A Simple 2 Light Portrait Set-Up photography tutorial with Karl Taylor
A Simple 2 Light Portrait Set-Up photography tutorial with Karl Taylor

Hi! I’m Karl Taylor and this episode is
sponsored by Squarespace. Here’s my commercial photography website,
it’s the Squarespace one, and I absolutely love it.
They’re easy to set up, they look amazing, there are hundreds of templates to
choose from and they have first-class customer support. If you want one too
then use this URL and the coupon code KARL to get a 10% discount. Hi I’m Karl Taylor, this is our lovely model Sophie and today I’m going to show
you some really simple portrait lighting set-up, actually I’m going to show you one
portrait lighting set-up but I’m going to do it with some really basic equipment.
Okay admittedly you need some studio lights or at least some speedlites but
we often get a lot of emails from people saying to us “Oh you get fantastic images,
you’ve got all these lovely great photos but you know you’re using all this
expensive equipment to capture these shots”. Well actually we can still capture great shots on some really basic equipment. So
I’m using an Olympus OM-D camera, one of these little crossover cameras. It’s got
its 14 – 42mm, I think it’s the lens that comes with it, I’m just using it in
manual mode, I’ve got a flash trigger on here to trigger the lights. Then for
my lighting I’ve got a Broncolor 75 octabox here just to put a little bit
of a gradient glow on my grey paper background. This softbox retails at about
£135, which is about $210, $215. Remember these soft boxes
they don’t have to go on Broncolor lights, you can put them on speedlites
you can put them on other brands of studio lights as well but they’re
fantastically built softboxes. My main light source is coming from an octabox
150. This is a lovely big light, great big soft diffuser, that retails at about £175, which is about $230, $240, somewhere around there. So if you had
just two lights you’re going to be able to do this set-up. Two lights with these
softboxes any camera doesn’t really matter. I’m going to shoot this on this
Olympus OM-D and then I’m going to take a shot on my Canon 5D and I’m going to
take the shot with just a standard 50mm lens, you know this is a 50mm 1.8
lens, and we should be able to get a great result. So obviously we’re using a
very attractive model here but you can do this sort of portraiture with anyone.
The only other thing we’re going to use is a simple piece of white foam board,
white card, to bounce a little bit of light into the shadow side of our model
and that’s it. So you really will be able to see how easy it
is to get great shots even with a two light set-up. Okay if I can get you to
hold that please Fab. So Fabian is just holding that reflector in just for a
little bit of fill. I’m just going to get into position here and I’m just getting
Sophie just to turn her head directly towards camera. Just look straight at a
lens for me Sophie, that’s it lovely and I’ve already taken my meter reading
so I know what my exposure needs to be. Just going to zoom that in a little bit
there on Sophie, now wait for that focus that’s beautiful Sophie, thank you that’s
good. And again, let me reframe. Okay so that’s on that camera, let’s switch over
to the Canon. I’m shooting this at ISO 100 at f6.3 and shutter
speed doesn’t matter as long as I’m within the flash sync speed so in this
case I’m one sixtieth of a second. Just going to go up a little bit higher with
this one. Just turn your head round towards me a little bit, that’s it, good
fantastic keep that there for me darling. That’s great and again.
Lovely. I’m just going to go in a little bit closer on a couple of those because of our lens.
That’s it, good, beautiful. That’s it, and we should have some fantastic portraits
with a really simple light set-up. Hope you enjoyed that, we’ll see you next time,
thanks very much. So in this first result you can see I’ve
shot slightly wider and just so that we can see the softbox on the background
and you can see clearly the effect it’s having that lovely gradient of light
that is adding. And then the main softbox giving that beautiful flattering light
on our model and this was shot with the 50mm 1.8 lens. Then I moved in a
little bit closer for a better crop on the model, a better framing on the
subject. Very simple, very easy to achieve, just done with the two softbox lighting
set-up. Then on the Olympus OM-D camera, much less expensive camera, another great result, so just proving
that it’s not always about the gear. This is a much less expensive camera, using it’s standard lens, and again you can see it’s the lighting that is key. Then we
move in a little bit closer for a better crop with the Olympus camera. Beautiful result again, so not about the gear it’s about knowledge of photography and
understanding lighting. For more great photography tips visit our website NOW at

100 thoughts on “A Simple 2 Light Portrait Set-Up photography tutorial with Karl Taylor”

  1. Arash & Armin says:

    Just saw the photos on your website, they look fantastic!
    I am hoping to do my first music album's cover with you 

  2. Wayne Leary says:

    Thanks Karl very informative 

  3. sabah shah says:

    do you have links for the big octabox light I really want to buy it

  4. Sunburn Ramthem says:

    what about the light of the sun?

