Lighting: Keeping it Simple = Keeping it Classic

Glyn Dewis: When Lighting Portraits, Less is More

Over the (roughly) 12 years that I’ve been involved in the Photography Industry I’ve most definitely grown to appreciate that LESS is MORE.

I think like most photographers I’ve collected so much kit but when I really look at what gets used on a regular basis, most sits on the shelves gathering dust as my own style favours a single light set up used in the Rembrandt Lighting Style as in this recent portrait of friend, Dave.

Dave Beesley

Of course it wasn’t always like this as I’ve experimented with multiple light set ups but it was when I started looking closer at work of the greats such as Annie Leibovitz (one of my all time faves) that I saw that simple, classic lighting not only produces beautiful results but is ultimately timeless.

Anyway the point of this post isn’t to go over how I developed my style because I’ve mentioned that plenty of times before and have written about it in my most recent book Photograph Like a Thief (hint, hint 🙂

What I wanted to do here was to give you a look at the simple lighting set up and kit that I used for this portrait of Dave. I’m also considering doing a YouTube LIVE Broadcast tomorrow (Tuesday) talking through the lighting in more detail and maybe taking questions on it plus the post production…what do you think?

So let’s take a look at the lighting set up…

Glyn Dewis Photography

We did this portrait in Dave’s living room because of the small footprint all the kit took up (using the Manfrotto Boom to hold the Gravity Backdrops canvas background meant no need for 2 light stands and background support)

I absolutely love this simple, classic lighting style and how it lends itself to all manner of portraits and locations. Actually on that note I think it’s worth mentioning that if you’re struggling to add images to your portfolio, choose one lighting style and stick with it. Don’t feel that all your pictures are going to look the same because it’s the person, the location, the styling and so on that makes pictures different too.

Glyn Dewis Photography

My advice would be to choose a lighting style and stick with it for at least 20 pictures. Then when you’ve done it this many times it’ll be second nature. When you’re taking a portrait you’ll be doing what you should be doing…chatting with, building a rapport and helping your subject to relax so that you can get the very best, natural images. Does this make sense?

Now, on this note I’m now looking to work on a new style influenced by another of my favourite photographers Yousef Karsh…

Yousef Karsh

For this series of images I’ll be working on the differences will be producing black and white images and introducing an additional light but more on this later.

Right I’ll make a move but in the mean time if you do think a YouTube LIVE discussing the lighting and post production with maybe chance for questions would be a good thing, then let me know in the comments below.


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  • Cory Hultquist

    I would love to see the lighting set up in three dimensions, maybe a walkthrough from setup to post processing. Also your backgrounds are great I would like to get some maybe include that type of stuff in the video too with links etc.
    Great work, really great.

  • Kent Lehmkuhl Skjønnemann

    Would be nice with a live on this topic 🙂

  • Glyn Dewis

    Will be done Kent…cheers

  • Glyn Dewis

    No worries Cory 😉

  • Oscar Masciandaro

    The most important part of the setup seems to be that (per the lighting diagram) the main light is actually pointed AWAY from the subject. Using the twilight part of illumination rather than dead on (like a spotlight) is a much more subtle and refined effect.

  • Glyn Dewis

    Absolutely Oscar; my style is to feather it quite extreme which gives a beautiful soft light

  • Craig Sperring

    A Live YouTube broadcast would be awesome.

  • Anthony Crothers

    Absolutely, would love a live broadcast of this set up. Having seen the larger image of Dave I love it even more. You’ve managed to capture a brilliant portrait, he looks noble, content and distinguished. Nice work buddy.

  • Kenny Hickey

    Always great to see other photographers work and even more so when they are prepared to share their expertise..well done Glyn.
    A live show would benefit a lot of the togs out there…Kenny ps… beautiful portrait of Dave

  • Glyn Dewis

    Will be done online on YouTube tonight mate:

  • Glyn Dewis

    No problem mate; doing one tonight (7th Nov)

  • Glyn Dewis

    Thanks so much mate…good of you to say that about Dave. In the short time I’ve know him I can honestly say he’s such a great guy with an attitude to aspire to. Oh and yes re the YouTube LIVE 😉

  • Kenny Hickey

    Hi Glyn ..I will be tuning in tonight and really looking forward to it. I have two current websites both I am building now and adding images daily. One a wedding site and the other a corporate site. Have a look at me delegates page which most are lit with 4 or 5 little light pods from a distance..most of these are assignments in Greece. hear is the page link just for your interest :
    Catch you later and thank you…Kenny

  • Kent Lehmkuhl Skjønnemann

    I do have a little request or question if you like.
    I have rogue flashbenders, but I have some problems to achive same result, I tried alot, but nothing,
    The retouch I can, but do have some video’s on how to achive this kind of photo.

  • Glyn Dewis

    Kent all I can say is it’s all about practice mate. Get yourself a mannequin head so you can practice any day, any time mate.

  • Glyn Dewis

    Cheers Kenny

  • Kent Lehmkuhl Skjønnemann

    Yes, I saw your broadcast yesterday on YouTube, I became a lot smarter too 🙂