Portable Butterfly Lighting Setup for Headshots

Advertising is a funny thing. Its goal is to entice the viewer to purchase or otherwise further engage with the person, product, or service being sold. To do that often requires semantic trickery, as is the case of the following video, which is essentially a three minute advertisement for Matthews Studio Equipment masquerading as an instructional photography video. Yes, host and photographer Mark Wallace does give some valuable instruction on a butterfly lighting setup but check out this video, and you tell me just how portable this contraption really is:

The hub of Wallace’s setup is the Baby Junior Triple Riser Stand with Wheels, from Matthews, he says again, probably to make good on a contractual obligation to drop the name as much as possible. And if you didn’t catch it when he said it either time, the makers of this video put up a Home Shopping Channel style screen, complete with the Matthews logo and some specifications, with links flashing on the screen directing you where to go buy it. And if you just noticed that I linked the product name above with a PictureCorrect affiliate link to purchase the stand on Amazon after criticizing the video above for doing pretty much the exact same thing, well….capitalism is a fickle mistress, and we all need to buy her some flowers now and again.

But, Wallace is giving some good information here, and the more resourceful among us will figure out a way to DIY this thing on the cheap; it seems a really useful setup.

butterfly lighting studio photography

The riser stand is outfitted with a beauty dish up top and a silver reflector jutting out below the light coming from the dish. The ability to roll on its wheels—from one side of a studio to the other—appears to be what merits the description “portable.” One look at the thick power cable dangling off it and trailing across the floor should dispel any notions you may have had about bringing this rig out into the forest for a shoot. But it’s nice to be able to roll it around, moving it out of the way when it isn’t needed, and positioning it in front of your model when it’s time to start shooting again.

As Wallace points out, the beauty of this system is that because everything is so close together—the lighting rig is brought as close as possible to the model, and the photographer stands just behind the light, shooting through the setup—metering is only required once. Once you’ve set your camera for the proper exposure, you can move your model around, experimenting with different backgrounds, and the lighting will easily follow. There’s no need to keep re-metering and adjusting your aperture or shutter speed for exposure. Like the Lord of the Ring Lights, there is one setting to rule them all.

If you’re not sure what butterfly lighting is, check out one of earlier posts describing it and why you’d want to use it for headshots and portraits.

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