  5. Quna Maxamus says:

    "You don't need expensive stuff" – uses 250$ softbox for background gradient and and another parachute sized one as a main light.

  6. Eric Sorensen says:

    So, a two light set-up, but with hidden speedlites where?

  7. im4ubabe says:

    Great output with one key+a reflector only, regardless of backdrop litting. 
    Very soft while not that flat, either.
    i wish there was a bit more explanation about how to decide the lighting angles & heights, distance, & why the reflector was set asided diagonally..etc.
    – that's what makes the quality look professional or not,,i think 🙂

  8. N J Williams says:

    Great work, easy to understand techniques, keep them coming thanks!!

  9. Bobby Mathiwathanan says:

    Karl The King of Lights…amazing

  10. Juan Carlos Jaramillo says:

    Can you please tell me what kind of flash trigger did you use on the OMD?

  11. airscrew1 says:

    I use Bessel modifiers, they make some quality softboxes that fit Bowens or Elinchrom lights.  I wouldn't pay over inflated prices just for genuine Elinchrom modifiers.

  12. hector perez says:

    Great light setup, but didn't mention anything about the use that was given to the strobes there.

  13. LimitsEdits says:

    quick question, I am slightly confused. Is the flash coming from the octabox? As it's already acting as a light source without the flash. 

  14. Advection says:

    Were these results post processed or direct from cam?

  15. Nathan Kosky says:

    @Karl Taylor Photography Related. I am a Portrait and Fashion Photographer currently working with Natural Subject and Settings. I am going to buy a studio kit, do you recommend just using the umbrella lights or should I still operate my flashgun?

  16. dredavon says:

    Hello Karl, what are your opinions on the OM-D?

  17. Alastair Reid says:

    Hi Karl,

    What is the wattage on the lights?

  18. bonguStyle says:

    More studio shoots using the omd please karl. 😉

  19. Casual Observer says:

    I can't concentrate on what he is saying becuase Sophie is wayyyyyy hot!!

  20. Tim Tidball says:

    No mention as to where the lights are set up. AND we all like working with models, but how about an everyday person who comes in for a biz headshot??

  21. Tim Tidball says:

    Ungrateful rant?" and "sarcastic whining"? Do you take it personally when you get feedback on your videos?

  22. kishore kumar says:

    Hai bro canon7d or d70 which one better photography @ studio?

  23. jay ferson says:

    Hey karl nice video as always!! I  just got my first strobe kit , its a 300 + a 600 w aurora kit 1big softbox 1 umbrella 2 stands (600 Cad$ used, any opinion on these?) and I was wondering where to start. I have a few question.. First, I see you using gray backgrounds, i was thinking of getting a black, and a white and some gels. I was wondering, could i use a gray background lit enough to do high key with it?? Because using gels on a gray would get me darker colors than on white. And I'm getting broke and can only get 2 background paperrolls for now. I was also wondering if you knew setups using 2 strobes, 1 speedlight (sb700), which one to use on what?! Tips, tutorials, books, or whatever you got in your skill box would be really appreciated. Thanks !

  24. Insected Junk says:

    Allways liked Calr's work. Four years ago I watched his dvd's compulsively and here I am now. Getting money with my photos. Thanks Carl.

  25. tengoAireEnLaCabeza says:

    Karl muchas gracias por el video, es fantastico. Me encantaria ver un video de como llevas todo a las tomas en exterior, para ver el equipo que usas, la configuracion, seria super interesante. gracias

  26. mick peacock says:

    Hi Karl love your work, may i ask how do you set up your back light like what settings dose it flash or just left on. thanks

  27. PHRIMPON PHIMS says:

    karl is a great teacher but he does not give much lesson…

  28. MuertoInc says:

    Hello @Karl Taylor. Let me start by saying that you are a fantastic photographer and an inspirational teacher. Olympus m43 is a great little system, perfect for event photography because of the size and weight of the system not to mention the high quality of image it produces, and although I have used it on studio work, it is not ideal for it, however, I have produced some kick ass images with it.

