Use Focal Length and Clever Lighting to Create More Dramatic Portraits

You don't need a ton of gear to produce dramatic portraits. By using focal length and lighting to your advantage you really can add so much more power to your images.

The guys over at Westcott are back once again with another insightful video featuring commercial photographer and educator Joel Grimes. The first thing Grimes explains is how he likes to use a wide-angle lens in the range of 24-28mm which may not be a traditional focal length for portraiture, but we see in the images he creates how using something so wide can actually help enhance the physique of his male subject. It should be pointed out that this effect may not be the most flattering for some body shapes so although this is a great tip, use it wisely.

The video goes on to show how minor adjustments to the collapsible beauty dish used can add drama as Grimes raises the light over the model to get that sweet spot with the shadows. In the final set up we see how the addition of two strip lights with egg crates on the front can really help to not only give the image more dimension but also allows a black suit to stand off a black background with ease.

I always find it fascinating to watch fellow photographers on a shoot and Grimes really does explain well his thought process while he is working. It's great to hear why he is adjusting the powers and the reasons behind the decision to move lights. It doesn't matter if you're just starting out or have been shooting a while, this video is a must watch for those who want to add drama to their pictures with a few quick and effective setups.

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15 Comments

Anonymous's picture

I love these kinds of portraits but, due to their intended nature, rarely get to do them with my subjects. Watching these videos gives me a little "fix" but also a little depression. :-/

Paul Adshead's picture

I hear you Patrick, I think you just need the right model to make it happen. All the best!

Lee Christiansen's picture

That Westcott is a lovely thing and I had a look at one at a UK trade show.

I'd love to know why, (after UK import tax and delivery to UK), it still works out a clear £100 cheaper to buy from the US than buy direct from a UK distributor or dealer. Crazy.

Westcott need to have a rethink for their non US market. £450 for a Profoto mount version - no thanks. £350 for the same... now I'm thinking yes...

Paul Adshead's picture

Yeah that's crazy and happens all too often. I'm from the UK too...

Simon Anderson's picture

Thats because we always get ripped off which is annoying, i think we are seen as an easy touch

Paul Adshead's picture

I'm not entirely sure why we get hit so hard this side of the pond Simon. It is frustrating to see something priced at $4000 in the States to then be converted to £4000 here in the UK...

Lee Christiansen's picture

At this stage if I want one, I'll buy from the US and just wait an extra 4 days compared to UK delivery.

Perhaps if we all did that, the UK would get better deals insisted by the importers. I spoke to the UK importers of Westcott, and they just didn't seem to care.

I've written directly to Westcott to complain - maybe we should all do it. It only takes a few minutes.

Paul Adshead's picture

It's worth a try for sure Lee. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is common in many brands...

Simon Anderson's picture

Its all part of the clever promotional advertising rip off, if you don't know much about exchange rates and tax ,looking at two figures that look the same, one in pounds and one in dollars you can be fooled into thinking you are getting a good deal or a similar deal to the US of A when in fact you are paying over the odds.
It hurts but we still pay it to get what we want.

Sam Foto's picture

Ok, let me address this pricing differential between both sides of the Atlantic: It all comes down to wholesale quotas and distribution. It's a well-known fact that the US has the lion's share of any product sales. Simply, the larger quantity a distributor orders the larger the discount he gets and passes it on to retailers/customers. Case in point: Australia & New Zealand. I'm sure the number of photogs pales in comparison to just any 1 State in the US. Add to that the VAT as well, and voila.

Lee Christiansen's picture

But when it is cheaper for an individual to buy just one unit, have it shipped individually in just 5 days, and pay the full import tax... to find it cheaper than buying from a UK distributor, (and by £100) then something is very wrong wit the equation.

For the record, I'm STILL waiting on Westcott's reply as to why this is happening.

Sam Foto's picture

Lee, that's exactly my point-I assume you bought from a US distributor who orders larger quantities than his counterparts in the UK, hence, bigger discount.

Simon Anderson's picture

I understand what you are saying and if right why am I allowed to buy grey market goods from abroad, I bought a Nikon D750 and saved hundreds of pounds, this is controlled by the companies who sell the products to gain maximum profit from certain countries

Paul Adshead's picture

The basic point Sam is getting at is bulk buying. While true, there is MUCH more going on with the price differences than that imo...