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Portrait, gridded beauty dish + Octa

author portrait headshot

There is something I like with cinema lighting, or lighting for television, when they tend to have faces painted with just two tones of the same skin colour.

Studio-Lighting-Setup-Diagram-Two-Lights-Octa-BeautydishThis might sound strange when I try to explain it, I blame it on not having English as my first language. What I am trying to say is; I like interesting shadows.

For this portrait, a headshot for an author I did a couple of weeks ago, I tried to balance the key and the fill light so there would be one half of the portrait in a lighter skin tone, and the other in a darker.

Gridded key light and a large fill


They key light was a Profoto D1 250 Air with a gridded white Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) from camera left and a large 5-f00t softbox Octa camera right. No reflectors or anything else.


The lights where at the same height, angled down a bit with approx. the same effect setting, maybe a little lower on the fill side. The light in the background was not turned on, I just tried using it for a gradient on the background, but chose to keep it really simple, just two lights.

The camera was, as always, a Nikon D700 using, as always, the 85mm 1.4 lens. Processed in Lightroom 3.

I plan to buy two silver Profoto Umbrella XL and diffusers soon, and variations of this setup will be something I will continue to explore with them. Just by adjusting the light output or angle or position will create completely different portraits.

Painting a picture with mostly two different tones of the same colour can be very freeing, the position of the head is not as important as it is with harder and darker shadows. Here you can skip catchlights and have the model turn their into the shadows and still get an interesting portrait, I think.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • scott February 2, 2012, 19:58

    It’s great to follow you and see how another Profoto user explores the light. If you were to do it again, would you want a catch light in his eyes?

  • Ryan February 2, 2012, 21:37

    Hi Stefan,

    I’m a little confused, so just to confirm, did you basicly set up the fill light to mimic the key light (height and angle), but have it turned down a bit to provide the different skin tone, rather than having it way down to allow the fill side to fall into a deeper shadow, or is there something else going on? Thanks.

  • Stefan Tell February 3, 2012, 00:14


    Scott: Good question, but no. Most of the time I think I would have prefered a little more light and maybe a catchlight in the eyes, but this one I think work as good with just dark slits (combined with the small smile).

    Ryan: I don’t think I tried to get the fill to mimic the key light, I just mostly work with light from above as I feel that looks more natural in some way. Or maybe that is to mimic it? It’s a habit of mine to get the lights as high as I can, and the lower them until the shadows looks right.

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