    But you are absolutely right it doesn't matter much what camera and lens you use as long as you nail the exposure with your lighting. And speaking of lighting I see some trolls around here complaining you are using expensive lighting equipment but honestly, if you know what you are doing, any light light will do as long as you know how to work around the weakness of such setup. I mean, come on, those lights are in your studio for crying out loud, what do they expect you would use, LOL! Some people really!

    Any who, thanks for sharing your wisdom, thoughts and techniques, God Bless!

  29. Joe's Photography & Technology Channel says:

    Karl your an excellent photographer and have a really good eye. But bubba.. I think the viewers were talking cheaper. Order you a pair of Alien Bees from the USA, 320w/s moonlights are about $250 ea. Then some cheap china brand soft boxes for about $60 ea. I think the viewers were talking more in line of THAT price range.. Not the $2500 light kit you have there. If you want to get cheaper, 3 or 4 Yongnuo YN560 speedlites. 😉 Cheers…

  30. Arrested Images Photography and Design says:

    you make it sound cheap quoting the softboxes but you forget to mention your strobes….you have well over 2k worth of gear there pal….don't try and pretend this is some cheap set up…it isn't

  31. PendleHill Billies says:

    Sophie looks hot but a bit naffed off, Russian per chance?

  32. Karl Taylor says:

    @Erkut Gurun unfortunately your google + settings don't allow me to respond to your comment directly. However you can see a similar challenge i've undertaken using just two desk lamps and some tracing paper. I'll try and find the video and post it to this channel this week.

  33. gordon wharton says:

    like to see a speed-light setup

  34. GIFF India says:

    WHy did you installed light connection bottam of wall. say me its advantage, i am wainting for your repply, but your tips always inspirable

  35. Marianne B. Thériault says:

    Is this the octobox of the main light ?


    380$ us, which is around 500$ cad !

    Are we talking about the same product that is about 175 quid ?

  36. Thomas Tayeri says:

    Karl, thanks for this video. It seems that in addition to the two softboxes that are emitting continuous light, there is also a flash that is going off during your shoot. Where was the flash?

  37. danijelbrecelj says:

    where is the flash coming from?

  38. diesel828 says:

    Would you call that butterfly light in the situation you used here?

  39. Ainkawa Lima says:

    Lovely tutorials as always Karl 😉

    Would you do a tutorial on photojournalism or street photography?


  40. Nolan Akin says:

    Thank you so much for all your great videos. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge.

  41. Nabil Khan says:

    I see the two light set up, but where is the flash light coming from when you snap the photo?

  42. Tomas Pressel says:

    This man is a real world class professional. Not only talking about bullshit, like others on youtube. This man is working on upper level and with results on upper level.

  43. Mishonef1 says:

    Hey @karltaylor ! What are the two lights inside the two soft boxes? Would love to get the specs on them!

  44. Mark Harris says:

    I've learnt more off you than any course I've been on. You have a great talent for explaining the complex the simply and I thank you for that.

  45. Errol Edwards says:

    I just bought a 5D did quick shoot with two soft boxes..
    And keep getting a big black band along the bottom of the picture about a quarter of the shot???

  46. Danny Gooyer says:

    The model is very patient 😉 Why is she so far away from the background ?

  47. EloraBlue says:

    Honestly people, please try and understand the point of this video. The point is you can get an excellent image with a simple 2 light setup if you understand where to place the lights, how to design with light and how to pose and work with your model.
    You can use any decent softbox, any decent camera, any decent light source IF you know what the hell you're doing!!
    And those of you who don't know what the hell the difference is between a modelling light and the flash please get some of Karls' courses and learn something!!!!

  48. joe nick says:

    What and how much are the lights you are using in the soft boxes plus the flash trigger? A lot more expense I feel!

  49. BigmoDaco says:

    beautiful portraits, great job explaining the lighting, I want to master lighting, I am practicing everyday. thanks.

