How to Capture Multiple Portrait Styles Quickly in Studio

Imagine you have to photograph a team of football players or a group of very busy corporate executives and you’re given less than half an hour. Sound impossible? Well, let’s make the challenge even more difficult. Let’s make it three different shots with three different lighting setups. Sound ridiculous? Wait until you watch this trick by Daniel Norton:

Norton sets up three lighting scenarios for this demonstration:

1. Crisp

Two V Flats are set up behind the model: black on the outside and white on the inside. They cover any light spilling out from the Acute heads set up immediately behind them. These heads are connected to Acute 2400 WS power packs. The light bounces off to the medium gray background. Norton overexposes the background by about 2.5 stops to make it pure white. The Acute heads also produce a bit of rim light around the model’s head and shoulders. The key light is a gridded softbox placed a little more centered than usual. This creates fewer shadows across the face.

portrait lighting using channels

Classic white background portrait lighting

2. Moody

In this scenario, the background lights won’t fire, making the medium gray background appear completely black in the shot. The key light is a beauty dish with a 25 degree grid fired from camera right. There is another B2 head fired from the opposite side, also with a 20 degree grid, separating the model from the background. The model is turned toward the key light to avoid too much shadow.

moddy portrait with no background lights

Moody portrait lighting

3. Warm Cool

A floating head is set up directly above the model, attached to a boom stand and gelled with a blue gel. A Profoto Magnum reflector, gelled with a CTO gel, is set up directly above the camera. This produces a slightly warm light illuminating the face. The blue light spills somewhat, creating a slightly contrasting blue background merging into gray.

portrait lighting tips

A combination of warm CTO and blue gels creates this “warm cool” effect

Controlling the Lights

To set up the three lights so that he can control them separately and as a group, Norton uses the channels on his PocketWizard. He meters each lighting setup in advance using a light meter so that each one is giving him the same exposure. He shoots at f/5.6 so that’s the starting point. This way he doesn’t have to touch the camera settings between each shot.

pocketwizard multimax

The speedcycler feature on his Multimax allows him to cycle between each lighting setup instantly.

Plus, his PocketWizard Multimax allows him to cycle between each of the channels one after the other using his camera’s burst mode.

In less than three seconds, he can have three completely different portrait shots.

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