Tips + Techniques

3 Ways to Use Light for a Moving Portrait Subject

May 24, 2019

By Kyle Dorosz

All Photos and Diagrams © Kyle Dorosz

Solid Light

Anthony McCall is a New York-based artist known for his “solid light” installations, a series that he began in 1973 with “Line Describing a Cone,” in which a volumetric form composed of projected light slowly evolves in a three-dimensional space. 

Tasked with photographing Anthony in his studio, I wanted to incorporate his use of light into the images we were making. His studio was busy but we wanted to see some of it, so we pulled back from the 4.5-foot white seamless.

At camera right and about 10 feet high, we placed a Profoto B1 with a Zoom Reflector 2 pointed straight at Anthony. This main light would give us harder shadows and shape than I had envisioned.

Slightly behind and at camera left is another Profoto B1 with a Profoto Beauty Dish, pointed back and slightly feathered forward on the subject. This is opening the shadows and edge lighting, which is creating even more separation for Anthony

Our final source of illumination was a flashlight held by Anthony to give him the opportunity to paint with light. To be able to see the effect of the light, we had to black out the studio so that no ambient light would bleed into our long exposure. After doing a few tests, we were able to make a dramatic portrait that fully conveys Anthony’s artistic style. 

Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Focal length: 35mm
Exposure: f/11 at 2 sec.
ISO: 100
Lighting: Profoto B1 (x2), Beauty Dish, 7-inch Zoom Reflector 2
Misc: Tether Tools cables to Macbook Pro

Stacked Light

For this intimate portrait of Maddy, a model, I wanted to create an even light that didn’t distract from her personal style. To achieve this look, I went with a stacked lighting approach. 

For the main light, I used a Profoto Pro-7a Pro Head with a Profoto Beauty Dish. To soften the gradation of the Beauty Dish even more, I covered the front with a sheet of Rosco #3000 diffusion. This was placed 2 feet above camera and feathered down.

For a fill light, I used an unskinned Elinchrom Octabank, placed 6 feet behind me to open up the shadows and even out the tones on the background. 

Maddy was placed 7 feet from the seamless to get the desired peach color in the background. Positioned with a posing stool and modeling table, Maddy was locked into a spot but was able to express subtle arm and hand movements. Posing her this way was helpful because it meant I could keep the same lighting setup locked in.      

Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Focal length: 50mm
Exposure: f/8 at 1/200 sec.
ISO: 100
Lighting: Profoto Pro-7a 2400 pack, Pro Heads (x2), Beauty Dish, Rosco #3000 diffusion, Elinchrom Octabank
Misc: Tether Tools cables to Macbook Pro

Bright Light

For this shoot, I needed to capture beauty mogul Linda Rodin for the release of her new line of products. Photographers don’t always have the luxury of a studio with lots of space, equipment and time, so it’s key to be prepared but also flexible for what might arise during a shoot. 

Dealing with a dimly lit location and needing to be extremely mobile, I chose to use a Profoto A1 strobe. The A1 was mounted using a CB Mini-RC angled bracket so that the flash would be closer to the lens, shortening the shadows. The wide-angle lens was also attached to the front of the A1 to spread the flash, evening out the light. 

This setup gave me the look and portability to move quickly in a small space to capture Linda as she walked around during her event. Because I was so mobile, I was also able to stay out of everyone’s way and still capture all of the images I needed.

Camera: Nikon D850
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
Focal length: 35mm
EXPOSURE: f/8 at 1/160 sec.
ISO: 800
Profoto A1, CB Mini-RC angled bracket

Kyle Dorosz is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He was chosen by our sister magazine, Photo District News, as one of PDN’s 30 in 2018.

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