How to make an interesting studio portrait? There is no all-purpose way of studio lights setting that allows the photographer to create a variety of portraits at a high level. But achieving good results is possible if you have only two sources of light, beauty dish, translucent white umbrellas, portrait mirror and backgrounds of white and black paper color.
Why only two sources?
Quantity does not always equal quality, although additional light sources won’t be excess. But having skills to handle two sources you’ll make your work with three or more sources much easier. Typically, there are two sources of light in the studio that are the basic minimum and sometimes the only equipment available.
9 basic lighting schemes
In this scheme we use a single light source (monolight with reflector) and a background. Here we created a tight pattern of light and shade with clear transitions between them. The model is close to the background and the light source is placed frontally, creating a short, dense shadow. The higher you place the monolight, the longer is the shadow.
With a single light source (monolight), translucent white umbrella and a background we get a portrait, where the model's face lit only from one side. This scheme of light helps to add depth and expressive to portraits. Usually monolight is located at the level of the model’s head.
Here we use two light sources (monolights) with two translucent white umbrellas and a background, placing them diagonally. The main light source is located at the left and creates a soft light and shadow pattern. An additional source is at the right, lighting the background behind the model. The height of the main light source can vary and the additional light source can be placed a little lower.
This scheme uses two two light sources (monolights) with two translucent white umbrellas and a background. One source is set at the left side and another one is at the right. Each monilight is placed at an angle of 45 degrees and their height may vary. If the background is white, it gets a shade of gray. Also you may use a portrait reflector. This tool can evenly distribute the light and make face features softer.
Two light sources (monolights) with two translucent white umbrellas at the left and the right make a triangle of light with a background. The main source is located to the left of the model and forms the light triangle on the right side of the model's face. The second light source is positioned on the right, backlighting the shape. This helps to add some volume to portrait.
Two monolights with translucent white umbrellas are installed at the left and right at an angle of 90 degrees. In this case, they both are working on the filling, creating a pattern with soft light and shadow. In this case we get the area with deep shadows in the center of the face. This scheme makes the portrait much more expressive, though it suits not for everyone.
Two monolights with translucent white umbrellas are installed diagonally at the left and right sides. The main source is set almost frontally and forms a uniform illumination of the shooting area. The second light source is positioned on the right and behind. It makes a backlight of the model and creates volume. You may also use diffusers.
Two monolights with translucent white umbrellas are installed behind the model towards the background and directed at an angle of 45 degrees. Both sources create a silhouette soft portrait. Small details are hidden in the shadows, but the general shape is quite recognizable.
We install two lights - one monolight with reflector plate and the other with standard diffuser. The source with plate is set frontally, slightly above eye level. This scheme is also called "Hollywood Portrait" as many portraits for the film industry are created in this way. By the way, the higher we locate the reflector, the longer shadow of nose we get.
The number of lighting schemes that are used for a studio headshot photo shoot should not be limited to these nine versions or only two light sources. But these schemes show that all genius is simple!