A Quick Look Behind the Scenes With Surina


Having shared that I work in a small studio, I thought I would give a quick look behind the scenes of a shoot. A couple of weeks ago, I set out to explore new ways to create head shots. Surina was one of several individuals who volunteered to help.

“Clam shell” lighting has been my go to setup for years. A large light above and to the front of my subject with a reflector underneath. Done right, it offers a smooth, clean look with very little effort in post-production. Usually, I am left chasing fly-away hairs or minor details (like that touch of lipstick on one tooth).

While I love the clam shell, my clients often want something different. They want dramatic. Colorful. Unique. Some want to emphasize the wrinkles and blemishes, bringing out their tough exterior. In order to be prepared for a variety of looks, I experiment. Calling upon the advice of respected photographers, I piece together bits of lighting wisdom to create the right look.

Surina - Behind the Scenes

The Setup

With Surina, I kept my large light source (an 18″ OMNI Reflector with a grid and diffusion sock) in place, in front and above her. Instead of a reflector beneath, I moved a second light, also gridded, behind and to camera right. I aimed this to create the blown out highlights often found in Hollywood glamour photographs.

For more drama, move the subject forward from the wall, ensuring less light spill and a darker background.  With the grid attached, I need only another two or three feet of space to accomplish this. You can also drop the main light (adjusting power accordingly) so that it is closer to the subject. This has the extra benefit of putting less light on the wall.

This simple, two-light setup works well in a relatively small space. I have created similar lighting in a short hallway, putting the second light in a bathroom doorway. If you do not have a boom arm for the main light, simply shoot around the light stand. In a pinch, find a large window to use for your main light. Trade the second light for a speed light. Explore your angles and you can make this happen almost anywhere!


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