I'd like to recreate the lighting setup from this picture:


The question is: How do I do it?

My guesses so far:

  • Sun from above and behind the model, slightly to the right
  • Big softboxes with strong flashes from left and right

What do you think?

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ To my untrained eye that just looks like ambient light from a slightly overcast sky... \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2011 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ElendilTheTall no, that can't be it. background and the highlights on the hair on the right suggest a clear sky, but then her face would be much darker. \$\endgroup\$
    – ffunk
    Mar 30, 2011 at 10:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmmm... then perhaps a late afternoon with the sun as you describe, with maybe a reflector to light the front. I'm not getting 'flash' personally. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2011 at 10:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ true, that could be it. it would have to be really big, though, to create such a soft light. \$\endgroup\$
    – ffunk
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ You get a big soft light in the golden hour from the sun bouncing off the ground and everything else around, due to the direct light being absorbed and further scattered by clouds, the reflected light is a lot lot brighter than at midday. I don't think a reflector was necessary for this shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


My money would be on unadulterated ambient light. Once you learn to decompose studio light, you see it everywhere in natural images, however it is possible to overanalyse.

Late evening sun gives you the highlights you see in addition to filling in the shadows light a softbox. It may be the case her face was lightened in PP. It also gives you the same bokeh as this image when shining through trees.

If there were softboxes left and right you'd see their specular reflections in her glasses and eyes. In particular I would expect a strong white line where her eyeglass lenses curve at the extremes. The reflections could have been photoshopped out, but there are still some reflections in her eyes which looks like light coming through trees which makes you wonder why those would have been left in. Finally if I were shooting a model with glasses in the golden hour I certainly wouldn't introduce any extra lighting as that's simply more work all round!

I've shot in similar conditions with similar results. I'll see if I can dig out some images. Edit: here's an image with strong highlights and softly lit faces, no extrnal lighting:

Finally, where did this image come from? Could you ask the photographer how it was shot?

  • \$\begingroup\$ After so many people pointed in the 'no lighting setup at all' direction, I'll mark this question as answered. Thanks to everyone who shared their opinion, I'll try it for myself on the weekend. \$\endgroup\$
    – ffunk
    Mar 30, 2011 at 11:16

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