oe JCraig



An Lighting Guide

Perfect Portraits
have been a photographer for 25 years and throughout that time I have specialised in portrait photography. In this guide I want to share my simple techniques for better portraits. These examples are taken from ‘The Portrait Video’ and show what can be aachieved using two, three and four Elinchrom flash units with a variety of different accessories. There are two elements to photography, the scientific and the artistic. Because photography is a science it is possible to standardise your shooting procedure so that you achieve consistent results. Although today’s negative films (and I shoot over 90% of my work on colour negative stock) are very flexible and forgiving, an accurately exposed negative will always produce the best possible picture. Unlike the human eye film is not able to see such a wide range of light levels at the same time. In portraiture you should always aim for well exposed highlights, without any loss of detail, and at the same time retain as much detail as possible in the shadows. To achieve this the contrast range of each shot must be carefully controlled. In most of the examples shown in this guide I have tried to use a 3:1 lighting ratio. In simple terms this is achieved by having a 1 f-stop difference between the Main Light and the Fill Light. This makes the Main light twice as bright as the Fill Light. The highlight areas will receive light from both the Main Light (which will have a value of ‘2x’) as well as the Fill Light (a value of ‘1x’) Therefore the highlight has received 3x the level of light whilst the shadow area has only received 1x hence 3:1 ratio. This will result in an easy to print negative which retains detail in both the highlight and shadow areas.


The other technical aspect is focusing. Although it sounds obvious, accurate focusing has to be practised. Always put the plane of focus on the eyes of the person you are shooting and you can’t go far wrong. Good lighting is very important, without light the photograph cannot exist and it’s important that lights are placed to create a natural looking effect. Unlike the human eye, the camera does not have the advantage of two eyes to see in three dimensions, instead it relies on the light and shade that the lights create to indicate depth and dimension. When lighting a portrait always try and put dimension ito the picture, too often the subjects appear flat. Once the science of photography is second nature you are free to concentrate on your subject, building up a special relationship that can be seen in the final image. When I take a portrait the subject is always more important than the lighting. Although I shoot more than 5000 rolls of film every year the excitement of portrait photography is for me as strong as ever. I hope that you will find this booklet full of useful tips and suggestions and that it inspires you to take more and better portraits.

Good Shooting

oe JCraig


Background Subject

EL250 Silver Umbrella

EL250 Translucent Umbrella Camera

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This is traditional umbrella lighting. The two light sources are placed in front of the model and fitted with umbrellas. To control the contrast ratio the Main Light will be one f-stop brighter than the Fill Light. The power of the Main Light (bounced against the Silver Umbrella), is set one f-stop above that of the Fill Light (shooting through the translucent umbrella). The camera aperture will be 1/2 f-stop above the output of the Main Light by itself. If the Fill Light is f8 and the Main Light is f11 then the camera should be set to f11.5.

This picture has also been taken
using just two umbrellas and it makes an exceptionally good portrait. The Main Light is fitted once again with a silver umbrella. The Fill Light is fitted with a Translucent Umbrella and placed opposite the Main Light. This acts as a hair light, separating the model from the background. Finally a silver reflector panel illuminates the shadows to reduce the overall contrast.

Background EL 250 Translucent Umbrella


Silver Reflector Panel EL 250 Silver Umbrella



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EL250 32˚ Honeycomb EL250 Translucent Umbrella

White Wall


Desk EL250 Translucent Umbrella Camera

In this shot a third head, fitted with a Honeycomb Grid is used as a Hair Light. This accentuates the subject’s hair and helps to separate the subject from the background. Although they are both placed on the same side of the subject the other two lights fiited with their umbrellas still give a Main Light and Fill Light effect and their output levels should be set accordingly.


In these pictures the lighting is in layers. The first layer puts light and detail into the background by lighting from the side. The same light also acts as a Hair Light separating the subjects from the background. The Main Light is placed slightly in front of the subjects
Wall Hanging EL 250 70cm Softbox Subjects

and lights across them. This maintains a three dimesional appearance. The Translucent Umbrella acts as the Fill Light and the silver reflector panel fills

EL 250 100cm Softbox EL250 Translucent Umbrella

Silver Reflector Panel Camera

the shadow area. Once again Main Light and Fill Light are set 1 f-stop apart. The background light is set to the same level as the Main Light.


Background Subject EL 500 16˚ Honeycomb EL 500 on floor 70cm Softbox

Once again, two softboxes were used, but in this example they were combined to act together as a Main Light. The smaller 70cm Softbox was placed on the floor with the larger 100cm Softbox above it. This ensures that the model nearest to the camera is evenly lit with no shadows below her chin. Since the model in the background is out of focus she is illuminated only by the light of the Honeycomb Grid to give a much harder, more contrasty effect. The flash units are adjusted so that the same level of light is falling on both models. The studio wall to the left of the models is a lighter tone and this helps to reduce the overall contrast.



