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Photographer Craig Beckta Shooting Tips

Clamshell Lighting with One Speedlight for Portraits

By Craig Beckta on May 21st 2015

If you shoot on location, then you are going to love the results you will experience with this simple and portable lighting setup. It’s not so much about the type of Speedlight you are using but how you modify the Speedlight to create a beautiful quality of light. In the video below, I reveal a Clamshell lighting setup with just one Speedlight for portraits.

Watch ‘Live Photoshoot Single Light Portraits | ClamShell Lighting Setup’

In the video above, you saw the Westcott Rapid Box Duo in action with the Cactus RF-60 Speedlight. To trigger the Speedlight, you can use a Cactus V6 trigger to remotely adjust the power settings of your Speedlight right from your camera. It makes things a whole lot easier for you if your Speedlight is mounted up high or it is out of reach from your shooting position.

For a flattering beauty look, start with your light in the butterfly lighting position, roughly 3 feet from your subject and then use a white reflector for subtle fill under the chin.

Photographer Craig Beckta

In the image above, I used a Westcott 5-in-1 reflector for fill. If you don’t have an assistant to hold the reflector for you, there is an optional stand to hold the reflector in place. The camera and lens I used for the image above was the Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 100mm Macro F2.8 lens set at F5.6 ISO 100 with a shutter speed of 160.

For the image below, I switched to the Canon 135mm f2 lens at F5.6, which is another great lens for portraits. It is tack sharp, and it’s a very flattering focal length for head shots.

Photographer Craig Beckta

Once you have your lighting in place, it is really just a matter of working the shot. Make sure you focus closely on the position of your subject’s eyes with the goal of having them look confident in front of your camera. Confidence comes from the eyes, but you also have to pay attention to the position of the mouth as well.

The expression is a crucial part of shooting portraits, so shift your mindset to making a personal connection with your subject and let your creativity flow.

Photographer Craig Beckta

This last shot above was also taken with the Canon 135mm f2 lens at F5.6, this time without the white reflector for fill. I used a single Cactus RF-60 Speedlight mounted in a Westcott Rapid Box Duo with two layers of diffusion.


If you have any questions about this series of images, please comment in the section below.

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Craig Beckta is a Professional Portrait Photographer based
out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada… Craig currently has over 65 Free Photography Tutorials on: YouTube

You can also check out more of Craig’s work at: Craig Beckta Photography on Facebook And on his Website

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Great article.

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    I will try these great techneques on my next shoots

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  3. Craig Beckta

    Thanks Ingrid,


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  5. Craig Beckta

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Ben Young.

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  6. Ben Young

    Great photos!
    I used this lighting set-up when taking some photos of my stepdaughter not so long ago. Both her and I were very pleased with the results.
    Good to see that professionals use this technique too. ;-)

    I have a Lastolite Octabox. I think it works well. The only other difference is I had her sitting on a stool at a table and placed the reflector on the table as I had limited means to hold it.

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  7. Craig Beckta

    Thanks Rafael,

    Craig Beckta

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  8. Rafael Steffen

    This is one of the best lighting articles published so far! Thanks so much! I always love the learn new lighting techniques that will elevate the level of my photography.

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