Student’s Butterfly Lighting Examples

I love teaching at the School of Photography run by my good friend Dennis Fahringer. I think it is the best schools of photography I have come across. Here is a link to learn more about the school.

This is my favorite light for headshots. We didn’t have my Tri-Flector that I love to use, so we used a softbox lower under the person’s chin.

This was the lighting setup. Main light 45º above the camera and the fill light below at 45º. The key here is to keep the camera lights and subject in the same positions. You can have them face a little left or right, but keep head straight forward to get that butterfly that is formed under the nose due to the main light.

Photos by Jedidiah Pearson

By staying with a lighting setup and just having the person move a little right and left with mixing your expressions and body language you can get a lot of nice photos.

Photos by John Davidson

For this assignment I didn’t have the photographers light the background. I did suggest the hair light up and directly behind the subject. Putting the stand behind the background let you hide it.

Photos by Sarah Klinke

If a person was bald I suggested to not use the hair light. if they had light hair maybe no more than one stop brighter than the main light. If dark hair you can often go as much as two stops brighter than the main light.

Photos by Valentine Huss

Now if you look close at the eyes you can see the main light and fill light.

This is even closer for you to see the eyes.

This is a tip for deciphering photos. Look in the eyes and you can usually see where the lights are place and the shape of the modifiers.

Here is my personal setup that I use most of the time for headshots of actors and models.

This is the second modification where I light the background.

This last setup is where I have enough space. The lights behind the background I turn on for white background and turn off for a grey background.


Keep It Simple Stupid – is what I have been taught through the years. Don’t over think things.

Hope this inspires you to use lights with your photos.