Easy Setup for Senior Portraits with Erik Valind

Whether or not a studio is available, setting up for a senior portrait can be easy and require very little! Let's dive into how we can achieve a great looking portrait that Mom or Dad will want to hang on the wall at home!


Our key or main light is going to be a speedlight on a boom just slightly overhead pointed towards our subject. Modifying this speedlight will be a Rogue FlashBender 2 XL Pro Lighting System with the XL Diffusion Panel attached. Using this combo allows the light to be contained so it isn't bouncing around everywhere, and in addition the Diffusion Panel will also cut down significantly on the specular highlights (usually seen as oily skin of "face sheen") on skin.

Our second light is going to be a speedlight on a light stand behind our subject pointed towards her hair and the back of her head. This speedlight will be modified with another XL Pro, but this time with the Strip Grid Diffusion Panel attached. This will keep the light soft, but directional and prevent it from spilling anywhere else except for where we want it. This light is going to be two purpose. First, it's going to accent the hair opposite of the main light, and second, it's going to separate her from the darkened background. This is especially recommended if you have a light-haired subject on a light background or a dark haired subject on a dark background. I rarely want subjects blending into the background, especially on a senior portrait like this.

To complete the image, we need to fill in some of the darker shadows created by the main or key light. Instead of bringing along another flash, or spending money getting another one, instead use a reflector below the model's face. Having the model hold the reflector keeps them engaged with the shoot and interested in what might be going on. 

This same set up isn't limited to a gray background we used in the video, it's incredibly versatile to use against brick walls, barn doors, white walls, any surface that might serve as an appealing (but not too distracting) background.

Resulting Image:


Erik Valind
Erik Valind


Erik Valind is a freelance photographer, born and raised on the Florida beaches, now living in New York City. Specializing in commercial lifestyle photography and environmental portraiture - airy and energetic imagery defines the style and vision of this top pro photographer. Inspired by the form, activity and diversity of people, Erik has lent his expertise to shape the public image of numerous personas and national brands.

1 Response

Berrie Smith
Berrie Smith

November 18, 2015

nice set up Eric

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