Tutorial: Simple Butterfly Portrait Lighting Setup Yields Beautiful Results

Butterfly lighting is one of the oldest techniques for lighting a subject. Named for the butterfly-shaped shadow that forms underneath the subject’s nose, this setup is a proven method to ensure your subject is well-lit in a pleasing manner.

To show off just how to go about creating this classic portrait light pattern, photographer Mark Wallace spent some time at CreativeLive sharing his workflow for setting up and capturing a portrait using this technique.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.15.33 AM

Along the way, Wallace explains why he uses the specific gear he does and what settings he’s using, noting that butterfly lighting is so appealing because of the quick setup and the fact that the lighting pattern works with almost any shape of face.

It’s a great little tutorial for newcomers to the portrait world, or really anybody who want to add another beautiful portrait lighting technique to their toolbox. So check out the walkthrough at the top and let us know in the comments if you have anything more to add.

(via Picture Correct)

  • Jeremy Madore

    Nice and easy tutorial – thanks!
    That said, he’s using a hot light, and his resulting image contained a lot of camera shake. Whoops!

  • dannybuoy

    Dude’s been drinking at lunch. Shaaaake

  • Federico Medina

    Looks exactly like the Paramount Lighting pattern. Soft/specular key light and some sort of fill coming from the same angle as the key light, but low enough to control the contrast ratio.

  • Greg Planchuelo
  • C Schel

    This is almost amateurish… an unpolished presentation.

  • mlevad

    I use this set up often with kids and it works great.

  • Andrea

    He is Mark Wallace, check AdoramaTV on Youtube. I’ve learned a lot from his videos.

  • jon

    Why was he blaming the gobo arm/head for the light sagging at 1:45? Seemed like it was his fault for not tightening it properly (or the fixture’s fault, really), not the metal rod…which didn’t rotate at all.

  • jon

    Looked as though he might have just been using the modeling lamp on his strobe fixture.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    There is a good 1:30 worth of info hidden in the 6:40 video.

  • C Schel

    Yes, I agree, there is some useful info in there. The entire video could have been less than 3 minutes long, if he was properly prepared.