Stunning Portraits with a Simple Two-Light Setup: No Expensive Gear Needed!

In this free tutorial, we will explore how to create beautiful portraits using a simple two-light setup. You don’t need expensive gear or a high-end camera to achieve stunning results. With just a basic camera and a couple of softboxes, you can capture professional-looking portraits.

As you'll see I take pictures with an economic Olympus OMD-M10 Micro 4/3 sensor camera and some with the Canon Mk-III but just with a standard 50mm lens.

Remember: The soft boxes I use are top quality that also fit other studio light brands and even your Speedlite flashes (with the right adaptor). This image focuses on the model as a portrait shot but you can apply this technique also to studio light setup for fashion photography.

Simple 2 light studio setup for portrait and fashion photography

Simple 2 light studio setup for portrait and fashion photography

Here’s a list of what you need:

First, let’s talk about the equipment... I will be using an Olympus OMD camera, which is a compact crossover camera. The lens I have is a 14 - 42mm lens that came with the camera. You can use any camera that allows manual mode settings for this setup. To trigger the lights, I have a flash trigger attached to my camera.

For the lighting setup, I am using a Broncolor 75 Octabox. This softbox helps to create a gradient glow on the grey paper background, adding depth to the image.

It is important to note that these softboxes are not exclusive to Broncolor lights. You can also use them with speed lights or other brands of studio lights. The quality and build of these softboxes is exceptional.

The main light source for this setup is an Octabox 150. This large light source provides a beautiful, soft diffused light that is perfect for portrait photography.

With just these two lights and the softboxes, you can achieve amazing results.

Remember to experiment with the equipment you have access to. As a guide, here's a list of the kit I used in this shoot.

  • A Flash Trigger
    To make the flashes fire, lots available or you could use a sync cable
  • broncolor 75 Octobox
    This creates a gradient of light against the grey background.
  • broncolor 150 Octobox
    The main light source on model
  • White Reflector
    I use this to bounce light into model ( A piece of foam board but could have been anything flat and white)
  • Grey Paper
    For my background. Simply paper roll or could be a matt grey painted wall 🙂
Two light portrait photoshoot comparing Olympus OM-D with Canon 5D

Two light portrait photoshoot side-by-side comparing Canon 5D MKIII with Olympus OM-D

Comparing camera results on this simple 2 light portrait

Now, let’s talk about the camera settings. As mentioned earlier, I am using the Olympus OMD camera, but you can use any camera you have available. Additionally, I will be taking a shot on my Canon 5D with a standard 50mm 1.8 lens to showcase that great portraits can be achieved with any camera.

To add a little bit of light to the shadow side of our model, we will use a simple piece of white foam board or white card. This will bounce some light and help reduce harsh shadows.

It’s important to mention that you can apply this two-light setup to any subject. 

Simple two light portrait setup - Canon 5D MKIII

Simple two light portrait setup - Canon 5D MKIII

Here's the Canon camera results. Remember, it’s not about the gear but rather the knowledge of photography and understanding lighting. The first result we achieved with the two-light setup and the 50mm 1.8 lens is simple yet stunning. The lighting is the key element that brings the portrait to life.

Simple two light portrait setup - Olympus OM-D

Simple two light portrait setup - Olympus OM-D

Next, we switched to the Olympus OMD camera, which is a more affordable option. Even with this camera and its standard lens, we were able to capture another great result. This further proves that it’s not about the gear but rather the understanding of lighting.

Hopefully from this you can see how some great photographic results are achievable even with simple cameras and a simple lighting setups. The key is knowledge, and that's what we do best, check out this to learn more about effective and simple portrait lighting setups – Portrait photography section of this website.

Creating beautiful portraits doesn’t have to be complicated or require expensive equipment. With a simple two-light setup and a basic camera, you can achieve impressive results. Remember to focus on understanding lighting and how it can enhance your portraits.

Happy shooting!

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