Very Soft Single-Light Portrait With White Background

Want to capture perfect portraits with minimal kit? Let two lighting masters show you how.  

Watch Karl and Urs demonstrate a simple, versatile bare-bulb setup that you can use in almost any studio, large or small.

You’ll learn how to achieve an incredibly soft light with absolutely no shadows, and discover why a white background is perfect for a high-key portrait like this.

You’ll also discover how to use negative fill to add shape and shadows to an image.

In this class:

  • Portrait photography using a single light
  • Using indirect light for portraiture
  • Photographing in a small studio
  • High key photography
  • Achieving a white background
  • How to use negative fill

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Vic Peralta

    I noticed in the Equipment List that you use a Siros 800. If I could speculate, this is an 800 watt system. I don’t have anything that powerful, but I do have Godox 400 flashes. Could I use 2 of them to simulate what you have achieved? What kind of issues do you foresee with this? How would you suggest to setup the flashes?

    1. Hi, a 400J light is only one stop of exposure less than an 800J light so to compensate you could just increase your ISO by one stop from 100 to 200 and then that would simulate shooting with a 800J lights at 100ISO.

    2. Vic Peralta

      Do you have an class explaining how to understand light intensity?

      Also, in your response you used ‘j,’ which I believe stands for joules. Is that the same as watts?


      1. Hi, yes Watts = Joules in terms of what is written on the lights although one describes power per second and the other energy but you can think of them as the same. If you go to the Lighting Theory section what you are looking for is covered in there.

  2. Good refresher course for working in a small area. Love the control in manual mode in my Canon and Nikon camera when I work with a model in a rental studio. Really loving your commercial product photography section also. I will probably renew next year also since there are many courses.

  3. Hi Karl,
    Which UK supplier do you use for your foam board ?
    I’m looking for some of the large sheets, and the prices I’m seeing are very expensive !
    Thanks !

    1. Hi Matthew, I get them from my local sign service company. He gets about 6 full size sheets in a huge flat box but I’m not sure what we pay for them. I keep some full sheets for things like cars and cut other sheets up into smaller peices.

  4. “Try to look like an alien”…. gotta remember that one for my next shoot! I agree, what you do with lighting is pure magic.

  5. The set up is awesome, but what if I didn’t want the reptilian pupil ‘slit’ that the photographer’s reflection generates? How would I go about having more natural eyes? A 70-200mm lens might solve the problem but that’s not always easily accessible.

    1. Hi Anthony,You can’t break the physics of what you are seeing. Solve the physics, you just said yourself you are seeing the reflection of the photographer, so start thinking ‘how do I not have the reflection of the photographer?’ – The first thing i can think of is a light scrim roll of paper in front of the camera with a hole cut in it for the lens to poke through. If that blocks to much of the bounce light (which I doubt it would) then you’d have to revert to photoshop to break the physics.

  6. Hi Karl,

    This is an amazing lighting setup, I know that if I try this on my own i would find out myself. What I would like to know is if this setup would be useful for lighting up the full length image of the subject ?

  7. Hey Karl,

    Love our video thank you –

    How can you get this effect with a profoto since the light bulb is inside the lamp and it has a soft box effect on it.
    Also what happens if you get a light on each side reflecting on a white board ? Would there be just more diffused light ?


    1. Hi, you can either fit a diffusion dome on the end of your light or you could use three lights, one at each wall.

  8. Such a simple method to achieve this soft light and something I wondered how to do. Sometimes in the tutorials I cant see the subtle differences where you can but in this example you can see how the shadows are almost non existent compared to the 100×100 soft box close to Eva. (She really has that big baby eyes look.)
    Hopefully I`m taking in the tutorials as I`m not even going to ask about the shutter speed 😉
    Just one thing though; I was told some models hate the 50mm for portraits. Can you think why?

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