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Business Portrait with 3 lights

Business portrait setup using three lights

This is a business portrait from the final session the day I used almost the same lighting setup for three different clients with just the addition of one more light for every new “model”.

It started with the one light setup with a test model (a friend with a skate board), which resulted in these portraits of a Swedish singer.

Later the same day, I shot some business portraits using two lights, and last, the portrait above with a third light used as fill light. Just a little, to make the texture in his face become more visible, and the shadows more open.

3 light setup diagram for business portraits

Lighting Setup Diagram - Flash Profoto Magnum plus Diffuser using three (3) lights

The only difference between this setup and the last, is the fill light from the third light coming from camera right through a panel (Chimera) with diffusion fabric. As I used a Profoto Compact 300 monobloc together with the two Profoto D1 250 Air, I had to put ND-filter in front of it to lower the output.


I really like the idea of recycling lighting setups, or maybe have a basic setup to build from, especially those days when I have more than one portrait session booked. It makes things so much simpler if you don’t have to start from scratch every time.

But I must admit that there are ways to do this and get much more varied results, the grey background in these portraits are almost the same, so just switching the background paper would have made a big difference.

And that is not very hard to do (even if I think grey almost always works best for portraits). Or add a fourth light to create a gradient or pattern on the background. As long as the basic lighting works, everything else is just details that might (or might not) make it a better portrait.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Roy November 12, 2011, 03:07


    I would like to thank you for your excellent photography and sharing of information. How much post production did you do in photoshop etc. In thebusiness photo with three lights. It almost has an HDR feel to it. I enjoy visiting your website and getting inspired, keep it up!

    Thank you,
    Roy Colson

    • Stefan Tell November 12, 2011, 09:09

      Thanks. I have never tried HDR, especially not on portraits. But, I think that the fill from a light can give a 3D quality, just a white reflector would not do that.

  • mohsen shahnazi January 10, 2012, 01:12

    Hello stefan
    i’m a photographer & designer
    you’r a clever men
    and professional photographer
    I like… 🙂

  • Maks January 20, 2012, 21:10

    How do you keep white background grey? I’d like to use larger octobox – and I have too much spill on a white background. My subject located about 7-8 fit from the background. and main light is like 13-15′ away.

    • Stefan Tell January 23, 2012, 01:12

      without a grid, the Octa can spill a lot. Maybe you could try to place it closer to the model, with a smaller aperture the background will automatically get darker. When I use my 5 foot Octa, I generally place it around 5 or 6 feet from the model, turned so the center of it would hit a spot a foot or two in front of the model.

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