Engaging portraits – Sample 5

Engaging portraits – Sample 5

 In a previous blog “Engaging Portraits” I talked about unique lighting for each portrait. In the beginning, near everyone starts out with the same body parts, but that’s where the similarity ends. We are not made from the same mold and each of us has features and characteristics that make us, well us. To set up a style of light and use it for everyone makes a statement about the photographer, not the subject being photographed. Our characteristics, personality and physical features are what make us who we are. We are all pieces of art worthy of being celebrated.

A sculptor said the sculpture was already in the rock and he just chipped away the unnecessary parts to reveal the beauty that was within the rock. As a photographer I sculpt with light to emphasize the highlights of each subject, but just as each subject is different each subject requires a different light. 

Five subjects from a business portrait session last year have given me permission to use their portrait to illustrate what I mean. Some have asked that I not use their name, so none of the five names will be used.

The comments and observations expressed are my opinion only, but the lighting described is based on sound photographic training and practices.


Symmetry in design.

The face

The symmetrical design emphasizes the beauty of the inverted egg shape with the narrow chin and broader forehead. The smile, the cheekbones, the bangs; all require emphasis of the perfect balance of this face.  The skin tone is soft feminine with some very real minor blemishes.

The pose

To feature the balance in the face I selected a full face pose with the eyes coming right back to the camera.

The light

To keep the softness of the face I chose soft light source that was wrapped around the subject with a bounce from the highlight side.

Fill light

The parabolic light with barn doors, bounced from the ceiling eliminated glare in the glasses from this light.. This left a nice shadow under the chin and on the neck.

Main light

I wanted to keep the soft skin texture and at the same time downplay any minor skin blemishes. My choice of main light was therefore a beauty dish placed camera left and feathered in front of the subject. In order to wrap the light around the subject and add highlights to the mask of the face, I carefully placed a bounce board between the main light and the camera.


The result is a Rembrandt style lighting pattern where there are highlights on both cheeks.

Kicker (accent) light

For good separation between background and subject, a kicker light was added high and behind the subjects shadow side.

Post processing

In post processing I removed the catch light caused by the fill light, softened and retouched the little that was left of the blemishes, and applied a very mild skin softening.


The pose and lighting of this portrait accent the shape of the face and to feature the engaging personality of the subject. The full face view with eyes on camera will create a confident and friendly relationship between subject and viewer thereby reinforcing the attitude “this is somebody I can trust and do business with.”


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