An Unconventional TWO-Light Portrait Setup | Master Your Craft

It’s easy to get a little stuck in a rut when it comes to studio lighting, particularly with portraits. The human face can only be lit in a flattering way in so many ways. Or can it?

Who says a key light must always be placed in front of the subject? Could it possibly be used to backlight your subject instead? Why yes, of course. Pye Jirsa shows you exactly how to achieve this unconventional yet beautiful lighting setup in this excellent video.

This is a two-light setup. If you only have one light available or prefer a softer look overall, then check out this video of a one-light setup.

For the two-light setup, Pye removes the v-flat reflector to camera left in order to create a far more dramatic portrait. He replaces it with a Westcott FJ400 with Lindsay Adler snoot, but other than that, the setup is the same. He uses a large shoot-through umbrella above and behind the subject and backdrop, which creates a lovely hazy backlit hair light effect.

Now one lovely thing about this is that Pye advocates trying out your own gear and experimenting with it in this setup. “You don’t have to use the exact same gear,” he sensibly says. A softbox with a grid would work just as well.

His aim is to light just the face and keep the body of the subject in shadow. He achieves this effect after a few minor modifications to the light position and model’s pose. It’s this minute tweaking and adjusting that really makes a big difference, and of course, it helps to know what look you’re going for, to begin with. Here are two of the final images from the shoot:




So if you’ve been feeling a little stuck lately and tend to use the same lighting over and over again, why not give this setup a go? The result is gorgeous!

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