Clamshell Lighting for White Background Business Portraits

One of the common challenges faced by photographers shooting business portraits is creating flattering lighting setups for older subjects.

To help you overcome this challenge, Karl shows you exactly how to capture flattering male portraits as he demonstrates a simple clamshell lighting setup that can easily be adapted to create multiple effects.

Starting with a one-light setup, Karl explains the benefits of this versatile setup and demonstrates how to overcome the main drawback of the setup — shadows on the face and under the chin — by using a tri-reflector to create flattering lighting for older subjects.

Introducing a second light, Karl then demonstrates how to control the exposures on a white background to create multiple effects, including a neutral grey background (with and without a gradient glow) or pure white background.

This information-packed class is perfect for those wanting to learn how to shoot professional business portraits with minimal equipment, and the lighting setups demonstrated can easily be adapted for many different subjects. Knowing how to overcome those common challenges and work in different conditions is vital for photographers who want their business to succeed.

In this portrait photography class we cover the following:

  • How to photograph older people
  • Clamshell lighting setup
  • Simple and versatile lighting setup for business portraits
  • Portrait photography tips when using minimal equipment
  • How to use a tri-reflector for flattering results
  • How to create a white background using one light
  • Lighting setups for simple business portraits perfect for older subjects

Other related classes that you may enjoy include:

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.


  1. hrachess

    HI Karl, this is an awesome short on point video regarding the type of headshots I do pretty often, especially on a grey background with a touch of light on it.
    My question is regarding the white background part. You talked about a very important issue that I came across many times, when I try to get the pure bright white background, it’s always reflects back a lot and wraps up the person’s face. So you told to look up the white reading of below 255, but what if I shoot many times without a laptop, not tethered. Any idea to solve that in place in camera ? I don’t want to under expose it, to avoid the post production and dealing with hear.. but overexposing also ruins it in some way.. 🙁

    1. Hi, if you only have the camera to rely on there you could look at the Historgam to see if it looks as it should but I would first get the background light to be below pure white and if so then your histogram will not be pushing out of the white zone. Once you are happy the historgram looks correct and isn’t all bleeding into the overexposed zone then you could just add 1/4 or 1/2 stop exposure to your background light and you should be in the ball park.

  2. Do you know why they don’t make this style of tri reflector anymore? I’m in the US and all I see is the triangle panel manfrotto ones. I’d love to get one like yours!

          1. Thanks Karl! Which brand is the one you use?

          2. Hi, the one I’ve got is an older Lastolite one

  3. Brian R.

    Hi Karl,

    Thanks for this! I have a question about catchlights that I’d really like your thoughts on. I have it in my head that portraits in general may only have one catchlight. Though I really like the look of a clamshell reflector, is there any need for me to be concerned about the lower catchlight for flattering corporate headshots on white?

    1. Hi Brian, no you don’t need to worry about that at all. Many of my favourite portrait and fashion images have all sorts of different catchlights in the eyes, as long as it’s not something massively distracting or weird then there is no problem with it at all. Take a look at some of my ‘people’ work on this page and you will see a variety of different results regarding catchlights: Also another great example would be the master Vincent Peters:

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