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Actor portrait with one light


This is another headshot from the portrait session I had with an aspiring Swedish actor a couple of weeks ago. I often work this way, from a prepared set to something simplified where I have removed almost everything I started with.

In this case, all that is left is the Profoto D1 with a beauty dish camera left.


Not that this portrait would really need a detailed explanation, I just thought it would be fun to cross out everything I had removed from the set, or turned off.

Before I had the studio set up like for these portraits using two lights, I also had a ring flash and some other stuff in the studio when I started. It is a lot easier and works faster to begin with the complicated setup and gradually removing piece by piece than the other way around.

Variation by simplifying

I thing a lot about giving my client a good mix of portraits without having to bend myself backwards doing that. If you start with something and work your way to something simpler, it gives you a couple of setups that you can develop into similar but still different portraits.

Add some outdoor portraits in natural light and you will have a lot of good pictures that your client can use in different situations. And maybe most important, they don’t have to wait for you to rig a new “scene”. Turning off a light and checking the exposure doesn’t take that much time.

In the case with the portrait above, I switched off the light with the softbox camera right and turned down the main light all the way down. The model light was on, as was the light in the ceiling. Together with a loose interpretation of the white balance, everything in the photo had different shades of a similar colour.

“Less is more” might sometimes work really well. I wouldn’t depend on it every time, but to use it as a part of the creative process I think it can get you good variation of a theme without taking much of your or your model’s time.

In this session, I didn’t use a dedicated background light, but that can also be something to try, just leaving that on and see how a silhouette might work for you. Just to add some variation, it is easy.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Johnny Liu November 6, 2017, 11:04


    Did you use the profoto softlight reflector with the D1? Do you use the glass dome with the D1 or just the original glass plate that covers the front?

    I’m curious as to how everyone uses their D1/B1/B2 with beauty dishes as I’ve tried it and there’s an obvious onion shape quality to the light instead of being very even…

    Any input on this would be great!

    • Stefan Tell November 23, 2017, 00:50

      Hi again,
      nowadays, I mostly use umbrellas outside the studio and beautydishes with grids in the studio. Even light is not really something I focus on, I try my hardest to break it up with gobos, smoke and flags, so I am not the right person to ask.

      I did use the glass dome on some of my D1´s before, but they become quite a bit longer, so I skipped that for my B1/D2.

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