Photographing both light and dark skin tones with a single studio light

Sometimes photographing multiple clients at once is pretty straightforward. If the people in front of your camera have similar face shapes, similar heights and similar skin tones, then there’s fewer challenges to consider when creating flattering portraits of them together. But sometimes there’s a height difference that you want to minimise or exaggerate. Your clients might have different face shapes that require different lighting patterns to flatter their features. Or they could have different skin tones that you need to …

Action gymnast portrait in the studio

There’s specific studio lighting know-how you’ll need if you want to try your hand at catching an athlete mid-air with an arc of powder around them. Read on to find out what you need to do. Oh, and this shot comes with a warning, too… Isibel’s family came in for a regular shoot together, but with one additional request. Isibel asked if she could be photographed doing her favourite pastime: gymnastics. We’d agreed to this in advance, so she brought …

Flattering Faces: Broad and Narrow Lighting

Different face shapes benefit from different lighting patterns. Read on to find out how to slim down a wide face or fill out a narrow one by changing just small thing – the angle of your subject’s nose relative to your main light. According to the people who measure these things, there are seven basic face shapes: oval, round, square, diamond, heart, pear and oblong. For our purposes, however, we’ll use a shape sorter with just two categories. The first …

One-light low key studio portrait

You’ve got one light. One subject dressed in dark clothing. And one dark paper background. All the ingredients for a perfect low key portrait. This is Alan. He wanted some portraits he could use for his business profile which is a fairly straightforward brief. However, if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it as best I can! I loved Alan’s dark suit and thought it would suit a dark background, so I had this shot in mind …

Award-Winning Portrait Of A Modern-Day Explorer

When an extreme adventurer came into our studio for some commercial clothing shots, my favourite picture happened when we ventured outside of the brief… Alex Bellini is an adventurer, speaker and ‘mental coach’. He’s rowed 35,000km solo across two oceans, walked 2,000km through polar routes and ran for 20,000km on different terrains. He’s an absolute legend, and an all-round nice guy, too. Alex booked in for some images earlier this year, but little did I know that they would turn …

Traditional Lighting Patterns

These are the traditional lighting set-ups that studio photographers used to be taught as standard. The set-ups create different ‘light patterns’ on your subject’s face, helping you to flatter their face shape. It’s worth learning these traditional lighting patterns for several reasons. Firstly, they are a good starting point when you’re new to studio lighting and trying to figure out where to put your lights. Secondly, being able to identify a lighting pattern teaches you to look for highlights and …

Teenager Headshots

  Of all the age groups I photograph, teenagers are by far my favourite. They are at their physical peak, and often walk in full of attitude, which translates into compelling portraits, like this one. Laura needed a headshot for her performing arts course, which could also be used for future auditions. I wanted to open up my aperture to get a really shallow depth of field, with just Laura’s nearest eye sharp and everything else in front and behind …

Sculpting Faces With Shadow

Shadows give your portraits a sense of depth and shape. Here’s how to achieve the ‘Rembrandt’ lighting pattern, and turn a grey background to almost black. This portrait is all about controlling the tones across an image to create just the right mix of interest and sophistication. Here’s how you can do it. I’ve positioned a large, hexagonal softbox to Mark’s right. It’s just far enough forward that a patch of light has formed a triangle on his left cheek, …

How To Feather Studio Light

Sometimes a gentle, subtle portrait is the best representation of your subject. Here I used feathered, low key lighting and a narrow tonal range to capture a studio portrait of a young woman, Julia, wearing a hat. Low key lighting refers to the predominance of dark tones and shadow areas in an image. This lighting style can be more atmospheric and give a greater sense of depth and shape than high key lighting; a good shoot/portfolio will include a mix …

Hollywood Glamour Portrait

The pros and cons of working with a beauty dish, and how to use subtractors to reduce the amount of light bounced around in a white-walled studio. The hardest part of capturing this portrait was stopping Meg from laughing as we took it. Meg is our studio assistant (and all-round superstar), and is normally on the other side of the camera. This shot came about because Meg asked me to capture matching shots of Meg and her mum lit in …