If you’re just starting out with studio portrait photography, that’s really exciting! Still, things can get a little overwhelming since there’s a lot to learn. In this video, Kayleigh June guides you through five common mistakes beginners make when shooting portraits with studio lights. And more importantly – she helps you learn how to avoid them.
1 No catchlights in the subject’s eyes
Eyes in the photo can appear flat and lifeless if you don’t capture the catchlights. This can happen for a number of reasons, and it’s something we don’t pay too much attention to in the beginning. Still, you can easily avoid it and raise your photos to a higher level. Tilt your model’s head a bit towards the light, or get the light tiny a bit closer. You can also use a reflector underneath the model’s face to bounce some of the light back into the eyes.
This reminded me of a wonderful video about the light in the eyes. You can watch it here and it will help you truly make the eyes in your portraits “the windows to the soul.”
2 Shadows on the backdrop
This is the mistake most of us face when just starting out with studio photography, or even just using a single speedlight. The shadows appearing on the backdrop make the image look unprofessional and unbalanced, but there’s an easy fix. For starters, you can move your model a bit further away from the background. Also, you can add another light that lights up the backdrop and evens everything out.
3 Incorrect lighting positioning (unflattering shadows or flat lighting)
Another common mistake is having the light too flat or creating unflattering shadows on the model’s face. There’s no universal recipe for fixing this – the same setup won’t always work and it all comes down to experience. But, you need to learn at least the basic lighting patterns and start from there, building upon them with time. Also, if you only use one light, check out what you can do with it.
4 Not choosing the right light modifier
Just like you can’t use the same patterns for every shoot, you also need different modifiers depending on what you want to achieve. Again, this will get better with experience, but you should start by researching how each modifier works and how it affects the lighting. I think this modifier cheat sheet card will help you.
5 Backdrop of an incorrect color
The distance of your light from the subject and the background will affect the color of your backdrop. Adding that aforementioned light to the background will bring back its true color. Place it so that it faces the backdrop at around a 45-degree angle and you’re pretty much good to go.
Personally, I don’t have much experience with studio photography so I can’t share my insights here. But I can tell you that it’s important to understand light, its features, and how it behaves. You already know a lot from working with natural lighting, so rely on that knowledge and have fun learning new stuff!