3 Light Portrait Tutorial

So you’ve purchased some lights and you have a bit of studio space. Now how do you set up your lighting for a flattering portrait? In this video, photographer Karl Taylor teams up with Urs Recher to demonstrate a simple three light portrait setup:

All the lights used in the shoot are Siros lights. For the key light, a Broncolor 120 by 180 centimeter softbox was used in a vertical alignment.

key light in portrait photography

The Broncolor 120 x 180 Softbox

If this light were used in a horizontal alignment there would have been more light spilling onto the side of the model’s face. Taylor didn’t want that wrap-around effect. He suggests,

“With male portraits I tend to leave a little bit more shadow. You can be a little more aggressive with the lighting. It just gives a little bit more three dimensionality to the shot.”

Additionally, the photographers placed a poly board just to the right of the light to ensure that there was no spilling onto the background.

The second light was a Broncolor 30 by 120 centimeter softbox positioned at the back of the model.

Three-point lighting setup for business portraits

The Broncolor 30 x 120 softbox

This light created what Taylor calls an edge light. A poly board placed on camera left reflected some of the ambient light and made sure that the transition shadow area between the front of the face wasn’t too dark.

The final light in the mix was a honeycomb grid shining down from above on to the model’s hair. This hair light produced a bit of a catchlight on the model’s hair.

using a hair light in business portraits

The hair light with the honeycomb grid

To make things easy, Taylor used the convenient Siros app, which allowed each of the lights to be controlled both individually and as a group. Each of the lights were color coded. Thus, at the tap of a button Taylor could change power on each of the lights in full f-stops or in one-tenths of an f-stop.

3 strobe portrait

Final Image

The setup makes for a quick and fairly easy professional headshot.

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