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If you do a lot of studio portraits, you should purchase and use flash units with modeling lamps. Two or three lights with stands and umbrellas provide total control over lighting. Use a powerful unit as your main light. To diffuse the light, fire it into an umbrella at a 45 degree angle. Use a second light also used with an umbrella in front of the subject to bring up shadows. The second light should be weaker and placed on the other side of the main light.

You can also use a small slave unit from behind to rim the hair. Use your rim light from above your subject, or on the background. Position your rim light low and point it up to create a soft light behind your subject.

An incident flash meter is a good investment if you do a lot of studio portrait. It can give you quick exposure settings, otherwise you need to calculate exposure using the Guide Number of your flash units. Divide the distance of the flash to the subject by the Guide Number. You need to compensate for flash bounce depending on the type of umbrella or the reflector you use. A silver umbrella for example, takes one stop of light.


MINOLTA Auto Meter VF Photo Exposure Light Meter

You can also use shoe-mount flash units but you have less control over the light, and you can't preview lighting effect as you would with modeling lamps. For filling in shadows or softening of your portraits, a reflector can be used. With a reflector you need less lights. Place the reflector so it can bounce the illumination from the main light. Your subject should be under the main light. Aim the reflector at the light while checking the shadows in your subjects face. You can either buy reflectors or make your own. Reflectors can also be used on shoe-mount flashes for bouncing the light to create a soft effect.


Experiment with different lights and positioning to see different effects. Invest in some backgrounds if you want to do a lot of studio portraits. Backgrounds are a matter of personal preferences, but I recommend wrinkle resistant types that can be carried in a case. You can start your portrait studio by purchasing your lighting equipment in kits. Speedotron, Dyna-Lite, Novotron, Norman, and many other companies make kits that include power packs, light units, umbrellas, stands, and carrying cases. You can also use your lighting equipment outdoors for wide variety of other subjects.

 

Smith Victor KT750 3-Light 750-Watt Thrifty Photoflood Kit with Corrugated Carrying Case

Thrifty Kits are designed to fulfill basic lighting requirements at an exceptionally affordable price. Each Thrifty Kit has hand spun reflectors made of high strength aluminum with chemically attached interiors for maximum light dispersion. The outer finish is photographic black baked on enamel. The Raven RS6 telescopes to 6' and the Raven RS8 telescopes to 8'. Each Thrifty Kit comes with a photoflood lamps, sockets and cordsets, a corrugated carrying case for storage and transport and the Imaging with Light Guide.