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Arte Fotografia­ Professionale Latest News 21/01/2024


Writen by Wilson Santinelli

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Lighting and gear needed in portrait photography

  • Strobes and Modifiers. We absolutely must have two battery-powered monolights, I often use two 400 watts or two 600 watts. With strobes we also need two modifiers: a smaller one for backlight and a larger one for main light.
  • Neutral Density Filters for the lens. They are indispensable when we have bright lights, we can reduce shutter speed for correct sync with our strobe. I use ND 2 or ND 4 stop filters reduction, sometimes even the polarizer filter.
  • Neutral Density gel for strobe. No, I’m not crazy! Sometimes we have to take pictures without the sun and very low ambient lights, so we have to reduce the power of our strobe. In these cases, I put ND 4 handmade caps on my strobe, so I can take shots even with high ISO.
  • Lens. I love to use my 35mm 1.4 when the setting is wide. However, I often use 50mm 1.2, rarely the 85mm 1.4,  the subject is too decontextualized.

Using strobes in daylight

It is said that with nice sun and nice daylight the strobe light is not necessary, maybe in most cases is correct, but if you want to become a professional portrait photographer you have to dress your subject with the best light he needs. This technique will improve your photography!

Main Light

First of all, I put my ND4 on my lens. This Neutral Density filter will decrease the light that will pass through the lens, that gives you the possibility to work with sync shutter speed, big aperture (if you want) and all the powers of your strobes light that you want.. Now you can manage the light on your subject, often I use an octabox as a key light. It has a soft light and gives nice reflections on the eyes. You have to put it with the correct angle respect the face, this is most important to highlight the strengths and hide the flaws. Pay attention, the main light must be ever a strobe light, start with a low ambient light on the subject is fundamental. 

Edge Light

If you are a contrast lover, you have to use an edge light positioned behind the subject. Sometimes, when it is possible, directly with the light of the sun and sometimes we have to use a secondary strobe light with double power compared to the main light. In this case using a hard light (direct or with a small softbox) is better, so we can recreate nice sunlight.

Camera Settings

Obviously I start with aperture value, I have to decide how important the background will have. Big aperture if you want more subject, small aperture if you want to give relevance to the background too. In portrait photography this choice can change the message.

Knowing our camera is important. If you want to use your strobe with the maximum potentiality and the better light, you must know the right shutter speed sync of your camera.

For example in my Canon 1DX Mark III shutter speed sync is 1/250 but other cameras have 1/200, 1/125…

I usually work ever with shutter speed sync when there are strobes light, also in low natural light.

I prefer to raize the ISO rather than move setting time.


Each Photographer has his technique, if you want to convey your style through portrait photography, you must use all the resources you have available.

Using power strobe in daylight or direct sun can give you an advantage over the competitors.

So, Remember this:

Check the light, start to use ND filters ( when the light is too bright), manage correctly shutter speed and ISO, find the right position and the best power of your strobes, after that… shot, shot, shot!


Hi, my name is Wilson Santinelli

I specialize in corporate photography and commercial photography in all their forms: Food Photography, Reportage, Events, Portraits, content for websites and e-commerce, Still life, fashion, and advertising.

My slogan. Photography as a form of language, lifestyle.

Perception of a mood.