Using the Para 133 for Portraiture

Seeking portrait perfection? Harness the power of the Para 133.

In this portrait photography class, Karl uses a Para 133 to create a bright, fresh image of model Markie Pearl. As you’ll see, paras are great for portrait photography because they provide beautiful contoured lighting.

Here Karl explains each step of his four-light setup, including why it’s important to test each individual light.

You’ll learn how to balance multiple studio lights, control shadows and adjust your background tone through lighting ratios and position.

In this class:

  • Portrait photography tips
  • Lighting modifiers for portrait photography
  • How to use a Para 133
  • Four-light setup for portraiture
  • How to control shadows using fill lighting

To learn more about parabolic lighting, watch Using the Para 222 for Portraiture and read The Magic of Parabolic Lighting.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hello Karl,

    This is a really good platform, thank you so much for putting it together. I have a question about the Para’s. Currently, I have a 133 and would like to get into the 222, just not 100% sure my studio space can handle it. What do you think about the 177?


    Brian from Boston

    1. Hi, thank you Brian. Yes I’ve used the 177 and it’s still good for full and 3/4 length fashion if you don’t have space for the 222. The shot on my commercial site of the girl with the ginger hair and extravagant head piece was taken on a 177 –

  2. I just Join that website, i am just so glad that i did, The value is extraordinary!!

    Amazingly insightful and straight to the point.

    Thank you so much Karl Taylor.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I am looking into getting one para just to test it out and getting to know it. What is the difference between the 133 and the 88 concerning light on models? It is hard to find a 133 vs 88 that focus on actualy results and not just the measurements of the paras.

    thx, Henning

    1. Hi, we have a whole video on this in our lighting section in the ‘using lighting modifiers’ as well as you can compare using the ‘modifier comparison app’ that is in your customer home page.

    1. Hi Doris, the equipment used on each shoot is listed in the ‘Equipment list’ on the right hand side of the page.

        1. Hi Doris, yes you are correct the lightstand is not listed, we will add it today. It was the Manfrotto 087NW but it has my own custom made cross bar at the top which you can see in this video: at aaround 7:20 I start demonstrating this stand and immediately following I show the custom peice. I also use the Manfrotto 083NW for the Para 222.

  4. Karl,

    Thanks, primarily to your education site and your posts available on youtube, I’ve ordered the Para 133 and Para 222. I look forward to learning and fine tuning my work to these wonderful tools.

    1. Hi Don, you will love those modifiers. My guess is the 133 will become your favourite and you will find many uses for it as you will see on this site. It’s a favourite of mine even for further away shots – Also the 222 is great if doing group shots, put it behind you up a bit higher, and slightly to one side.

  5. Hi Karl, wondering if you could have spared yourself a few iterations by starting with the P70, as it seems to be sharing the key light duty with the Para here, even though you talk of it as just “adding sparkle” (but then struggle to make it go low enough in power). Perhaps meter the P70 at 1-2 stops below optimal exposure and then add the Para, as fill / extra key for the face? And leave the kicker off till you’ve figured out the face? The kicker seemed to spill too much light into the face initially, leading to confusion as to where the light on the face was coming from. Best regards, Martin

  6. Hello Karl,

    thumbs up for all the courses i’ve been following you since your youtube days and this is a perfect upgrade on that. I usually don’t like to ask equipment type of question but i have a dilemma. I am buying a para reflector in near future, i know Bron paras are the best, i usually work with them when i’m renting a studio, but i don’t have enough money to purchase them so my choice is Parabolix para. My photography interest are basically portraiture, beauty, American shot and my studio is approx 20 sqm, size 5×4 m, height 3,5 meter. What is your opinion, what would be the best size o Para for this type of shoots and this studio size?

    Best regards from Croatia

  7. I am wondering… in another video you had talked about getting the light close to improve skin and reduce hot spots. I have played with this and it has made a really huge difference for me… but then I noticed the light in this setup is quite far away… but of course the result is lovely… so just wondering about about that? Thoughts? Comments?

    1. Hi Don, the Para 133 is a completely different beast to softboxes in the way that it distributes and focuses light. It needs better make up work but the same physics would still apply and you can use it very close if you like but with good skin and make up this isn’t always necessary and allows higher contrast and drama.

  8. First, most these products are out of my league for the time being…
    With Broncolor, do you have to have an assistant (or yourself) punching in the power on the blocks or can they be controlled by a trigger?

    1. Hi Steve, they can be controlled from the trigger and also the software on the computer on the latest packs.

  9. Great video, thanks. Absolutely stunning pics. Any chance of getting a rough idea of the geometry of para 133 distance from model, height of para etc. ? This would help in trying to replicate this scenario. Thanks.

    1. Hi Timo. I have the bottom of the Para 133 at about 2m off the ground. The Para aimed at about 45 degree angle down at the model and slightly off centre. Make sure the centre of the light aligns with the centre of the para from the models point of view, the para would be in the soft position and the I sometimes add the P70 as you saw here. The distance from the model depends but I’d estimate she was 2-3 m from me.

      1. Hello Karl and thanks for the answer. Just got the para 133 and was able to test this setup. Indeed the geometry you mention is critical for this type of shot. Bottom of para 2m above ground seems good for model of 173 cm. If the front of the para is 2m to 150 cm from the face of the model the shot does not look too good, somehow flooded with light too brightly no matter the power settings. Just does not look right. 2m+ from face is much better. Also, 40-45 degree downward angle is crucial it seems. Para off-axis say 5-10 degree camera left is a good position, better than full frontal. Tried para on camera left up to 45 degrees as I would a normal softbox but did not look too good, wonder why, perhaps because these reflectors do not do feathering at all. And finally, pointing the center focusing rod exactly in the middle of model’s face is important. Tried also to point the focusing rod on middle of the throat of the model to see any difference (I would position a full frontal deep octa rotalux 100 cm softbox like this), but it is no contest. The visual attention in the image is exactly where the center of the focusing rod is pointing and throat is not a good target then, middle of the face way better. Well, that’s the report on my experiments today. Thanks a lot for guidance!

        1. Thank you Timo and well done on your thorough testing, this is always the best way to discover the tools.

  10. Hi Karl

    I have subscribe again just because of the Para courses. I happen to have the 133 and I loved the way it looks. It’s nice with the P70 I’ll have to try this…
    I have a question though, I just bought a second hand Broncolor Flooter and the light is incredible, but since I’m not a photographer, could you please make a video on how to use the Flooter for portraiture, what are his strengths etc… I cannot find anything on Youtube or on the web dealing with this in a serious way…
    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Michel, the flooter can be used for portraiture and in many ways the light it throws will be similar to a Para but harder. I don’t often use it for portraits but I have used it on Fashion so I will keep your idea in mind. I do use it a lot though to simulate sunlight or as a beautiful gradient spot light on my backgrounds behind my models. Remember you must use a frosted dome on the lamp head.

  11. A beautiful look Karl. I love the look of the Para combined with the P70. Similar to the live session you did on Parabolic modifiers. That was an excellent session and really helped me understand the differences of a true para over claimed ones. Your explanation in the session also helps me appreciate the two modifiers together in this one. So beautiful I shall be attempting this style of look for sure.

  12. Hi Karl,

    you used the 133 in the flooded position. Why did you ad the P70 instead of getting more punch out of the 133 with a more focused position? With the softbox for fill light distribution
    shouldn’t be an issue.
    Have a good evening in St. Peter Port,


    1. Hello Heina, the 133 in the focused position is too aggressive for most work but perfect in the defocused, however for attractive models then a bit of extra punch but with only a subtle amount of light added gives me a little more sparkle without being too aggressive.

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