When shooting portrait photography, it’s important to think about what kind of setup you need to get the most out of your equipment. If you are not using natural lighting when shooting, creating the perfect lighting setup will give you more freedom and flexibility with your work.
With portrait photography, it’s important to focus on your subject. This will amplify the dynamics of your images, make them look highly professional, and most importantly, tell a story through the appearance of the subject. This can be achieved through composition, colour, lighting, and depth.
Here we have put together a list of our perfect lighting setup essentials for portrait photography, great for beginners or professionals alike.
Off-camera flash would be our go-to during portrait photography to add light to your subject when you’re photographing individuals, coupes, or in a small space; alternatively, flash can be used creatively to add interesting shadows, highlights and colours (with colour gels) to your portrait.
Moreover, the freedom of off-camera flash allows your lighting to be positioned independently from your camera, meaning that you can create interesting angles and experiment with portrait photography.
For off-camera flash, we recommend any of the Godox AD range flashes. The most popular Godox flash for portrait photography is the AD200 Pro, due to the compact size without compromising on high output power. This sophisticated flashgun has twice the amount of power of high-end ordinary flashguns, giving you perfect results when used in a studio setting.
The Lencarta SmartFlash 4 is a great alternative to the Godox AD200 Pro, due to the extremely reliable nature, and lower price point. This flash is great for beginners in flash photography due to its easy-to-use design and plug-and-play operation. If you are looking to carry out simple, indoor, portrait photography this flash is a great option.
Make using studio flash more intuitive with a wireless flash trigger, essential when using off-camera flash. There are two types of radio triggers: basic and advanced, dependent on your level of experience and budgets.
Basic triggers are great for those wanting to simply remotely control their flash head, alternatively, advanced triggers are designed to take full advantage of the latest technology such as HSS and/or TTL.
We recommend the Godox XPro Wireless Trigger when using the latest generation of Godox products, as well as Lencarta flash systems such as the SuperFast Pro and the SmartFlash 4. The XPro features a large LCD display, so you can see exactly what’s going on, which makes this trigger a great option for both beginners and professionals. Displayed with no abbreviations, this trigger is extremely user-friendly.
Air Damped Light stand
Supporting your flash with the right light stand is just as important as picking your flash, having peace of mind that your equipment is safe is invaluable. When photographing portrait photography, having the flexibility of holding different equipment, as well as being adjustable to your subject is critical. Having a flash combined with a Pneumatic Air Stand allows you to change your portrait lighting patterns and positions with ease.
The main things to consider when purchasing a light stand is the brand, size (collapsed), payload, and maximum height.
A sturdy light stand is a must to keep your equipment safe from damage, we recommend using a Pneumatic Air Light Stand. This ensures that if the stand is lowered suddenly, it will protect your equipment from damage. The Lencarta 265cm Pneumatic Air Stand is a heavy-duty, cushioned studio stand – designed for the professional photographer. With strong metal aluminum alloy construction, this light stand is sturdy yet portable with a folded height of only 100cm.
5 in 1 reflector
Using a reflector can enhance your portraiture by creating a bounce effect for your fill light if placed opposite of your main light source. Alternatively, place under your subjects’ face to soften shadows under the eye and chin. Having a reflector is a great tool for controlling light in a cost-effective way, all whilst being highly versatile. A reflector will help focus and define your images to create additional intrigue.
Having a 5-in-1 reflector gives you a multitude of options for light versatility. The Life of Photo 56cm 5-in-1 Reflector is our recommendation for diffusing light and filling shadows in portrait photography, with the option to switch between black, white, silver, gold, and translucent.
Picking the perfect background for your photos is important to enhance the subject. When taking portrait photos, ensuring a clean and free background will allow all of the focus to be on your subject rather than a busy or distracting background.
We recommend the Lencarta muslin cotton blend background. This comes in three sizes: 3x5m. 2x3m and 3x3m – so you can pick the perfect size for your subject. Being extra thick and pure cotton, this background will prevent any light leaks from occurring, which will again distract away from your subject. The lightweight and easy-to-fold material will give you mobility when out on location or storing in a studio. This background also comes in three colours: black, white and blue.
An increasingly popular alternative to cotton backgrounds for home studios is paper rolls. These backgrounds are simple and easy to use, with the option to easily cut away any marks on the paper which may occur.
To support your chosen background, it’s useful to have some sort of support kit. This usually includes two light stands, a background, and tiger clamps to attach the background.
When shooting portrait photography, having a background that is stable and not going to move around whilst in use is essential. A background support kit is a great alternative to a fitted studio background which can be quite expensive, and also not transportable.
The Hakutatz Background Support Kit is a versatile solution to supporting any type of background up to 200cm in width. Complete with 2 stands, a background support rod, 4 tiger clamps and a convenient carry bag this kit is perfect for taking on the go or pride of place in any studio.
There are many options for effective light modifiers for portrait photography, so choosing the right option for you can be quite confusing. The most popular options include umbrellas, softboxes, beauty dishes, grids and gels – all of which are easy to use and offer great results.
The softbox is probably the most variable light modifier you can use for portrait photography as it’s a controllable light source. Available in a multitude of sizes and shapes, there is a softbox out there to suit everyone’s needs, making it the most reliable for accurate lighting effects. For close-up portrait photography, we recommend the octa softbox, as this gives a more subtle reflection in the subject's eye. Moreover, if you are looking to do full-length portrait photography, such as corporate shoots, we recommend a strip softbox.
For indoor studio portraiture, we recommend softboxes with a silver interior to reflect the light softly toward the subject and add an element of diffusion inside. We recommend the Lencarta ProFold Soft Box range, ergonomically designed to be user-friendly and folds to almost a 1/10th of its size.
Getting the right equipment for portrait photography can make the world of difference when it comes to getting the perfect shot, so any of this equipment is great for beginners and professionals alike. Once you have the right setup, just have fun and experiment with the different parameters of light and dark until you find the style that suits you!