Character Portrait Photography Techniques in Very Low Light

Impressing commercial clients involves scouting out unique locations and working expertly with lighting equipment. Photographers who go the extra mile are rewarded with clients who return to them again and again.

With only three hours to to complete a commercial shoot in the darkness of an abandoned Tube station called Aldwych, photographer Chris Gale had to work quickly and efficiently. Learn about his gear and technique by watching the following video:

Since the tunnel did not have power and was nearly pitch black, Gale had to bring in his own power sources and extensive lighting gear. His gear included six Profoto battery generators, a long-range Profoto Air Sync for triggering the flashes, a flash head, numerous reflectors and modifiers, and eight lamps just to light the set properly.



All preparation for the shot had to be carried out by flashlight and was the most time-consuming part of the process. To set up the shot, Gale lit the model with a strobe inside a gridded beauty dish. For lighting the tunnel, he placed one lamp head behind the model at about four meters. The other lamps were placed at intervals down the length of the tunnel to illuminate it as far as could be seen in the shot. With all lights in place, he captured his images using a Phase One 645DF+ with an IQ180 digital back tethered to a laptop. This way, he could get immediate feedback from the art director.


Because Gale had the right gear, a great crew, and the technical knowledge to carry out this challenging setup, he finished capturing the main shot with time to spare. By using reliable equipment and knowing how to make the most of his short time in the tunnel, Glen was able to go above and beyond his client’s expectations.

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One response to “Character Portrait Photography Techniques in Very Low Light”

  1. Brent Spencer says:

    This video was very inspirational! I always like to hear about other photographers and their success stories! Thanks so much

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