A Classical Single Light Portrait

The target of this self assignment, was to create a single light portrait with a classical feel to it. This is based on a question asked in a previous meeting, what is a Rembrandt image…? So let’s go ahead and create a Rembrandt’esque image. Lets use the minimum portable equipment as possible. Lets use this opportunity to gain more experience using the Speedlight softboxes.

This is the equipment used… Manfrotto background stand kit, two Manfrotto light stands, Westcott Apollo 28″ and 50″ soft boxes. Speedlights, radio shields and Pocketwizard radio triggers.

We are going to do this on location, at the local photography meetup club (EPyC), in a cafe, with an average audience of about 50 people. For props we have a black velvet back drop and a cafe chair, all we need now is another willing volunteer… And when one of those wasn’t available, we cajoled an unwilling one…

Let me introduce you to the lovely Hana, who still doesn’t believe me… absolutely gorgeous…

We sat Hana in the chair and with me at about 6:30, with Hana at the centre of the clock face, facing to 8:30, but looking towards me, we set the 28″ softbox at about 9:00.  She is in line with the trailing edge of the softbox, to get some light wrap on her face. The black velvet backdrop filled the frame behind Hana.


Hana, with her game face on.

So we are in the ballpark, close enough. The light covers Hana well enough to give a richness and depth. And delivers a nice comfortable, simple portrait. Hana, as you can see it doesn’t hurt to be in front of the camera?

So now that we are where we need to be, or close enough… Let’s push the boundary a little more, after all we wanted a more classical look to the portrait. We have the lighting and camera in the right combination…

So who else produced iconic images during Rembrandt’s time…? How about a fellow baroque artist of the period; Johannes Vermeer..


Johannes Vermeer - The Girl With the Pearl Earing

Again, a single light source image, a window in his studio, an uncomplicated background focussing on the subject a young girl in, for the period, the latest fashion… If we mix these two images together, we get the following…


EPyC - Single Light Portrait - Our Maureen with the Pearl Earing

Here we have the equally lovely Maureen, a slightly more willing volunteer with the meetup’s attempt at the girl with the pearl earing. Quite an interesting comparison when you place these two images together, and an interesting commentary.

Nothing has changed between our first photo and the last, except the subject. Lights and camera are basically in the same place. We played with the 28″ and the 50″, but preferred the look of the 28″ softbox on both subjects.

A simple single light portrait, using very few props, and a portable Speedlight driven setup.

This all being said, stop reading, and get out there and create images…


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