Look Ma, No Stands! Clamshell Lighting with Platypod Ultra

Words and Photos by Larry Tiefenbrunn, CEO and Inventor of Platypod

Clamshell Lighting with Platypod Ultra

Do you have an interest in flash portraiture and studio lighting? Well, you’re in for a real treat if you’d like to attend the upcoming Kelby One Flash Photography seminar on November 17 and 18, 2020, featuring Scott Kelby and Joe McNally.  At 5:45 PM on November 17, I will be presenting ways to enhance your strobe experience using Platypods. Our spokesman, Larry Becker will be my cohost and I will be showing images from several top-notch professional photographers and will explain their setups.

One of My Favorite Setups 

One of the most flattering techniques in portrait and headshot lighting is the clamshell setup, also known as butterfly lighting, due to a telltale nasal shadow cast upon the upper lip. This can be accomplished with two lights, one above and one below the subject, with lighting ratios adjusted to diminish chin shadows and eye wrinkles. Alternatively, the lower light may be replaced with an EyeLighter or Catchlight reflector.

The units need to be placed squarely in front of the subject at approximately 45° angles above and below the face. The lower light or reflector can easily be positioned on a low-lying light stand.  Supporting the upper device poses a greater challenge. A straight stand will block the subject and a boom stand can sometimes be unwieldy or simply unavailable. If you do a lot of headshots, then the following set up may be enticing to you if your studio architecture allows.


My recipe includes the Platypod Ultra, a security cable with a 1/4”-20 ‏cable hook, a magic arm, my old and trusty monolight studio strobe with a beauty dish and white diffusion sock.

The latter part of the recipe can easily be supplanted with a speed light and an octa box. Instead of a lower light source, I use a catch light reflector on a simple light stand.

I screwed the Platypod Ultra into the side of one of the beams in my basement. The cable hook conveniently screws into one of the threaded holes in the Ultra and is further secured with a round nut that I removed from one of my Platypod spikes. If your situation allows, I would suggest hooking the security cable alternatively on to some other architectural feature or screw which would prevent anything from falling. Please place safety and security above everything else.

The magic arm has a threaded 1/4“ socket on one end and a 3/8” socket on the other. Screw the latter onto the titanium bolt in the Platypod Ultra. You should now be able to support most any lighting fixture with this set up and your floor is clear of light stands to block your view or take up floor space.


The two final images are right “out of the can”. There have been no adjustments made in post-processing.


I would like to thank our lovely model, Mina, for participating. She has put up with me and all my crazy projects for over 40 years of marriage!