Using the Para 222 for Portraiture

Discover why this modifier is one of Karl Taylor’s favourites.

Karl uses two different lighting setups for this class, demonstrating the versatility of this popular modifier. You’ll see how you can achieve completely different results with just small adjustments and why the shape and reflective properties of parabolic lighting modifiers allows the user such a great degree of control.

In this class:

  • Portrait photography — Tips for portrait photography
  • Lighting modifiers for studio photography — How to use a Para 222
  • Two-light setup for portraiture
  • Three-light setup for portraiture
  • How to add a hair light for portrait photography

To learn more about parabolic lighting, watch Understanding Parabolic Lighting, where Karl explains the science behind these popular modifiers and how to use them.

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



  1. Good refresher course using lighting with a model. I will have to check your product photography also. Thanks for having the classes.

  2. Well… My Para 222 arrived in great shape! The Para 133 is not in yet. I have a Beauty shoot to go to and the location would be perfect for the 133, but I will try the 222 instead. Usual strip lights in back, a few other strobes as needed.

    Question is – How close is too close with that 222. I can comfortably place the model 222CM from the front of the para, and have enough space for a 45 degree placement and space for direct or feathering for either position. 3.6 Meter ceiling is not an issue. There is room to move the model 3 steps further back to the background. My goal is to produce shadow and depth on the face, less so on the background. I wont be at the location until the day of the shoot.

    Does this seem possible. Simply cannot wait the 4 weeks longer for my 133 to arrive. Perhaps I can try, then revert to a Beauty Dish. Really hate to do that…

    1. Hi Don, the key thing with any Para is to stand in the models position and look at the light reflecting in the Para. Have someone move the para pole while you do this so you can get a feel of what the reflection in the Para looks like when it goes from the focused (hard light) to defocused (soft light) position. In the soft light position you will see the periphery of the para illuminated only if you can’t see that then you’re too close or too far and adjust the pole as necessary. I usually have the lamp level with my head or slightly above and then from the models perspective the lamp should block the centre of the para and then you know you have it angled correctly. It takes a bit of experimentation and playing but it doesn’t take long. Don’t forget to look at some of my fashion classes where I also demo the para being used at an angle or from the side. All the best Karl.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I currently own an old but pretty much an unused Profoto 7 foot reflector with a 600w flash unit on it. Would I get similar results with this light? I know it’s not the same but what is your take on this? Thanks for the video.

    1. Hi Mikko, you haven’t said what type of 7ft profoto reflector? Do you have a link to the one you are referring too?

      1. Thanks for asking. It’s actually the older version of the Giant Reflector which Profoto has in store. The one I have I think is the original, 7 foot reflector. There’s not many photos online, but this is what I found:
        It seems that the new Profoto Giant Silver 210 reflector has a bit more curve or should I say parabolic form. Are you familiar with these? The one I have was in use over 10 years ago when my father was more into studio photography. It’s been sitting in our warehouse these years and I’m going to be getting my company a new office space with a studio area and was thinking of taking the big guy in use again. Is the reflector an advantage for my portrait or product photography compared to other studios which don’t have this kind of light modifier. I read that the Broncolor Para 222 is one of your favourite modifiers.
        Also I’m really interested to know what is reflector good for? only body size portraits? There’s hardly any information online about these. 🙁
        One thing is for sure, I will be testing it out very soon!

          1. Hi Mikko, this unfortunately won’t give the same result as a Para 222 simply because it is not a true parabolic shape which is what gives the Para’s their unique look. The closer the modifier is to a true Parobala then the better / closer it will be. It will make a good light though because it’s large and with the diffuser it will be a very good large softbox style light.

        1. Hi Mikko, the 222 is one of my favourites but mostly for full length or 3/4 length fashion. The 133 Para is my favourite all rounder for beauty / portrait work. But even a silver 70cm beauty dish gives great results for the price.

  4. Hello Karl,

    Why do you stand above your models when shooting portraits? I see some artist stand above and some below but I would like your take.



    1. Hi David, for portraits I find it slightly more flattering if eye level or slightly above to open the eyes. If shooting a model 3/4 or full length for fashion then I’ll go lower to make them look more powerful.

  5. Great video. Nice to see what can be achieved with top talent and equipment.

    I have the para 220 fb with 2400w ringlight P. I can also mount a Unilite head, but due to the older design of the focus system the Unilite would be off-axis slightly. Any tips on using the ringlight for portraiture with 220 fb, or the off-axis unilite, in a similar scenario to yours?

    Further, in your photos, how far was the model from the para 222 and which lens was used? Thanks.

    1. Hi Timo, I think you would get very similar results with the ring flash with the Para in the old design as the lighting results are similar. I had the Para in the soft focus position and I Markie would have been between 2.5-3.5m away.

      1. Hello Karl, thanks for the geometry. Tried this and other setups in three shoots past month. I have the 220 fb with ringlight as told. It can be up to 45 degrees on camera left if one wants, but better say about 10 degrees camera left. Then just turning the reflector a bit one can achieve different side lightings if needed. Also, one can do full frontal just by stepping in front of the reflector, it being only 10 degrees off axis anyway. With the reflector slightly off axis a longer lens can be used just shooting by the left side of the reflector which is handy. This is a very natural light and can do full body shots easily, also light a background in a natural manner given a suitable distance between background and model to achieve needed background lighting.

        One more question though. I tried Bron 30×120 stripboxes with grids on camera left and right slightly behind model to create highlight and separation on the hair and sides of the models dress. The result is ok, but somehow fights with the look of the para 220 fb naturalness and not satisfied with it. There is separation which can be achieved but something is the picture is better with less separation and just para 220. Perhaps the light quality from softboxes somehow messes with the light falloff pattern produced by para 220? Given that this would be the case, are there other alternatives than using smaller paras to create separation in hair/dress as described? Would a beauty dish with grid or just bare reflectors with tight grids produce a separation more in harmony with the light falloff pattern of fb220/222 be in your experience? If one uses other paras to create separation, what would the placement be in that case. I have the 133 and could try with that. Thanks!

        1. Hi Timo, you hit the nail on the head with this comment ‘somehow messes with the light falloff pattern produced by para 220?’ Yes exactly you don’t really want to destroy the lovely fall off on the edges from the Para. If necessary I’d suggest some tight grids to pick out very selective areas.

  6. Great photos! A precise light, but not as restrictive as using smaller point lights. I imagine this is quite convenient when you are looking for some flexibility with posing. I have taken quite a liking to the catch light from the 222, though others may disagree.

    1. Hi Peter, yes you are absolutely right the 222 does give your model a lot of room for manoeuvre. I also like the catchlight, other’s prefer to change it in post.

  7. In Norway you used equipment for around 100.000,- pound plus the iMac Pro ? to make that picture.
    Nice job!

    1. Hi Trond, the Para 222 was certainly a requirement but we could have put pretty much any studio light in it as long as it had a protruding flash tube. The camera could have been anything half decent. That would considerably lower the overall cost although I admit the Para 222 is not cheap but the results from it and ease of use are exceptional.

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