There is a temptation to go overboard on portraits. I know — I do it all the time, just for the fun of it. But sometimes paring it all back and going for classy, yet simple portraits is its own reward.

Keeping things simple

I adore doing totally over the top creative portraits; they are loads of fun. The costumes, the hair and makeup, the props and accessories, the staging … I adore it. But clients don’t necessarily want that. Sometimes they just want simple, classy portraits that can be used for business, social media, personal branding and more.

It doesn’t mean these aren’t gorgeous portraits, just simple and allowing your subject to shine. In this studio session I pretty much shot with two lenses Tamron 28-200mm telephoto zoom lens (yes, a zoom lens) and my Sony 85mm f/1.4. I have two cameras so I had a lens on each camera and just switched between the two.

Simple background

I used a simple white seamless paper background. It’s easy to install and use and is wrinkle-free, but be careful with heels, as it can be easily damaged. It gives a lovely crispness to your images and makes your subject stand out.

I have a dark charcoal paper backdrop, too (not featured here). Both backgrounds are 9-by-36 feet. You can, however, get them in different sizes for your needs.

Set the scene

I used a two-light setup using two Godox Wistro 400 Pro. I love these as they run on batteries, so there are no cords. I had a 36-inch octobox as my main light and a 16-inch beauty dish for my fill light. The added bonus of a white background is it also acts as a reflector.

Alternatively, if none of your light hits the backdrop, it can become quite dark. I could have also used a separation or rim light, but chose not to.

Studio setup

Check your settings

Once you have your scene styled and lights set, it’s time to check everything is ready. I am usually doing all this while the client is in hair and makeup. My Godox Wistro 400 Pros were on 32 power, I had my Sony a7R III on Manual mode, ISO 200, 1/125s and focal length ranged from 32mm–65mm (that’s where a zoom lens comes in handy). Using my light meter I confirmed my aperture at f/4. I also used my gray card to set my white balance.

Simple wardrobe

This shoot was inspired by Madonna’s 1990 Vogue video clip, so we went with a black suit, pants, vest and jacket. We also added a little flirty by not wearing a shirt under the jacket. The only jewelry worn was a simple pair of drop diamond earrings and simple black heels.

Simple hair and makeup

My hair and makeup artist Em Marietta did an amazing job with the vintage-styled finger waves, we decided to keep the makeup fairly simple and added a pop of color with a classic red lipstick.

Keep it simple and stylish

Simple props

We also used a black hat and a soft gray ottoman … that’s it.

Credits: Model Miss Fairy Floss (Jess), HMUA Em Marietta