When thinking about, and setting up, lighting for portraits the main focus is quite rightly on ensuring that your subject is well lit. Of course, this should be your number one concern.
But, an often neglected part of the lighting set up is the background and what to do with it. This applies in the studio and on location. Good background lighting can have a profound effect on the overall impact of a portrait. It can turn a shot from average to great.
A dull, flat background can be rather boring, in some situations that may be good. But on other occasions you may want to use the background to give more life to yours shot.
The above shot was created using two Nikon SB600 Speedlights, but any flashes will do. They were triggered wirelessly, off camera. The method of doing that is not important and there are multiple ways of doing it.
The lighting set up was as follows:
Model standing approximately one metre away from a fetching red wall.
One flash, on a stand, next to the model, at the height of his hip, on a wide(ish) zoom setting, 1/2 power.
Another flash, on a stand, to the left and above camera, fired into a reflective umbrella, on 1/4 power.
Obviously these settings may need to be altered for different flashes, other colours of wall etc, but they should give you an idea.
The small amount of relection of the red wall looks good, as does the gradient from light to dark on the wall. So, overall a simple way to create an interesting portrait with just two flashes.
The above shot was created on our Location Lighting Workshop.