Setting up a portrait photography camera room can be as simple as a one light source. That light source can be natural window light, a parabolic light source or a softer light source such as umbrella or softbox lighting. It can also be flash based or a continuous light source which is becoming very popular. Fluorescent bulbs, called a compact fluorescent (CFL) come in a variety of color temperatures and have become very popular with professional photographers and videographers. These fluorescent lights can also be fitted with a softbox or umbrella. Whatever light source you use, it’s important to know what that light does and how to use light to your advantage for every situation whether you use one or six lights.
In the studio I prefer using a 30×40 inch softbox as my main light. My fill light is bounced off the back wall, but because my camera room walls are white and if I wanted a higher lighting ratio, I can get by without a fill because of the spill off the main light since my camera room is small. A reflector can also be used to lighten up the shadow side of the face. When doing head shots in addition to the hair light I also use a kicker light that is placed usually opposite the main and pointed to the back of the subjects head. I may also turn my background light into another kicker light, giving me a kicker on each side.
Backgrounds can be as simple as a white wall, seamless background paper or using a hand painted backgrounded. When choosing a high key white background, place a light behind and on each side of the subject aiming the light toward the center. If you don’t have a second background light to use then place one behind and in the center of the subject adjusting the power of the light to achieve the tone you are looking for. When I use a dark tone background I use one background light or I may not use any and instead use that light as another kicker light coming in from the other direction.
Following are some videos showing how to set up a portrait photography studio and what effect each light has on the model
Setting Up a Portrait Photo Studio Part 1
Setting Up a Portrait Photo Studio Part 2