Soft Lighting for Older Male Portraits

One of the most common challenges many photographers face when shooting business portraits is how to create flattering light for older subjects.

In this portrait class Karl demonstrates his go-to business portrait lighting setup and explains how to achieve the softest, most flattering light for corporate headshots. Throughout this class he explains considerations such as lens choice, camera settings, and posing, and he also demonstrates how to gradually build up the lighting to create a final result any client would be happy with.

In this portrait photography class we cover the following:

  • How to photograph business portraits
  • Corporate portrait photography tips
  • Business portrait poses
  • How to create soft light for flattering portraits
  • When and how to use edge lighting for portrait photography
  • How to balance multiple lights

You can watch the ‘How to clean paper backgrounds in Photoshop’ class here.

Other related classes that you may enjoy include:

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

When it comes to business portraits, there are many different styles that you could use. However, if you’re shooting older clients, soft lighting is a must.

As you’ll see in this class, there are a few ways you can achieve this. The first (and most important) consideration is the size of your light. I used large softboxes for this portrait, but if you don’t have softboxes this large, I show a useful trick for creating incredibly soft lighting in this food photography live show.

Lighting setup used for older man portrait photos

Large modifiers help to create the soft light needed for older portraits.

A second technique for softening the light is to adjust the position of the light. Always consider the angle of your light and the size from your subject’s perspective. In this video you’ll see how adjusting the distance from the subject had a big impact on the hardness of the light.

Lighting position for a business portrait setup

The angle of your light and the size from your subject’s perspective can have a big impact on the final result.

Finally, reflectors can also be a useful tool for achieving more flattering portraits. These can help fill in shadows under the chin and cheekbones, as you’ll see me demonstrate in this class.

Male business portrait final image

The final business portrait with edge lighting.


  1. Hello Karl!
    I would be interested what is the difference between using a softbox angled and not angled. In the setups for women You use softbox not angled and in the setups for older men You use it angled.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi, putting the softbox at an angle changes the intensity of one end of the softbox to be brighter than the other. The end that is closer to your subject will be brighter in exposure if the other end is at a greater distance from your subject. This changes what we call the ‘fall off’ or gradation of light across a subject. You can learn more about this in our Lighting Theory section.

    1. Hi Doug, I wouldn’t change anything at all if this was the equipment I had available. The bottom line with older women (and some men) is that they are going to be sensitive to the results of wrinkles, weight, hair etc. So slightly more fill light will help reduce the appearance of wrinkles but it won’t thin the face. So with this kit it would be a trade off and a bit of post production work (and good make up helps). Personally though I would use a Para as the key light because the collimated light is still soft but it fills in wrinkles. Take a look on your ‘comparison app’ in your home page at the comparison results between the Octa 150 and the Para 133. Not everyone can afford a Para 133 but I believe there are now some good actual similar design paras on the market.

  2. Hi Karl,

    You mentioned in the video that we could edit in post for the ripples on paper background.
    May I know in which video you will talk about this? Couldn’t locate it yet.


  3. Hi Karl,
    Excellent video! One of the most common issue with photographing senior management is their use of spectacles, because of which there is a prominent glare due to light reflectors being too close to them. What is the solution in that case?

  4. Great video. I have a question if you don’t mind. I have seen time and again advice to have the fill light on camera axis to avoid double shadows. But the proof is in the pudding and your shot looks great with no hint of double shadow that I can notice. What are your thoughts and comments on these two approaches? Are there times when you would prefer on axis? What is your thought process if so?

    1. Hi Don, thanks. The fill light won’t cast any noticeable shadow, firstly and most importantly because it is about half the power or less of the main light and also it is a large light so any shadow would be very soft and diffused. You will notice this from the first key light shot and then when I change the exposure level of the fill light. Cheers Karl.

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