Using a Single Softbox with a Shiny Card for Headshots

Sometimes you just want a simple image, a headshot or a 3/4 image that has a very direct light to show the skin color, open the eyes and bring some vivid highlights to the person.

I like the big softbox and how it can simply wash the person with a clean, bright light that seems to make them glow. Usually I work the box to the side, like a large window light, but for this portrait of, well… you know (heh), I decided to do an on-camera axis shot. Many times I use an umbrella in this position, but the large, diffuse, square softbox light was intriguing.

I added a large shiny board below the softbox that would reflect the light up from the floor area and provide a bright, shiny, poppy light for bottom fill.

Before we head on over to the tutorial, I just want to make sure we have a few links taken care of here:
November Wallpapers
The Cleveland Workshop
Our November 1 Tech Sheet
Should Photography be Easy

Now, on to the tutorial.

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Before we start, here is the full image as it was processed.

You can see how the light is open and bright on her torso. and how the eyes seem alive with the open light and slight reflection of the shiny card below. Briana is standing in front of the V-card and there is some natural wrap going on there with the slightly angled V-card. you can see it on her shoulder edges and the way the light seems to stay pretty clean across her shoulders.

There is enough fall to show the shape, but the light doesn’t simply fall away like it would with a smaller light source without the V-Card behind her.

One of the most important parts of this setup is to make sure that the light is actually reflected back on to the model. I stand behind the model and look into the shiny board to see if the reflection is bright on the board. Once I show the model what to look for, they can let me know if the reflection is there.

Here you can see the light as it is reflected off the shiny board and on to Briana in position for the portrait.

Here you can see the light as it is reflected off the shiny board and on to Briana in position for the portrait.

Keeping the light source very close to the subject gave a liquid look to the highlights on the lips, nails and especially the jacket and top. The soft highlights give the shot a warmth that is natural.

You can see how close the light is to Briana here. The shiny board is 4 feet square and covered with a textured bright material.

You can see how close the light is to Briana here. The shiny board is 4 feet square and covered with a textured bright material.

The set as seen from the camera area (not on camera axis) shows how close the background is to Briana. This keeps the light from the box falling on the background as well as her. Since the light is way larger than she is, the light wraps around and doesn’t create any shadows. This natural wrap helps to keep the image more open and bright. The brightness of the background also helps Briana stand out from it.

You can see how the light wraps around her and keeps the background with very little shadow.

You can see how the light wraps around her and keeps the background with very little shadow.

Shooting from between the softbox and the shiny board gives a total ‘wash’ of light to the subject. Here is a second shot from the session.

This image shows how nice the light spreads across the skin and highlights the curves of the wardrobe.

This image shows how nice the light spreads across the skin and highlights the curves of the wardrobe.

I hope you liked this tutorial on using the bright shiny board and large softbox. Give it a try… you can even use a scrim or very large umbrella in the same position. If you try this with speedlights, try using a couple of them to spread the light wider across the scrim or into the umbrella.

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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