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Headshots of Swedish artist Dan Wollgers


This is Dan Wollgers, a Swedish artist that I got the assignment to shoot some publicity portraits of recently. When the publishing house asked me, I instantly thought of a very simple and clean setup.

Using a large light source as my main light (camera right), and a smaller as fill (camera left) for more contrast in the shadows, it created a portrait that feels like a cover of Wired (which I like).


Behind The Scenes

This lighting setup is something that I use quite often, but with variations of the theme. The main idea is to light the face with different levels of light but never let the shadows get too dark.

The main light on the right side of the camera, a 5 foot large Profoto softbox Octa is set at a height that casts just the right amount of shadows under the nose and chin. In my opinion, at least.


The fill light from a white Profoto Softlight Reflector (beauty dish) comes from higher up and helps with lifting the shadows. With a balanced portrait lighting like this, I think it is easy for the model of the day to twist and turn as they like.

Compared to lighting setups where there is only light from one side, this one is a bit more versatile as there will never be too much contrast regardless on how they sit, or stand.


And with light coming from both left and right, the facial features are defined in different levels of skin tones, everything has a colour. If I want more contrast, that is easier to add in post-production, than the other way around.

Using both lights from high above, glasses will not be a problem either, if the model don’t look up too much, that is.

The only thing that I use to look for, when shooting portraits of people with glasses, is that the frames will not get in the way of their eyes. That can be a problem with thick frames and some people that likes to lower their heads in portraits.

This setup can be used in a lot of different ways, and if you want to adjust the ratio on either light, you can easily create a different portrait without having to move anything.

Or, move the main or fill light just a little bit here or there.

For more portraits using a two light setup, just check my archives.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Johnny Liu November 6, 2017, 11:09

    Beautiful photos! Do you use the glass dome with the B1 or just the original flat glass plate? Does the “onion” uneven output bother you?

    • Stefan Tell November 23, 2017, 00:47

      Thanks Johnny,
      I bought the glass dome for my Profoto D1´s before but decided to stick with the flat front on B1 and D2 that I use now. Must say that I can´t really see any big difference in light to be honest. And it makes them fit in my bags a lot better in their original size.

      About uneven output, I can´t really say that I know what you mean. Please explain.

      • Johnny Liu November 23, 2017, 01:16

        Thanks Stefan!

        What I mean is when I use the softlight reflector with my B2, a noticeable dark spot occurs in the middle where the deflector is blocking the light, thus the “onion” shape. I’ve tried the dish with the acute d4 head and because of the exposed bulb, the light is much more even across the frame.

        I am just wondering two things:
        1) do you aim the beauty dish right at your subject (so the darker patch is on their face), or do you aim it so that the brighter portion of the light (essentially direct light from the flashhead) hits their face?
        2) Can you push your dish all the way onto your B1? I find on my B2 there’s a hard stop that prevents me from pushing any further once the flash head sits flush with the inside of the dish.

        • Stefan Tell November 23, 2017, 11:54

          Ok, now I understand better.

          One way would be to replace the deflector with the other variant, can´t remember its name, but I think one is opaque and the other semi-transparent. Exactly which one is which, I am not sure. But might be worth a try if you don’t like the standard deflector.

          I can’t say I aim it exactly the same way every time, so I can’t really give any good answer. But I don’t usually reflect on this, that I get uneven light. Maybe if I look closely on the catchlight, but not more than that.

          Regarding the fit I have it the same way as you describe, there is a hard stop. But that might be how it should be?

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