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Master Soft Light: 2 Umbrellas, 1 White Wall

7/07/2024 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

In this video, Mark Wallace demonstrates how to create beautiful soft light portraits using just umbrellas and a simple white wall.

The key takeaway is that you don't need expensive softboxes and Beauty Dishes to achieve soft lighting. Even an umbrella can be a powerful light modifier.

Here's a breakdown of the steps involved:

  • Set up the key light: This is the main light that defines the look of the portrait. Mark uses a large, deep silver umbrella for this purpose. Silver umbrellas are great for reflecting a lot of light, but the specular nature of the reflection can make the skin look shiny.
  • Diffuse the light: To soften the light and reduce the specular highlights, Mark adds a diffusion panel to the front of the umbrella.
  • Position the key light: The key light is placed on axis with the camera, meaning it's directly in line with the camera lens. This helps minimize shadows on the model's face.
  • Add a kicker light: A kicker light adds a highlight to the opposite side of the face from the key light. This helps to create more dimension and separation. Mark uses a regular umbrella for the kicker light.
  • Position the kicker light: The kicker light is positioned behind and to the side of the model. It's important to make sure that the light from the kicker light isn't spilling into the camera lens.

With this simple two-umbrella setup, Mark is able to create beautiful, soft light portraits. The white wall behind the model helps to bounce some of the light back and fill in the shadows.

About Mark Wallace:

Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series “Digital Photography One on One” and “Exploring Photography”. In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2 year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe. Visit

Images and video via Mark Wallace