It’s quite common for people to ask me about studio lighting. Typically they’ll ask about the minimum photographic kit they need to get great portraits. My reply is simple, “One light and a camera”. After all, the sun is only one light…
Here’s a selection of images taken using just one light. Most are in my portrait photography studio near Swindon, and the last one is taken on location using the “strobist” off-camera flash technique.
Here the single studio light is slightly below the subject’s eye line, and this gives a great edge light to her neck and face. There’s enough light reaching her right eye to give a good catch light, which lifts her eye nicely out of the shadow. The light was set up so nothing reached the background, hence it’s completely black.
This is using the same light but with a red gel on it. I asked the subject to turn her head a bit towards me. As a result of that very small movement, we now concentrate on her left eye instead. As with the previous image I’ve cropped it to a vertical letterbox shape. This gives a better line across the image frame.
I’ve moved my viewpoint so that I am looking straight down on her hair. It’s being lit in a glancing way so that the texture has been picked out very clearly. The vertical letterbox crop and off-centre composition with lots of dark space add mystery to the image.
This studio shot uses one light fitted with soft box, which acts as a light diffuser. The diffused light directly on her face gives even areas of light and shade, with very soft shadows It’s a completely different treatment to the previous images. I’ve reduced the colour saturation in Photoshop to give the right mood.
This final image is from a location portrait shoot in a disused quarry in the Forest of Dean. The light is coming from a single remotely-triggered flash off to the left. It’s going straight down the subject’s nose line. The unlit side of the large block of stone makes a great background to her face. The flash was quite close, and the area was fairly dark, so there’s no contribution to the exposure from the daylight.
So, you just need one light!
If you want to learn how to take more creative images, and to learn the composition techniques I’ve used here, why not book on to my “The Creative Eye” course near Wantage, Oxfordshire on Saturday 13th November?