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One very popular variation of portraiture is the full-length portrait. Many high school graduation portrait photographers are offering the full-length portraits in their packages. This style of shooting opens up possibilities for expressive posing and can result in some very fun shots. The same format is also popular in fashion photography. The key to successfully shooting full-length body shots is to have a light source that is able to cover the subject head-to-toe. This lesson will show how to shoot a full-length shot in the studio using strobe lights to deliver a large light source.

(Click on any image below for an enlarged view.)

Topics Covered:

  • Setting Up the Background
  • Setting Up the Main Light
  • Positioning the Main Light
  • Setting Up the Camera and Tripod
  • Entering the Camera Settings
  • Adding a Fill Light
  • Adding a Separation Light

Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Accessory Heavy Duty Swivel
  • Photoflex Boom
  • Photoflex BoomStand
  • Photoflex LiteDome Large 36x48x25
  • Photoflex LitePanel 77x77" Aluminum Frame
  • Photoflex LitePanel 77x77" Fabric Translucent
  • Photoflex LitePanel Accessories
  • Photoflex Octoconnector
  • Photoflex OctoDome3 - 5'
  • Photoflex WhiteDome Medium 24x32x17
  • Quantum Qflash T4d


Setting Up the Background

We used a standard 12' roll of white seamless paper as our background. In our studio, we use the white seamless often, so we have our paper roll on a pulley system that can be easily raised or lowered.

Instead of using a pulley system like ours, you can use a light stand at each end of the paper roll to support a metal rod bridging the two stands. The paper roll can slide over the metal rod. Then the height of your background can be set by adjusting the height of your light stands.


The seamless roll was extended to the front of our set and the edges were taped to the floor. Then the roll of seamless paper was raised to about eight feet (figure 1).

In this set up we see sections of card board placed on top of the background paper. In the biz we call these “walk-ons”, and they are set on the background during the set up process so that we don’t mark up the clean white paper. Once we have the lighting set and the model placed where we want her, we will remove the walk-ons before we shoot the final shot.

Figure 1


Setting up the Main Light

For our main light, we used the Quantum Qflash T4d strobe light head in a Photoflex 7-foot OctoDome3 soft box.

NOTE: Make sure the power cord is not plugged into a power source when inserting the flash tube.



Now the Heavy Duty Swivel can be attached to the LiteStand. Place the bottom of the swivel onto the brass post of the LiteStand. Tighten the swivel's locking knob to the post (figures 2 and 3).



With the Quantum strobe head set up and the Tilt Swivel Mount in place, we can assemble the OctoDome.


Figure 4

Since we are using a large soft box, we recommend that the connector be attached to the stand directly. This will make the set up much more stable and put the stress on the connector not on the light.

To attach the connector to the stand, install the brass stud (included with the swivel) into the threaded hole on the connector (figure 4).

Once you have installed the brass stud, assemble the soft box in to the connector. Then install the stud on the connector into the top of the swivel and stand assembly (figure 5).

Figure 5


With the soft box secure on the stand and swivel we mounted the strobe head onto the connector. Now attach the cowl to the Velcro on the back of the OctoDome.



We have chosen to use a radio slave unit to sync the camera and the lighting for this lesson. First connect the unit to the flash and set it to receive, then attach the sending unit to the cameras hot shoe and switch it on (figures 8 and 9).



Positioning the Main Light

We are now ready to set the main light, with the power set to full on the flash unit we placed the OctoDome to camera right and about three feet from the subject or just out of our camera frame. Notice that we used a light source that is larger than our model. This ensures that there will be adequate light coverage over the entire subject (figures 10 and 11).



Setting Up the Camera and Tripod

We used an OlympusC-8080 digital camera mounted on a Bogen 475B tripod with a Bogen 468MGRC4 Ball Head.

The Bogen 475B is a good heavy duty tripod. Attaching a 468MGRC4 ball head gives us a solid yet easy to position camera platform.



