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Business Portrait using two lights

Business portrait headshot in photo studio using one Profoto Magnum and rim light

This business portrait is a simple development of the one light Magnum portrait (click link for behind the scenes photos and more) I shot earlier the same day as a test. It uses the same key/main light as before, a Profoto D1 250 Air with a gridded Profoto Magnum reflector from above through a large Chimera panel with diffusion fabric.

I just added another D1 in a medium sized softbox (2×3 feet or 60×90 cm) placed near the background half way behind the bookend so the effective size of the light is more of a strip softbox.

Lighting Setup for Business Portrait

Studio Lighting Setup Diagram for Business Portrait using two Profoto lights

This lighting setup is, in my opinion, very good for creative headshots with distinctive shadows, clearly outlining the facial features of the model.

It is at the same time very sensitive to the angle of the head/face towards the light, turning the head away from the light will leave big parts of the face in the dark. Turning it into the light is more flattering and a little less dramatic.

Business portrait using Profoto Magnum reflector

The angle of the light from above is also something to look out for, if the light is a bit too high up, it can make the eye sockets very dark and leaving no catchlight in the eyes at all (which, in my book, makes people look a bit like sharks).

A funny thing often happens when taking portraits of people with light coloured or white shirts, the material will become a small reflector and bounce light up under the chin, which makes the shadow there less dark.


The light from this setup works well for half length portraits as well, the clothing a little bit down might get darker than the shoulder, but I think that is ok (and looks good) on portraits like these.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, if some of the light from the key/main misses the diffusion screen and hits the body or silver reflector directly, it might create a very bright spot there.

The easiest way to avoid this is of course to position the panel with diffusion fabric better, but this was the simplest way to do it for me, and I didn’t have enough really long light stands.

I shot these on white paper background (turned grey by the small amount of light reaching it), but if you want a darker background, just move away a little bit more from the background. Or block some of the light by hanging black fabric over parts of the overhead panel.

If you want a softer light, just skip the grid on the reflector, and the result will be a lot less contrast and a softer overall feeling.

Later the same day I shot other portraits with small modifications of this setup, and they all looked good, I think. It felt very good to have a good, reliable starting point and just add or remove lights to create something slightly different.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Yucel March 14, 2012, 01:37

    So, you are getting that fairly hard butterfly shaddow even w the diffuser… and it is from above yes?

    • Stefan Tell March 14, 2012, 02:34

      Yes, it is from the Magnum above the diffuser, and surprisingly hard shadows, I agree. The main thing, I think, is that is softens the specular highlights very well.

  • Yucel March 14, 2012, 02:55

    Interesting… keeps the shaddow and softens the highlight…

  • Stefan Tell March 14, 2012, 12:35

    Well, it is not scientifically proved yet, I have only tried this setup a couple of times, but it seem to work that way. A good way of keeping the characteristic feeling of a hard light but not making it impossible to use on people without professional make-up.

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