EL 500 above 70cm Softbox

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p Joe’s Tiok for other pic-

EL 250 16˚ Honeycomb


Subject EL 250 Translucent Umbrella



EL 500 100cm Softbox

Out of the studio and into the home. Here we wanted to create a natural looking picture by using a 100cm Softbox to recreate the light coming through a window. Two other light sources were also used. A Fill light fitted with a Translucent Umbrella helped to lighten the shadows. A third light was fitted with a 16˚ Honeycomb was placed behind the subject. This light not only helps to separate the subject from the background but also illuminates the items on the piano which would otherwise be in darkness.

Light Banks

This portrait is lit with a single light source, the Elinchrom Octa. It gives a smooth even light which replicates the light from a window. A silver reflector is used just to lighten the shadow area. By adjusting the angle of the Octa it is possible to lighten or darken the background to the precise shooting requirements. The Octa is 1.75m in diameter, perfect for full length portraits.
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EL 500 Octa Lite Bank

Silver Reflector Panel


Stone Wall Fireplace EL250 16˚ Honeycomb Subjects EL250 Square 44

EL500 Octa Lite bank Camera EL500 100cm Softbox

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Joe’s Ti


Four lights were used to create this picture. The Main Light is an Octa which gives a soft overall illumination. A Square 44 Reflector with its 32˚ Honeycomb Grid was used as a Hair Light. A 100cm Softbox acted as a Fill Light.

To get the texture onto the stonework, and to imitate the effect of the lamp, a second 32˚ Honeycomb was fitted to a flash unit and pointed up against the wall. This gives the whole picture a third dimension but still looks perfectly natural.

Using More Lights

EL250 Square 44 Reflector EL250 Square 44 Reflector Column

EL250 High Performance Reflector

Subject EL500 100cm Softbox

EL500 Octa Lite Bank


EL250 70cm Softbox

For this large set six lights and a variety of different accessories were used. The Main Light is once again an Octa. On the right of the set two soft light sources were used either side of the column to give a natural feel and to make sure the background had both texture and dimension. The Square 44 Reflector was used as a hair light and for extra effect a High Performance Reflector was shot through the screen to bring out its detail. Finally a 70cm Softbox is used as a Fill Light and placed at the front of the set.

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Joe’s Tip

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Joe’s Tip

A classic High Key lighting set up. The subject has detail but the background is pure white. The secret is to get the background evenly lit and overexposed by no more than 1 f-stop. This will remove any detail, if it is too bright it will affect the edges of the subject as the light from the background flares forwards. These lights must be positioned accurately so that they don’t spill onto the subject. Once the background level has been set the subject can be lit. If the background is set to f16 then the subject should be lit at f11 which will also be the camera aperture. Make sure that the lights illuminating the background are not allowed to spill light onto the subject.
EL500 Octa Lite Bank EL250 Wide Angle Reflector

EL500 Square 44 EL250 Wide Angle Reflector



EL500 100cm Softbox

The Standard Elinchrom compact flash units are small, lightweight and easy to use. They feature fast recycling and offer exceptionally short flash durations.

Advanced Compacts
These units offer a potent combination of speed and convenience. They have an extended power range and are adjustable over 5 f-stops. The Elinchrom Advanced Compacts are characterised by their fast recycling, rapid flash durations and overall exceptional performance.

Micro Compact
This unit incorporates the latest advances in electronic technology and is the most advanced compact flash unit in the World. It has a 5 f-stop range and the power is controlled in precise steps of 1/10th f-stop. Full remote control and dual voltage operation are amongst the many features of this exciting new unit.

Studio Systems
Elinchrom produce a fine range of studio powerpacks and Lampheads. Both the Classic, the Combi and the advanced Micro AS series Powerpacks are used by top photographers the World over.

A honeycomb creates a pool of light. The larger the degree of coverage the larger the pool of light. Use for Hair lights in portraiture or wherever controlled spots of light are needed.

Umbrellas are the simplest way to make the light source larger and therefore softer. Different materials work in different ways. Silver is the most efficient and produces a high contrast result. White creates less contrast and can appear softer. Translucent can be reflected or used to shoot through allowing the light source to be placed nearer to the subject.

A softbox, like an umbrella produces a soft light source. Unlike an umbrella the softbox is much more controllable. The direction of the light is more specific and it can be used with much greater subtlety. The uniform front diffuser also gives more acceptable reflective highlights than an umbrella.

Light Banks
These huge softboxes create the ultimate portrait light. Their size allows them to be used effectively for full length shots or larger groups. The unique Elinchrom design gives a front surface that varies by as little as 3/ 10th f-stop anywhere on the surface, allowing even low power flash units to be used effectively in the portrait situation.

oe Elinchrom Video Selection The J Craig
The Portrait Video
All the images in this leaflet were taken during the making of the Joe Craig Portrait Video. This 60 minute programme is a concise tour of modern portrait photography. Shooting in the studio, office and on location Joe shows how to light and pose a variety of different portraits.

Lighting for Perfect Portraits
This video shows the broad scope of the Elinchrom flash system accessories in the studio situation. This 30 minute video shows the extensive range of Elinchrom accessories and visits the studio of leading portrait photographer Joe Craig to learn how he lights his award winning portraits.

The Elinchrom professional studio lighting system is available from Elinchrom appointed stockists worldwide