Lighting How-To: Portrait Photography

July 01, 2019

litra lighting how to portrait photography

Litra ambassador Carly Sullens is a fine art photographer, digital artist, and educator based in St. Louis, Missouri. No matter what type of project she is working on, she is fueled by the creative freedom that fine art photography calls for, and enjoys finding new ways to express herself through her work - both with photography and editing.

Carly specializes in portraits, which initially led her to Litra. She was using LitraTorch lights for her wedding photography, to help highlight details in wedding shots instead of using flash. But when she got her hands on her first LitraPro lights, she was able to take her creativity to an even higher level. Below, Carly gives us a behind the scenes look on two different style portrait photoshoots - a painted portrait shoot and a studio portrait shoot - using LitraPro lights and accessories. Check out her techniques and results!

Shoot #1 - Painted Portraits

litra lighting how to portrait photography

The Goal

When I took Morgan, the model, out into the cold, I knew we wanted to do a Little Red Riding Hood theme. I photographed wolves the weekend prior, and I knew I would do some sort of composite. So I had her do various poses with the cape on. Creating different poses with different lighting allows for more creative freedom when I begin to edit and do the composites.

litra lighting how to portrait photography

The Technique

Once I start a composite, putting multiple pictures together, the art flows in the moment. I don’t think too much about it ahead of time, most often it is just an idea. I let the image evolve as I work. I was trained as a painter before I became a photographer. I specialized in oils, acrylics and watercolor. Weaving my fine art training with my photography allows me to explore a different kind of medium. I like to push the boundaries of photography.

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In the Little Red Riding Hood piece, I wanted the focus to be on her, in a dark and not so favorable woods. What if she befriended the wolf and together they fought off what is dark and wants to harm us? What if we befriended our enemies? Would the path in a harsh world be easier? The light is a symbol bringing comfort, guidance, and warmth in the dark.

Shoot #2 - Studio Portraits

litra lighting how to portrait photography

The Goal

The LitraPro’s convenience and flexibility now make this light my main lighting system for portrait work. I was positive it would light up my model and give me control over the lighting, and it easily did.

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What surprised me was the ease of use, and the ability to control the color temperature and lumens gave me even more creative control. This allowed me to stay in the inspired moment with my model. Instead of stopping, tweaking my speed light or strobe, testing, tweaking again and then taking the photo.

litra lighting how to portrait photography

The Technique

Using LitraPro along with the LitraPro soft box is my new favorite combination for portraits. No longer do I have to lug around a huge soft box and speed light. The equipment begins to get heavy quickly especially for on location photo sessions. I found my favorite set up was having two LitraPros. One with the soft box and one with the honeycomb. This gave me the opportunity to add highlights and hair light to my subject.

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The LitraPro uses a 4 Barn Door configuration. This allows you to have control of the spill light and harsh light. The effect is more contrast and shadows. Which is a wonderful effect to use for portraits when you want a part of the subject to stand out more than the rest. This technique can create a very dramatic photo, with the highlighted area really standing out.

Why Carly Chooses Litra Gear

The more I used the LitraTorch continuous LED light the more I enjoyed having the creative freedom using continuous light. When I use speed lights and strobes I am burdened down by the bulk, weight, and accessories to soften the light and then hindered by figuring out the settings to get the lighting just right. With continuous light, I can see exactly how the light illuminates the subject as I experience it with my naked eye. This allows me to stay in a creative mode and work more efficiently.

Tips For Shooting With Litra Gear

BLUETOOTH: The Bluetooth control is very easy to use. Plus, you can pair up multiple LitraPros and group them to set the same color and light intensity or have each one with different settings all from the application. It works flawlessly every time. You can control the Kelvin and Lumens on both the app and on the LitraPro itself.

ACCESSORIZE: As a portrait studio artist I found the soft box, honeycomb, barn doors and color filter sets added increased value to the LitraPro, but would definitely recommend adding the soft box for portrait work.