The C-8080 uses CompactFlash and the xD media for recording images. We used a Lexar 1G (gigabyte) 80x CompactFlash media card for this photo shoot. This is an excellent card to use on a photo shoot. This card will hold about 40 images using a high-resolution TIFF mode file format. The 80x refers to the writing speed of the media card. An 80x card will write exposures very fast, minimizing the wait time between exposures.

With the camera set up on the tripod and our main light in position, we set the camera to the following:


Figure 12

Our initial exposure was shot using a shutter speed of 1/60 second @ f/16, which resulted in a very good exposure value. An underexposed shot could be remedied by moving the main light closer, increasing the power on the main light, or changing the exposure settings on the camera.

Figure 12 shows the results we got with our first exposure using only a main light.

While the exposure and the coverage of light are good, the lighting can be improved by adding a fill source to open the shadow areas on the left side of the subject.


Adding a Fill Light

We wanted to add a fill light to this scene that would be very soft. A double-diffusion technique was used to build our fill light.

Our light source was another Quantum Qflash connected to a Photoflex Large LiteDome (3' x 4' face). This light was mounted to a Photoflex LiteStand 2218. The power on the second Qflash was set to 1/2 power.

We placed the 77” x 77” LitePanel with the tranlucent cover to the left side of our set and then set the large soft box behind it to create the double diffusion effect we want (figures 13 and 14).



With our fill source in place we are ready to make our next exposure, there were no adjustments made to our camera settings.


Figure 15 shows the result shot using a main light and a double-diffusion fill light.

Figure 15


This result shows some of the effect we wanted, but it is not enough fill for the look we want in this shot. To fix this, we simply moved the soft box closer to the LitePanel. We will still get the double diffusion effect while increasing the amount of light on the shadow side of the subject.


Figure 16

This shot shows the Large LiteDome light assembly moved in closer to the diffusion screen (figure 16).

Now we see the look we want with the details of the subject coming out. We have a brighter, more open look to our lighting and the same effect on the model; she seems brighter and happier (figure 17).

Figure 17


Adding a Separation Light

The last light we will add to our set will be a hair or separation light. For this task we have chosen the WhiteDome because this light will serve a multi purpose in this lesson.

The WhiteDome is an omnidirectional light source that can be configured in many ways by applying the included side skirts. For this lesson we will install the front skirt to block light from the hitting the lens and the front of our set, yet still allowing light to strike the model and the background. This set up makes the light source both an hair light and a background light in one. We assembled our Medium WhiteDome, and attached it to a Boom and BoomStand. We then installed a third Qflash set to 1/2 power and placed it over and just behind our subject (figures 18 and 19).



Again, we needed to make no adjustment to the camera settings before we made our next exposure.


Figure 20

Figure 20 shows the result with our finished light set up. This shot uses the main light, the double diffusion fill light, and the separation (hair) light.


Figure 21 shows a series of comparison shots from each lighting setup in our progression.


Figure 21


Here are some outtakes from the shoot showing alternate poses we tried (figure 41). Remember that a big advantage of full length portraits is the ability to pose more playfully.


Figure 22


This set can work for most any shooting, but is best suited for fashion. With the large light source and the strobes we have more freedom for the subject to move around without moving out of the lighting set-up.


Equipment Used:
You can click on the blue links below for more info.

Lighting Equipment

  • Photoflex Accessory Heavy Duty Swivel
  • Photoflex Boom
  • Photoflex BoomStand
  • Photoflex LiteDome Large 36x48x25
  • Photoflex LitePanel 77x77" Aluminum Frame
  • Photoflex LitePanel 77x77" Fabric Translucent
  • Photoflex LitePanel Accessories
  • Photoflex Octoconnector
  • Photoflex OctoDome3 - 5'
  • Photoflex WhiteDome Medium 24x32x17
  • Quantum Qflash T4d

Recommended Links

  • To learn more about Photoflex equipment, go to www.photoflex.com
  • For more tips and techniques on lighting and cameras, visit www.webphotoschool.com
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