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5 Great Ways to Use an Octabox for Portraits

Photo of octabox lighting

Octaboxes are such a staple of studio lighting it’s easy to take them for granted. But are you getting the most out of these eight-sided lighting modifiers when shooting portraits?

If not, we advise you to take a look at the pro lighting techniques tutorial from photographer Miguel Quiles below. In the video, Quiles shares his five favorite ways to use an octabox for portraits.

“Octas have the ability to revolutionize your portrait photography so let’s take a look at five different ways you can use them to take stunning images,” he says.

(Editor’s note: This tutorial is part of a series on lighting from Quiles. Previously he shared five classic techniques for using a beauty dish in portrait photography.)

Technique #1: Big Flat Light (BFL)

“The idea is to get the biggest octa that you have and place it directly behind you facing straight at your subject. Having the octa right behind me might appear to be blocking the light but what’s amazing here is how the light actually wraps around me and beautifully lights [my model].”

Technique #2: Overhead Fill

“For this set-up, I’ll take a large octa and place it just above my subject’s head. With the large octa overhead providing a nice soft fill, I added a second octa as my main light to bring up the exposure on her face.”


Technique #3: Back Light Bounce (BLB)

“This next one I’ve used a lot over the years to create a natural light look using studio lighting. The idea here is to take an octa, which in this case is a smaller, 26-inch version and place it behind your background. Then you’ll want to place white V-flats in front of your subject or if you have a white wall that could work fine too.”

Technique #4: Butterfly-ish

“This is a butterfly-style lighting using a large octa. Having such a large light source relatively close to your subject’s face will give you a soft skin effect in-camera, which saves a bunch of time in post-processing.”

Technique #5 Clamshell

“Clamshell lighting using two lights gives you the ultimate flexibility since you can dial the power of the fill light to taste. Here I use the smaller octa with the Westcott FJ400 to add the slightest little bit of fill. It barely shows up in the catchlights but the impact on the overall image makes this one of my favorite setups of all time.”


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