Portrait “How To…”

by William Lulow

Here’s another of my portrait sessions complete with hair & makeup by Daniela NevesĀ  and a five-light setup. The lighting diagram is:

5-Light Studio SetUp

A large umbrella main light, a small lightbank fill-in, two edge lights (for highlights) and one background light. The position of the main and fill-in were both a bit closer to the camera position than indicated here. Mainlight was 200watt/seconds. Fill-in was 125watt/seconds. Edge lights were 250watt/seconds and the background light was close to the no-seam paper itself and 125watt/seconds. Exposures were 1/125th of a second at f/11. ISO was 100. For the highlights to register as white, they need to be one-stop brighter than the mainlight. This was achieved by setting the watt/seconds 1 stop higher. Once all the lights and levels were checked, I then was shooting for pose and expression. Images were retouched to eliminate some lines, wrinkles and blemishes.


This kind of setup is more difficult than it looks, and that’s the idea. You want the lighting to enhance the image and not call attention to itself. The overall goal is to make the person look like themselves, but at their best! Pleasing the client, in the case of private portrait sittings, is the paramount idea. That’s how you build business.

Client was extremely pleased with these results. Even with short hair, the makeup and hair application was evident. Some people think that having this done is an unnecessary expense, but it adds to the overall “look and feel” of a portrait and makes quite a difference. In addition, it makes the subject feel special because of all the attention. And, when a person feels special, she looks special!