How to Create Ultra-Soft Cross Light for Your Portraits

Photographers who shoot portraits for a living are absolutely crazy about soft light. They’d go miles to get the perfect light to create stunning portraits. You might think the perfect lighting requires some pretty expensive and elaborate arrangements. But photographer Joel Grimes shows you how he does it with just one light:

For this shoot, Grimes used a Westcott 7’ Parabolic Umbrella with a diffusing panel at the front. The inside of the umbrella had a silver lining.

The model for his photographs wore a white dress and she was asked to stand against a white wall. The wall acted as the fill light, throwing back some light onto her cheek.

soft cross-light for portraits

Lighting arrangement for the shoot

The reason this works is because the parabolic umbrella with the diffuser is placed very close to the subject (about 2.5 feet). That’s the nature of light. The closer it is to the subject, the softer it is, and vice versa.

The shots below illustrate this phenomenon:

soft cross light

Comparative analysis of two images from the shoot.

Simple, isn’t it?

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One Comment

  1. Brian T says:

    The captions on the comparative photos state “Light source further from/closer to camera”. What does relationship to camera have to do with the lighting? Should that not read “… to subject”?

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