Portrait Theory: Single Light

Photographic portraits that aim to emulate classical paintings are usually made with a single light source.  Complexity and nuance are enhanced by using flags and reflectors to shape the light.  This portrait of model Trisha Bradshaw was lit by a single Calumet Quattro beauty dish with a shower cap diffuser.

A new find for me, LightingDiagrams.com, provides an online tool for creating, you guessed it, lighting diagrams.  I thought I’d give it a try for this series.

The Quattro is angled to skim the gray ultra-suede background.  A mirror opposite the main light and behind Trisha creates the rim lighting.  A black foam core square behind Trisha flags the background and adds a geometric element.  The camera, a Nikon D700 and 105mm lens, is about six feet away, angled very slightly up.

Not that Trisha needs it, but this lighting approach has a slimming effect because the shadow side is toward the camera and the rim light adds to the 3D illusion.


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