  50. José Campos says:

    to get that beautiful light on the background what f-stop did you setup?

    thank you for sharing.

  51. Fred C Williams says:


  52. El Sabrososki says:

    The Mind behind the lense. Nice

  53. andrewford80 says:

    Curious why you went with 1/80 shutter speed? I usually go for my highest sync speed to reduce any affect the ambient light will play in the exposure. So it's interesting to know why chose a longer shutter speed.

  54. Tyson Wright says:

    She is a tall girl,… !

  55. Col W. says:

    Perfect, thank you.

  56. scratch cards - comedy - dash cam - animals says:

    Fabian is beautiful, i think she should model

  57. Gerald Moncrief says:

    The very best thing about your channel is you never display bad work and try to pass it off as good. I'm not sure you can take a bad picture.

  58. James Vela says:

    You're awesome. Love the demonstration and actual knowledge you share to make the point about LIGHTING as the key.

  59. steve22933 says:

    Does it work with ugly chics

  60. Jmoud Amine says:

    Honestly I'd look for this explanation and i find it thanks man so what about Shows muscle portrait i mean the lighting

  61. blup331 says:

    I'm a beginner photograph, and it's here the best way to learn !!! love your videos ..

  62. Aces & eights AZ HV/AC,Sparky and guns says:

    So do you recommend strobe lighting

  63. Anthony Sforza says:

    Jaja… I-S-O. Yea, I'm one of those guys as well.

  64. Nano Pharaoh says:

    so where the 3rd flash coming from

  65. Lloyd Kenney III says:

    It's more about the photographer

  66. Phineas Lindbergh says:

    Great video Karl! Keep up the excellent work!

  67. MT Nguyen says:

    hi Karl – what's the power setting on the two lights? are they both metered at 6.3 like your camera fstop?

  68. Ruud the Diamond says:

    I would have taken a few pics of Fabienne, I think she is also a very pretty girl. I'd love to put a smile on her face.

  69. Devin Chaves says:

    Would the single big softbox look okay in the field? For instance shot pretty wide open with blurred office background?

  70. Louis Amore says:

    Nice and love your tutorials but we know its all about lighting at the end of the day, gear also means lights too 🙂 but still, just invested in my Broncolor Siros Ls and the Octa 75 and Broncolor strip, I really love these lights

  71. Uff Off says:

    I love karl taylor dont get me wrong. He's just a little out of touch with us poor folk when we say expensive equiptment. We mean your 400$ worth of aoftboxes and 1200$ lights powering them. Ive tried a few texhniques with the cheap stuff i have and its very hard ro get similar results. But eventually i get something satisfying and not so crappy. I learned allot from him so im like his biggest fan really. But he made me chuckle with the 200$ softbox comment. Hell mine was 30$ 😅

  72. Saff Michael says:

    Can't really judge quality of photo through a 1080p or less video. Is that compression banding from the camera or the video?

  73. beyrulez143 says:

    I'd like to ask if this images can be achieved using Nikon D3300 DSLR camera?? Thanks for the tip sir. and God speed!

  74. vincent lueng says:

    one light master XD

  75. Nancy Kossmann says:

    If you are only using the two lights, then what is your trigger controlling that is flashing?

  76. bienveqe says:

    A W E S O M E

  77. Edie Potgieter says:

    Fantastic video. Thank you so much Karl!

  78. Willene says:

    Thanks Karl, very informative. My camera, lens, lights and modifiers are very similar to what you used here, but I still frequently get the eye rolls with "oh, your shots come out perfect because of all the expensive gear you're using!"

  79. bhartwigutube says:

    Don't forget that you can buy budget softboxes if you just want to get a feel for it. I have some that cost me maybe $50 each and for what I am doing as a relative beginner they are totally suitable. Rather than big power strobes, I use speedlights – used Canon EZ strobes that do not work on new ETTL with my DSLRs. They cost me from $25 to $75 "used" – most looked like they had never been out of the pouch. I use Pocket Wizards, most of which were also used. I bought one set of PlusX but then bought some Plus II used. These also averaged $50 each. I have one MultiMax which, on its own, is not used to potential but drives the other triggers. So basically each softbox with speedlight and pocket wizard put me out of pocket $150. Add $50 for a light stand… $200 / light complete. Which in a small space, works fine. Light is light, and I am confident that Karl could do wonders above my images with my kit.

