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How To Light Muslin Backdrop In 2 Light Studio

Eddie Gonzalez , Mar 27, 2006; 07:04 p.m.

How would you suggest I set up my 2 lights in order to get great portrait photos? What I think I want to accomplish is to get f/8 lighting on the muslin backrop and f/8 lighting on one side of the face and f/5.6 lighting on the other side of the face. Assume that either light can be mounted in any manner including umbrella, softbox or otherwise. Please suggest angles as well as distances (eg. place the umbrella at a 45degree angle about 6 feet away from face...etc)


Gus Gus , Mar 27, 2006; 09:19 p.m.

I sit my subject 5 ft. from the background. I set my backlight just behind the subject on a very short stand. They make stands for that. Using barndoors on the light, I aim the light at the background at the same height as subjects head. If I am using a f8 exposure then I will use f8 on the background light. If you want the background to be lighter, use more lite on it. If you want it to be darker use less lite on it. Gus.

Michael Mowery - New York City, NY , Mar 27, 2006; 11:34 p.m.

Start with your fstop on your subject say f8 now your backdrop will vary acording to how reflective it is. Dark colors need more light and lighter colors need less. Secondly with that in mind if you want it lighter or darker than that you increase or decrease the power on the background. All this is a matter of taste there is no right answer. The lighting on the face is again a matter of taste. There is no right answer. Larger the source or closer it is the softer the look. Most distances for one person is about 3 feet. The farther you pull back the light the more specular or harder the light on the face.

John Murphy , Mar 28, 2006; 09:45 a.m.

The beauty of using digital cameras is that you can view the effect of different lighting setups so readily.

For single-person portraits, I always set up the background light first. It is on the floor behind the subject, about 5 feet from the background. I use diffusion to reduce the visibility of wrinkles, and a grid spot to control the spill of the light. The size of the circle of light needed varies, and this determines how far from the background the light needs to be placed.

Next, I usually set up the main light, never more than 3 feet from the subject, around 30-45 degrees to the camera-left position. Without adding anything else, I then sit in the seat and use the remote to take a shot of myself to check the main light's position. Then I bring in a reflector into the camera-right position and adjust it based on what the test shots look like. An example is posted below.

Based on the portrait you posted a week ago, it looks like you've already got this figured out pretty well.

Adding a reflector

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