This is the most lucrative lighting set ups for photographing men
Scrolling through photography groups online, you could be forgiven for thinking that only women want to be photographed. But if you’re only shooting 20-year-old model types and hoping to earn money from your photography, you could be making a mistake.
In this video from Adorama, commercial and fashion photographer Lindsay Adler shares her most popular setups for photographing men. She even goes as far as saying that this ‘genre’ (if you can call a whole gender a genre!) is one of her constant and most lucrative income streams.
By expanding your portfolio to include male subjects, you open doors to a wider client base and increase your income potential. In the video, Lindsay explores three main categories for photographing men: headshots, commercial/catalogue work, and athlete portraits.
Headshots are a vital part of a portrait photographer’s income. To create compelling headshots, a versatile lighting setup is important. Lindsay recommends a three-light setup that allows for quick variations. The key to compelling headshots lies not only in lighting but also in directing the subject’s expression and pose.
Main Light: Lindsay uses a Profoto three-foot octabox as her main light. She positions it slightly off to the left or right of the frame to sculpt the subject’s face and minimize shadows.
Rim Light: a one-by-four-foot strip softbox with a grid is added on the right-hand side of the frame. This creates a rim light that adds definition to the subject’s jawline and separates them from the background.
Background Light: Lindsay places a light with a grid directly behind the subject to provide a subtle glow behind their head. Adjust the intensity to maintain a refined and balanced look.
Commercial and catalogue photography focuses on showcasing clothing and products. Lindsay tries to keep the setups simple to allow the garments to take centre stage. She often uses a one-light setup that can be expanded as needed. Remember to adjust the lighting setup based on the specific requirements of the commercial or catalogue shoot
Main Light: Use a large light modifier, such as a Profoto extra-large umbrella with diffusion. This creates a soft light source that complements the clothing. Adjust the angle to achieve the desired lighting and balance. Lindsay feathers the light and then adds a V-flat opposite to reflect the light back and fill in the shadows.
Photographing athletes requires capturing their strength and energy. The lighting that you use can dramatically change the entire feel of the images. You will also want to guide the athlete to pose dynamically, emphasizing their athletic prowess. By communicating the desired mood, you can ensure their body positioning reflects their sport.
3 Light set up: Use three-light setup to highlight the athlete and enhance their physique. Lindsay explains that she often uses a combination of a beauty dish with two gridded strip boxes as rim lights, slightly behind the subject. This set-up creates drama and helps bring out the musculature of the athlete.
Expanding your photography business to include men as subjects opens up new opportunities for income and growth. It can also be a lot of fun. I generally enjoy photographing men because they are often more relaxed about having their photos taken and are often less inhibited.
You can also experiment a little more with different lighting setups and harder light without having to worry as much about emphasizing skin imperfections. Either way, it’s a win. Check out the whole video to see Lindsay’s full lighting setups, it’s worth a watch!
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe