Portrait shoot with continuous lights

IMG_7338 I don’t usually shoot portraits, and when I do usually do them in fashion shoot style, that’s just me!

And I usually use flash, because I have plenty of flash heads available, but this time I thought it would be fun to use our QuadLite continuous lights instead.

My model is a friend who has never modelled before. Actually, it wasn’t difficult, it’s just a matter of asking her to do what she already knows how to do, and that’s to keep her feet in the same place but to move her head and body around, and to move her hands around too, and then just take a lot of shots, most of which inevitably end up in the bin – pretty much what I would do with a pro fashion model!

My job was made easier by the fact that Jessica has classical oriental looks, with high cheekbones, good

Lighting arrangement

Lighting arrangement

complexion and very long hair, which means that I can use hard lighting to emphasise her bone structure, and she can also change appearance simply by having her hair either up or down. We also changed the background, with the earlier shots against a lit white background, with a QuadLite lighting the background from each side,  and the later shots against our black muslin background.

This blog includes shots taken with the white background, several key elements of lighting were different against the black background, so that’s for another blog.

For the key light, I used the QuadLite in front of where her face was pointing and above, and I asked Jessica to angle her face towards the light, so that the shadows that it created were in the right place, and symetrical – it doesn’t work for every shot of course, because I was also asking her to move around to get the variety of shots that I wanted, but there were enough shots that did work for this approach to be effective. The light was a bit softer than I wanted so I took the diffuser off, which solved the problem, and also created interesting catchlights in her eyes. The graphic above right doesn’t show the fill light, which of course was where the camera was, and doesn’t show the two lights on the background, but does show you where the key and hairlights were placed.

Here are a few of the shots.
IMG_7351In this, and a few of the other shots, the background is showing as light grey rather than white, that’s how I lit it, and it was lit that way because I didn’t want too much light on the background because it can destroy edge detail. In this shot, Jessica is “short lit” with the side of her face that is less visible to the camera getting most of the light, it’s something that I do a lot.

There’s the key light, positioned to camera right and a little behind her, producing the short lighting, there’s a fill light on axis with the lens and there’s a hairlight too, very necessary for someone who has black hair. A bit of this light has also reached her forehead, this wasn’t intended but is almost inevitable when the model is moving around and isn’t in a fixed pose, and frankly I like it – I think it adds interest.







This shot is similar, but with a different facial expressionIMG_7355


The high lighting position is sometimes putting light where I didn’t plan for it to go, but it’s also bringing out the beauty of Jessica’s  bone structure. Some people use boring flat lighting and then try to “paint” in the essential shadows in PP, but I work the opposite way round, and light for effect, and then use PP to remove light from areas that I don’t want it, including the background, and when I get round to retouching these shots I’ll do that, as well as retouching out stray hairs etc.

IMG_7245This one, with her hair down, has a strong hair light too. If I’d been using flash I could have placed the hair light quite a long way away, that isn’t as easy with continuous lighting but it isn’t a problem, it’s just a matter of getting the light close enough.


We did a few of these shots – here is another example, on the left – and then decided to try what a lot of people think is impossible without high speed flash – shots of Jessica tossing her hair around!

This shot, below, is  supposed to be impossible with continuous lights IMG_7249because the lights don’t have enough power to use the fast shutter speed that’s needed to completely freeze the action.

Well, I didn’t want to completely freeze the action because I wanted a realistic level of movement blur to make it look real, and the QuadLite has much more power than any other continuous lights of the same type, so I just increased the ISO enough for my purpose, this allowed me to shoot at a much higher shutter speed.

One of the really frustrating things about this type of shot, when using flash anyway, is that loads of shots need to be taken to get one with everything in the right place – this is a big advantage of the QuadLite, because with no flash to recycle and slow things down, I can just set my camera to high speed continuous shooting and hold the button down! Doing this practically guarantees that there will be at least one shot that works from each set.

Of course, there are several different sets – hair up, hair down, changes to light position, changes to her foot position, and if there had been changes to clothes too then there would have been even more sets.

It’s worth mentioning makeup because, left to their own devices, inexperienced models usually use makeup that’s shiny – that’s fair enough because shiny makeup grabs attention (normally) but it doesn’t work for photography and it’s our job, as photographers, to make sure that the makeup is suitable for photography.
So, off with the shiny stuff and the glitter, and on with matt foundation 🙂