DIY Portable Headshot Lighting Setup Project

Whether you’re trying to save a few dollars or just enjoy building your own equipment, you may like the following video, which shows us how professional portrait photographer Tristan Penner (tristanshea dot com) built his own portable portrait studio with supplies that can be found at most hardware stores. The setup consists of three panels, each of which is adorned with multiple florescent light fixtures that create a very well-lit frame around the subject, giving the portraits a bright white background without blowing out skin tones:

Penner tested the setup with a local actress during a headshot shoot. Penner says he wanted to see how well the lights would travel and the overall convenience of the rig. Overall, Penner says he was happy with the setup, but it could use a few minor tweaks.

headshot photography
diy photography lights

“The idea started with wanting to emulate Peter Hurley. I really like his style and the use of negative space, which was something I was already doing in my work, but I love the quality of lights he had. I thought, how can I duplicate that to give the same sort of feel, but on a budget?”

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  1. Sam Cox says:

    Looks great! Are plans and a material list available?

  2. Leon Barnes says:

    I love the idea of building you own equipment. I was dissapointed that he did not show any of the equipment he built. To that end the video was not useful. I purchased a cheap multibulb lamp that allows you to direct the light of each bulb. It makes a great portable light. With modern CFL bulbs you can select the color temperature and the bulbs do not generate a lot of heat.

  3. Stephen says:

    I wish the setup was explained in more detail. I saw three banks of lights, two vertical and one horizontal but he was obviously firing an off camera flash and I couldn’t see the placement. Was that catch light in the model’s eyes from the florescent lights or the flash? Either way, a nice idea for a portable studio.

  4. Rees says:

    Setup looks good!
    Just don’t like the catch light in the eyes – looks alien-like.
    Nice lighting though.

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