I am a huge fan of single light portraits, and I don’t always think, “more is better.” Sometimes, however, you can help craft a particular mood by adding a few extra lights into your scene to help convey story and emotion. In this simple behind the scenes look, I am going to share with you a diagram and final photo.
The idea comes first, of course, and in this case we wanted to capture a grand mood set by some reference materials the subject and I had agreed upon. After that we had to scout for a location, and after nearly a month of looking around we stumbled into an amazing mansion that was practically in our own back yard! This place, known as the Massillon Woman’s Club, located in Massillon, Ohio, turned out to be an amazing backdrop and the perfect setting for our portraits.
The 3 point lighting set-up I used for this photo is something I devised in my head while scouting the location a few days prior to shooting. I wanted a dramatic balance between detail and shadows, keeping much of the area around the subject subdued so she would pop out of the darker areas. To do this I used one main light (Paul C. Buff Einstein) outfitted with a grided softbox, a second, fill light (Paul C. Buff Alienbees) with a blue gelled reflector, and a background light (another Paul C. Buff Alienbees) fitted with a reflector and orange gel.
The main light is pointed at our subject, from camera-left, at a fairly standard 45/45 degree position (45 degrees pointed down, and 45 degrees to the side of the subject). The fill is pointed at our subject from camera-right at a nearly 90 degree angle, at head height. Lastly, the background light is camera-right, pointed towards the background structure of the room. Once everything is set up, all we need to do is press that shutter button and viola!