Creating a Simple Portrait

Creating dynamic portraits with only two lights

Creating dynamic portraits with only two lights


The accent light is a Lencarta SmartFlash 200Ws head, firing at ¼ output through a 60×60 softbox frame left, and just beyond the distance of the subject. It needed to be at a ¼ output due to the distance between the light head and the subject being greater than the usual “just outside the frame”, to reduce any chance of flare from the softbox.

It was placed slightly higher than our subject’s head, which you can tell from the light skimming across his waistcoat on his right shoulder (frame left). The light on his right shoulder is providing shape and texture to the garment, and shirt sleeve.

The main light is camera right, again just above head height. This is another SmartFlash 200Ws studio head, firing through a 70×100 softbox which was rotated to an upright position. The intention was to imitate a window like catchlight in our subject’s eye. Again, the position of the light is almost in line with his shoulder, allowing the light to skim across his left shoulder, once again providing texture and shape to his shirt and waistcoat.

The main light was much closer, at a distance of around three feet, which meant the power was at 1/16, and also ensured the light was very soft on this side, compared with the harsher falloff on the far side of his face.

It’s basically a two light setup, in a cross lit configuration. Both heads are facing each other.

Nikon D4 1/125th sec ISO100 24-70mm f2.8 @2.8 & 70mm

My commercial work can be found at