as well as on location.

This is lighting in layers, where each layer is a working setup for individual portraits/headshots and smaller group shots, respectively. All you need the four lights, but you could do it with only three if you skip the rim light.

This is how it worked, and looked…

Woman In Red - One Light Portrait using Profoto D1 and Umbrella XL translucent

I have just recently starting using umbrellas in my lighting setups, but that was not the case before Profoto released their XL line. First I bought two Umbrella XL Silver (together with front diffusers). They have proven to be very useful for easy on-location lighting of both individual portraits as well as smaller group shots.

This spring, I added an Umbrella XL Translucent to my equipment bag, mostly to use as a very soft and big fill light that didn’t take too much space in my equipment bag. Not needning to pack so many softboxes and especially speedrings makes a lot of difference when shooting on location. I carry everything myself.

The big umbrella works just fine in the studio too…

Profoto Umbrella XL, Translucent used for two-light portrait in studio with fake sunset (filter gel).

Spending a small amount of money on props can make a studio portrait a little bit more interesting, in this case black bamboo blinds from IKEA together with a fantastic model and a gelled background light.

It might not fool anyone to think it was shot in some fancy location on Bermudas, but it beats using the same grey background over and over again. And it took me no longer to set up than any ordinary portrait I do.

Behind the scenes from the fake sunset…


Recently I bought two Profoto Umbrella XL (silver) with the optional Front Diffuser, they are really big and gives a soft light (of course, as they are quite big light sources) but with contrast. Maybe not the light modifier I would use primarily for portraits in the studio (I have tried it, and it is ok, but not great), my 5-foot softbox Octa is still more my choice there, but for assignments on locations they are very good. And they are easy to carry, and easy to set up.

I was hired to take publicity photos from an event a client of mine had which included a prize ceremony and they needed good photos of the winners. That included single portraits of the winners as well as group photos in different sizes.

What made me very glad was that with just two umbrellas (big ones, but still just umbrellas) I could use the exact same lighting setup as well as light settings and exposure to get good portraits and good group shots.

Two umbrellas for portraits and group shots…