How to Use Grids for Various Portrait Lighting Setups

Looking to switch things up a bit in your studio shots? As photographer Mark Wallace demonstrates, one of the easiest ways to do so is to bring in some grid light modifiers:

Before getting very far, you’ll want to make sure that your light source is placed directly in line with your model. Be sure not to position the light too low, otherwise, you’ll find that there will be a big, ugly shadow that falls just beneath the subject’s chin. However, with a bare bulb light source alone, you’re going to get a rather flat looking end product at best.

bare bulb lighting

Using the OCF ProFoto Grid Kit, Wallace shows that grids are applicable to nearly any sort of light source, be it a strobe, speed light, soft box, or a beauty dish. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it’s possible to get a grid that fits any situation.

differences between types of grids

The main differentiator between grids is the angle of the grid’s individual cells, which determines the spread of light within a scene. As illustrated above, depending on the degree of the angle, the results produced by this modifier can range from subtle to dramatic.

Each grid produces a unique look. For instance, the 10 degree grid utilized in the shoot below really emphasizes the contrast in a scene. To further strengthen the strong highlights and shadows produced, a photographer might want to employ bold contrasting colors.

10 degree grid

It’s possible to create additional looks depending on the type of light source you choose to pair with your grid. Take a look at the gorgeous results that come from a 20 degree grid attached to a beauty dish:

20 degree grid with beauty dish

Whatever your style happens to be, regardless of the mood that you’re trying to cultivate, a grid can almost always enhance the look of a photograph. Mix, match, and play around—you’re sure to be pleased with what you find.

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