Portrait Photography Lighting Trick – Ballerina Backlight Example

In this post I want to share a cool Portrait Photography Lighting Trick that one of our Ez-Flash-Photography students submitted on Facebook. It totally caught my eye and is the perfect example of using light to create unique portraits. The Ballerina Portrait was created by Debbie Perkins Qualls. I asked her to explain how she created this shot and what equipment she used.


Here’s all the details from Debbie:

  • Backdrop Used: Black Muslin
  • Subject was 4 feet from the BG and her back to the camera.
  • 1- light with large 47″ Octobox to the side and between the subject
  • 1- light using a 12″x36″  strip box on the other side at similar angle.

Note: If I did this again I would move her and the lights away from the BG more, because I did get a little bit of spill from the  light on the BG.

Camera Details & Settings

  • Camera Used: Nikon D90
  • Lens Used: 50mm lens
  • Camera Settings: 5.6 f stop, iso 200, shutter speed at 1/125, wb was on my preset.

Now honestly…I did not meter on this shot, it was an experiment, so I started with my lights set at what I normally use for a session which is main 5.6 and fill at 8. I took a shot and it was too bright, so I just lowered the strobes themselves. Now because the subject and lights were closer to the BG, I did get a little bit if spill of light…so I adjusted in levels just a little bit (thank you Bekkie for that help) and I got the richer black and a nice lighting that outlined her profile.

Here’s the actual diagram of the lighting set-up she used for this shot.

Feel free to print this out and try to create this lighting style.

So…there you have it. That’s a simple lighting set-up that can add some flare to your portraits and I’m sure your clients will go crazy over this style. I know there’s a loyt our subscribers that are doing dance studios and this can get peoples attention and allow you to be different.

As I said earlier. Debbie is one of our Ez-Flash-Photography Students. This class is taught by me and Joe Marshall (The Professor). It’s a 3 week online workshop that will teach lighting basics, but also some advanced stuff too. Plus…you get access to a private Facebook Group where students (like Debbie) share ideas with each other.

If you want more information about our EzFlashPhotography class…Click Here!

As always…leave us your questions and comments below.

Have fun and Happy Shooting :-)

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