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Profoto Magnum for author portrait

Profoto Magnum reflector used for portrait of Swedish Author Ulf Stark. Photographer Stefan Tell, Stockholm, Sweden

The Profoto Magnum is not one of my most used light modifiers, but every time I feel to give a portrait some extra contrast it never fails to produce great results. But, it is not for every face, at least not the way I used it when I shot some press images for a well-known Swedish author, Ulf Stark.

Ulf is very used to having his picture taken, and we met earlier a couple of years ago when I took a lot of portraits of authors and illustrators for a publishing house, his included.

Lighting setup diagram, Magnum portrait

Studio portrait lighting setup using a Profoto Magnum reflector. Photographer Stefan Tell

This time I wanted to create a portrait that almost could have been from a Ingmar Bergman movie, almost. Black and white, a lot of contrast and a lot of hard shadows.

Using the Profoto Magnum all by itself would have been a bit too much, at least in a small photo studio with only a white background. I like a lot of contrast, but mostly I set up the lights for much softer portraits.

Most people don’t like to have deep shadows that really defines their facial structure. I have some examples of portraits that show a lot of wrinkles and shadows, here is one portrait with a beautydish, and another portrait with a gridded Magnum. But, they don’t happen too often.

Author portrait shot in photo studio with a Profoto Magnum reflector

Profoto Magnum and some fill light

My newest piece of equipment in the studio (and on location as well) is a Chimera frame, almost 2 x 2 meter. Very useful. For this shot I used it as a diffuser, with a semi-transparent fabric, to get a large fill light. A Profoto Compact with a Zoom reflector behind it gave the scene a lot of soft light to lift the darkest shadows. And that is the reason there are two edges on his shadow.

On camera left there is a reflector with white fabric to reflect a little light to show more structure in that part of the picture. Just to avoid it going completely black and without details.

One of the best things about using this kind of hard light is that every photo looks different. Just move the body a little bit or turn the face, and the shadows moves to make something new.


But, as I mentioned earlier, it is not for everyone. Most people would not be happy with the results, and I can’t blame them. But, sometimes when I get the chance I take a step away from my safe lighting setups that works almost all the time and try to make something a little more exciting. And I am very thankful for every chance I get.

All photos shown here were shot with a Nikon D700, a 85 mm/1.4 lens at f/3,5 and 1/200 s. The fill light were on the lowest setting and I used a ND-filter (a neutral grey gel in front of the light that took away 3 exposure steps of light) and the main light was also on minimum effect I think.

Next time it would be fun to try it outside, it might work fine alone with all the snow we have that can be used as very large reflector panels.

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