Bold single soft light for a three quarter length portrait

Following on from his single light setup photography classes where he uses bare bulb flashlight, Karl demonstrates how, using a single light with the right modifiers, it’s possible to create professional images.

In this portrait photography class Karl creates a bold but soft light for this 3/4 length shot, ideal for fashion and catalogue shoots. Using basic modifiers he demonstrates how you can control your light for maximum effect and how simple adjustments can make a big difference.

He tests a simple but effective studio lighting setup, showing the results of each how and it’s possible to achieve complete control of shadows with just simple techniques.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • Creative portraiture photography using one studio light
  • Lighting setups for portrait photography
  • Lighting modifiers for 3/4 length portraits
  • How to eliminate shadows on a background

To see how to further modify this lighting setup, make sure to watch Chapter 20 of our Portrait section.

Note: This course is available with English subtitles.


  1. Debra is such a fantastic model.. such a pleasure to see how easily she poses and helps you. I know these videos are about the lighting.. and so your directions and banter back and forth with the model are targeted at illustrating lighting.. shift the chin up to get the catch light in the eyes.. but it made me wonder if you shall, later on, discuss the craft of direction and banter with the model (and non models) to aid in achieving some dynamic poses. I tend to help direct people somewhat, but it has been years since I did some fashion work. You have a mass of videos here to view before going into the fashion tutorials. The pandemic has made portraiture a little restrained and I am eagerly awaiting some return to normalcy to start working on my portraits.

    1. Hi Gary, I find the interaction with models often depends on the model. Sometimes it can be very difficult with less experienced subjects to give them direction and understand what you mean. This has always been a bit of ‘people skills’ required. I find the best is simply to make them feel comfortable and have a bit of fun. I think we have a few other classes covering this.

  2. Hi, would the color of white background wall darken as the light isn’t directly facing it and it’s at some distance away?

    1. Hi Vipul, the results you can see are as it was. The exposure on the wall is good because she’s stood right against it meaning if the model is the correct exposure then the wall will be close to correct too. Obviously if we moved our model away from the wall and kept the exposure correct on her then the wall will become darker.

    1. Hi, yes absolutely. You can also consider adding a small fill light at knee level that is lower in exposure than the light hitting the top of the body just to add a bit of life to the clothes.

  3. I’m loving these classes SO MUCH!!!! Man, this is the only change I got to learn and defeat my biggest fear (using studio/flash lights) from home since I can’t afford to pay a school!!! thank you so much for putting these classes together, simply fantastic!!!

    1. Hi, thank you so much for your comments and the team and I are glad to hear you are enjoying the classes. All the best Karl.

  4. Hi Karl, I missed this lesson since today (my fault), but now I have to shoot some (boring) e-commerce pants, and I find that this is an easy way (with minimum effort to reach a decent result).

    At the beginning of the lesson you say that the model is 1m away from the edge, but from screen perspective I can’t see if she is within the projection of the octabox or outside.
    Thank you for this further info.


    1. Hi Fransis, glad you are enjoying the content. Do you mean is she one meter away from the background or from the light? Can you let me know at what time in the video we are talking about and I can check. Cheers Karl.

      1. At 1:36 “model is 1m away from the edge of the softbox”.
        Did you mean from the further (from camera) edge or closer (to camera) one?
        She is actually inside the shape of the softbox or outside?
        Thank you for the help

        1. Hi, in the horizontal direction she is approx 1m away from the edge of the octabox that is closest to her and it is about 1m above her head in the vertical direction.

  5. Hi Karl,

    Does the Octobox 150 come with a Canon Speed lite adapter or do you have purchase it separately?


  6. Hi Mr. Karl
    you always mention the lens aperture what’s the recommended shutter speed for this type of photo
    thank you

  7. love your lights set but what sort of set would you feel correct for a family of 3
    1 light or two lights
    thanks frank

    1. Hi Frank, it would depend on the room space and colour you were shooting in. The difficulty with groups is avoiding one of the group being in the shadow of the other from direct lighting, I would suggest some form of bounced light from above and a lower power directional light from above/behind the camera towards the middle of your group.

  8. Great tutorial, great look and great model. She really knows how to pose fluidly. Highlights what you said about the advantages of using a pro model.

    1. Hi Kevin, yes it can make a big difference but even with a little direction you can see that we get great results from all the models in this course. Of course it costs more though for models that already know their stuff.

    1. Hi Kevin, no I never really consciously look for catchlights, there are incredible portraits and fashion shots that don’t have catchlights in the eyes. If you really desire them they are also something that can be added afterwards. I’d say always concentrate on creating the best lighting on your model first.

  9. Hi Karl! Thanks for this amazing amazing course. I’m gaining so much information I haven’t seen anywhere else & your explanation on every aspect is very clear & detailed. Thanks again.
    Here’s goes my question to you.. I’m about to set up my home portait studio for kids & my dimensions of the room is about 13 x 25 feet. Will a 400 ws or 300 ws light work the same for this? or I need an 800?

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m glad you are enjoying the course and thank you for your kind words. I strongly suggest you watch the first 15 chapters of this particular course as they will help you immensely even answer your own questions. For example we cover items such as flash power, inverse square law and understanding light in such a way that it will benefit your shooting going forwards. In simple answer to your question though think of it in terms of f-stops, 400W is one f-stop less than 800w, so if you needed f11/100iso for an 800W light then you would have needed f8/100iso for a 400w lamp or f11/200iso. The earlier chapters of this course will help you get to grips with this more fluidly. All the best Karl.

  10. Nice stuff. Easy setup. I have the silver 7′ parabolic umbrella with a diffuser. I imagine that would work also.

  11. Dear karl,
    which light stand is this ?
    also would this not work if the softbox was directly pointing the model instead of overhead ?

    1. Hi Latesh, you will discover from watching the entire Light Source course that there are lots of different options for the position of the lights and in chapter 7, I demonstrate the effects of different modifiers, please watch the course in order from the start and through to the end to get the most benefit. This course is designed and scripted to help photographers fully understand lighting by watching it from module 1 to 62. You will find that the questions you are asking will be answered in the course. If at the end of the course you have any further questions then please do not hesitate to ask. The lighting stand is listed in the equipment list on the right hand side below the video. Cheers Karl.

  12. Simple and efficient. I like this set up especially because the shadows are not obvious and thus the model can move freely. The light source placed at a certain distance from the model is a great tip also. Thank you, Karl.

  13. Hello Karl, I am André I am an amateur passionate about photography and I follow you from France through your training space. At first I want to tell you that your trainings are the best of all that I have seen on the web. I absolutely do not regret my subscription on your site because thanks to you I could master the photograhy in a few years. Really a thousand thanks for what you do for us.
    My future ambition is to be able to teach this passion that I have for photography in my country in Africa precisely in Gabon (Central Africa). I am determined to follow all your advice for the success of this project which holds me so much.
    Thanks to you

    1. Hi Mohan, a very large white umbrella would give a similar effect as would a large scrim but the big Octabox is the most controlled option.

Leave a Comment