  80. Andrew farrington says:

    Bloody hell, Karl…how on earth do you put up with the whinging and passive aggressive bullies in the comments section?
    Great vids, keep up the good work…and BTW, I think Calumet/WEX will be doing a special Rhino-Hide (artificial of course) suit for YouTube content providers soon, so keep your eyes peeled..;)

  81. Adrian Gray says:

    Sorry, a stupid question, when you meter the light you use the idle lighting of the softbox, but when you shot you get a much higher lighting from the flash, so how is this calculated? does the light meter includes the flash final values?

  82. Mootpoint Jones says:

    Cross-over camera?

  83. Kibe Zangalewa says:

    I didn't hear anything for the first 3 minutes..thanks sophie 🙂

  84. srlkngl says:

    you didn’t mention the flashing flash… but thank you so much Karl…

  85. Kai S says:

    Ayy mate, perhaps you should use cheap speedlites ? the ones that costs $80 and cheap soft boxes? the ones that costs $20? We define cheap different

  86. Mark Hopkins Photo says:

    I can't believe all the comments regarding how pricey it is to get this type of studio set up. These same people probably cell phone photographers. He says right in the video you can use speedlites instead of studio strobes, but people still whining. Photography is about creativity, so if you can't get creative and figure out a less expensive way of shooting then too bad.

  87. Deon Hamilton says:

    Nice but you never talked about the lighting lol nice butterfly setup but most users don't even know about that this to me was not a tutorial, it was a guy showing off that he can get a good shot with two lights and two types of cameras.

  88. unguidedone says:

    garbage mac os browser

  89. groominator-magnetic equator says:

    What are your settings on camera and on strobes? I know how to set up, I need info on settings and finding it very difficult to find.

  90. onegrapefruitlover says:

    Let's use a budget setup today: Broncolor.


    Tnk U

  92. JRB Photography says:

    Not a helpful video for cheaper options 😂 don't think people mean the camera when they say expensive equipment. It's more all the other stuff that soon mounts up in price

  93. DudeGuy says:

    So when he said 2 lights and a cheap set up, he meant 2 grand worth of shit and two lights and a speedlite?

  94. Kevin Queen says:

    the gradient on the background its competing with the models shirt, but unfortunately you didn't give settings on the flag even though I can figure it out a beginner wouldnt

  95. Jeremy Williams says:

    Hey Karl, awesome video, love your concise delivery. Can I ask what the make and model of light you're using behind the Octabox please?

  96. fcolpz says:

    This is a bit confusing to me… Is this flash or continuous light? The two lights you showed seemed to be continuous but then a flash was triggered.

  97. Joe Durling says:

    Lots of people complaining about how expensive the lights, soft boxes, and stands are. Take a moment and think about what they are and what they do. A light stand is a vertical stick that you can attach a flash to. A broom handle in a bucket of dirt will do the job. Sure, Manfrotto is nice, but pros have used pvc, cement buckets, 2×4's, etc. Portable and convenient costs more. A soft box is a piece of cloth stretched over something. Doesn't really matter what. Make a frame out of whatever and stretch cloth over it. Or use an umbrella which is cheaper, smaller, and gets similar results (with different catch-lights). I've gotten decent shots using a paper towel and a wire hanger in front of a flash. Speaking of flashes, Yongnuo and older ones can run as cheap as $20 per unit.

    You can absolutely do what he's doing on a very low budget. Paying more makes it less of a pain in the butt to transport and setup.

  98. Tim Mowbray says:

    I admire Karl Taylor and all the work he has put into making his business successful. I find his videos interesting and helpful. It is true that the cost does all add up though but I think that is unavoidable to a degree. Photography isn’t a cheap hobby but I think he is saying that it isn’t all about expensive gear. I have a Neewer flash that was under £40 and works well for me and have noticed that there are some cheap camera brands out there. He has expensive gear because he works commercially for huge brands and earns a good living – I don’t because I work in a shop. That’s life!

  99. Alessandro Jimenez says:

    For a second I thought he was not going to show the pictures at the end xD

  100. Rolf Trachsler says:

    simple and affordable…Oh Man…

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