Two-Light Portraiture

Want to produce perfect portraits but don't have a studio full of gear? Make it happen with just two lights.

In this portrait photography class, recorded LIVE, you'll discover various simple-but-effective two-light setups for portraiture.

You’ll learn how to create beautiful portraits with minimal lights and basic modifiers, including softboxes, octaboxes and snoots.

You'll also learn how you can use white foam board, or a low white studio ceiling, to control your lighting.

Later in the class, you'll see Karl create a ‘box room’ within the studio, demonstrating how you can achieve surprisingly good portrait results with simple bare-bulb lighting.

In this class:

  • Lighting techniques for portrait photography
  • Portrait photography: female subject
  • Two-light portraiture
  • Black and white portraits
  • Photography with softbox modifiers
  • Photography with octabox modifiers
  • Photography with snoot modifiers
  • Understanding the inverse square law
  • Why you don’t need a light meter
  • Bouncing light off the studio ceiling

If you enjoy this workshop, check out Creative Portrait Lighting 1.0 and Creative Portrait Lighting 2.0.

You may also like to explore our Two-Light Portraits section.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.



    Wow, I am learning so much. It is the small details like the way inverse square law can influence contrast across the face that I have never seen demonstrated in this way. I have always known about inverse square law, but I have never known how much you can change the look of an image with just this principle. I can finally say I am starting to understand light.

  2. Hello karl, when i saw BTS, There are 2 lights located very closely. There directions are also same.
    In front one is beauty dish, behind one is very big octa.
    What is the effect of this lighting set?

  3. Would be possible to do a class on shooting portraits in small spaces.

    I have a room that’s 12 feet long and 11 feet wide with 8 foot ceilings.

    I’m obviously restricted to seated headshots but I’d be interested to see much much you could squeeze out of a space that sort of size.

    As background separation is an issue, do I just need more shades of backdrops to resolve it. I love my 5 foot octa which gives me lovely soft light, the beauty dish is perfect in the space but I don’t always want that slightly harder light.

  4. Fantastic. Can’t belive i missed this live as i had a question. But after watching many of kte videos i think i have a solution myself. I want to take some pics in my bathroom that is small and white with high ceiling. I was thinking about bouncing a speedlite of a white reflector hitting model from side. Also maybe use a flag from other side to add some shadows. Would this be a kte approved approach? Want it to look like window light.

  5. johnleigh

    I missed the live session so was pleased to be able to see this replay and hearing your thoughts and wisdom and seeing you solving the challenges along the way.
    This is all particularly relevant to me as I work from home using my lounge as a small “home studio”. Its an awkward L shape and not much space and 8ft celings so cant get modifiers very high but I work with what I have.

    I wanted to mention in case of interest to some of your viewers that I was quite surprised to realise after some years of using umbrellas, reflectors and softboxes, that often times for the bright, light and airy type fashion, portrait,headshot and concept shoots I work on for models and actors that a bare speedlite pointed at the celing and also a 2nd bare speedlite pointed direct at the talent gives me the key and fill combination that works really well to create punchy and well lit shots. I alternate between the two in different ratios and making the reflected light bigger or smaller with distance.

    When I discovered this previously I was feeling like this didnt “look” professional to have no light modifiers and bouncing off celings and reflectors, but none of the models or actors have any comments or complaints when they see the results. Once I had accepted that I can actually use the small space to this advantage and get over any gear expectations I felt free and liberated and embraced this approach.

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