Exercise: A studio portrait


If you have access to the relevant equipment, imagine that you have been asked by a client to take a fairly formal portrait photograph – for example a graduation portrait. (Commercial photographers take hundreds of these in a day at graduation ceremonies.)

The main point of this exercise is to get to grips with studio lighting so experiment with your lighting effects and make notes in your learning log or blog.


As per my previous post, I had already spent some time getting used to working with off-camera flash and trying out different placements of one flash. Now to try it out on a live subject…

I’ll start with what I believe was my best attempt.

Ann portrait
Lit from front, slightly above

This was lit from the front and slightly above the model’s head – almost but not quite butterfly lighting (slightly too low).

I tried some shots with Rembrandt-style lighting – 45º above and 45º to the side. The lighting effect on the main part of the face is what I was seeking, but unfortunately there was an effect on the skin on the forehead and neck where unsightly red patches appeared in a pattern caused by the lighting, I think (they weren’t any blemishes on the skin itself).

Ann outtake 1
Outtake: Rembrandt lighting


I learned lots of things doing this exercise:

  • I should have set the white balance manually for consistency
  • A little make-up might have reduced the highlights reflected off the skin
  • Moving the model away from the backdrop really helped in reducing unwanted shadows
  • I need to watch out for lighting causing patches of discolouration – check images straight away and adjust as necessary

A couple of informal portraits

While I had the temporary home studio set up, Ann asked me if I could take some photos of her with the dogs :-)


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