Studio Lighting Tips for Couples or Small Group Portrait Photography

Photographing two people in a studio environment presents a unique set of challenges. Two people, each wearing different colored clothing (black and white in this case), can be a nightmare for photographers trying to expose them properly. But when you know what you’re doing, you can really move things around and experiment and have a bit of fun at the same time. Daniel Norton shows us how:

Plane of Focus

This is the simplest way to start photographing a group of two or more. Have them all lined up on a single plane of focus so they’re all, well, in focus. Use a large light source relative to the group you are photographing. That way the exposure will be uniform across the scene. You can also back up your light a couple of paces so the light distribution is more even. This technique should iron out shadows, as well.


Grids are useful tools for situations when photographing a couple or when photographing smaller groups. Norton is using a large 5 foot octagon and that means the overall light emanating from the light source is big enough to experiment with a variety of angles.

Norton decides to keep the light off the background. The background is a black one, and he wanted to keep the exposure on it down to a minimum. The lighting was thus angled with the couple facing the light.

He also staggered the position of the two people in relation to the camera, like this:


To compensate for the difference in relative distances of the two subjects to the camera Norton stopped down the aperture to f/11. This was in an attempt to increase the depth of field and bring both subjects within focus.


Multiple Lights

For this shot, Norton switched the position of the light around. He also posed the male and female models so they were facing away from each other. He brought in a second light with a grid, which he strategically positioned behind the larger key light. While the first light (this time Norton used a beauty dish with a grid) illuminated the female model, the smaller second light illuminated the male model from behind.


I hope these lighting scenarios were helpful to you. Try them in your studio session and let us know how it goes!

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

One Comment

  1. Reggie says:

    I like these lighting setups, especially the last setup. Thanks for the tips!

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from!

Prove Your Humanity * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever