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Rockabilly portrait with two lights

Profoto, White Softlight Reflector and a bare bulb for this rockabilly portrait.

This is a portrait of what I guess is Sweden’s foremost expert on the rockabilly culture, that is maybe not so hard to guess by his appearance? His publisher asked me to get some publicity portraits for his new book, and I brought some lights and stands to his apartment thinking it was going to be easy.

It wasn’t. The portrait bit was not so hard, he is very used to getting his picture taken and even likes it, I think. But making room in his apartment for light stands and me and him and some other things I brought along was impossible.

So I had to restrict my plans a bit, and reduce the lighting to the bare minimum. One main light and one for the background, doubling as hair light.


This is the uncropped version of the first portrait. Sometimes it is really nice to have all the pixels from a Nikon D800 to work with, but most of the time I could have settled for a lot less. But not this time, just being able to crop a landscape orientation into a portrait is very useful.


Lighting setup diagram, two lights

This was a lighting setup using two lights, I couldn’t find any more free space on the floor for stands, so this had to do. The main light was a Profoto D1 250 Air with a white Profoto Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) camera left, with a diffusion sock on.

My model was sitting, so the light was lower than usual but angled down enough to create a decent shadow under his nose and chin. His looks really likes that kind of lighting, I think. Contrast and shadows.


One of the risky things with lighting a face like this is how the smallest movement of the head creates a totally different feeling with the longer shadows. At least there is a little sparkle in the eyes, even with his chin down.

The other light I placed also camera left but behind him. One other thing that made setting up lights in his apartment so hard was all the posters he had on the walls. They all were mounted on frames with glass in front of them. Not so funny when they all have reflections from a flash in them.

To avoid this, I placed the light with no reflector high up angled down do light the jukebox in the background, the wall and especially his hair. With the tight composition I managed to exclude all the areas of the room where the reflections were. If I had taken a step or two back, there would have been white flashing from every poster. Or the glass in front of them, to be correct.


Here is a good example with the gas pump in the background, I left that reflection mostly because I think it is ok there. But I had to skip the background light for this one, not just because I almost couldn’t find any room for it, but more for the glass-framed posters that had to be in the picture for this angle.

All portraits were shot with a 85mm/1.4G and even if the indoor lighting was minimal, I let the shutter stay at 1/60s to have a little light from the lamps into the photo. Just to lift the shadows just a tiny bit.

That was all I could write about this session, I think. After we were done, we went outside and took a couple of natural light portraits on the street, I have not decided yet which I like the most. But, I think I like the indoor portraits a little more, if so just for the fact that it took a lot more work to solve all the problems in the room and get the lighting right. Outside, we just chatted and snapped a few shots.

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