Lighting Techniques for Studio Portrait Photography

tips for studio portrait photography

If you have ever wanted to know how to create beautiful portraits in a studio then you won’t want to miss these tips. Recently I did a shoot of a friend in the studio. She wanted a simple portrait for her website. I used a few tips and tricks to not only pose her well, but light the photo in a flattering way.

Studio portrait techniques are not hard to learn. They simply require an understanding of how much light you need, and, where it is coming from. Studio light is very easy and can be mastered with some practice. It’s important not to rush these things as you complete your understanding of studio lighting.

Studio portrait lighting techniques rely heavily on how much light falls on the subject. Most studio lighting is equipped with several lights including softboxes. Softboxes are pretty easy to use. They are lights that have a continuous mode to them, yet fire with a wireless trigger. This means that the lights stay on until you link a wireless remote trigger to them. This little device sits on your camera. It’s counterpart attaches at the back of the light. When you press the shutter button this light shoots out a burst of light, similar to the flash.

The reason for this is that we want to create a well lit portrait. We cannot always do this with soft lighting. The light has the softbox attached to it so that you can light your portrait well, yet still have the strong light you need. It’s the same principle as using a huge diffuser over your flash. It’s ideal lighting for studio portraits.

The direction and intensity of light are to considerations for creating lovely studio portraits. You need exactly the right amount of light on the persons face. Too little can create too many awful shadows under the nose, chin and darken the eyes. This is not the effect we want for standard studio portraits. It’s important to fill out any potential shadow on the persons face. We do this by making sure the persons face has the right amount of light.

Next we must examine the direction of light. Usually studio portraiture relies on front on lighting. This is for exactly the same reason as the first example. If you have a single light to the side of the persons face you will create deep shadows. This is great for a theatrical effect but it will not work for a happy, family studio shot of your friend or family member.

You can light the person from the front with one light or two. If you use two lights they must be placed at equal distances on either side of the persons face. For example, you can position one light two meters away from the persons right side of the face. Then, you can place a light at exactly the same distance on the other side. This will give you an even lighting style across their face, removing any shadows completely.

What about the background? You can keep the background plain if you want the main focus to be on the face. Alternatively you can bring in a few studio props. These might be things that the person loves, such as flowers, a bicycle and even a favourite old chair.

Always keep the lighting simple. Think about what you want to light and position the lights in that position. I know it sounds a lot simpler than it really is, but with some practice you will master the studio in no time.


About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (6)

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  1. Kris says:

    Hi Amy, great article thank you. I hope you got some great shots of her. Can you tell me how we can do this without a studio?

  2. professional photography says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on lighting techniques for studio portrait photography.

  3. Wendy says:

    Amy what lights do you use?

    • Hi Wendy, it depends on what studio I am working in or if I am on location. I use natural light a fair bit but when I am in the studio I use Broncolour. They are a lovely temperature and tend to be the most reliable I have used.

  4. Larry says:

    Lighting techniques always confused me, but this clears a lot of confusion up, thanks.

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