Photography - One Light for Portraits?!

By: David Keffen

There's a lot of tosh written about decent studio portraits always requiring five lights. Yes, sure most of us use them from time to time, but it is altogether more satisfying to see how few we really do require to nail all the required elements.

We have been experimenting with one light for quite a while. Perhaps an obvious choice for low-key lighting. We will often use a single side facing main light with a black panel between it and the white backgorund to achieve some quite pleasing results. Add a reflector on the other side of the subject to brighten up those really dark shadows, and it starts to look good.

Low-key sorted, but what about high-key? Impossible? Certainly not! The trick here is to place the subject close to the background and get the main light in close with a largeish softbox (1m square or larger) and angling down at around a 30 degree angle. Make sure you install reflectors all round the subject. Use one as a kicker, one as a hair light and one either side of the subject to get rid of the tell-tale shadows on the background and hey-presto....high-key lighting.

Not convinced?

Try it.

Yes, sure there will be quite a bit of fiddling around with exposure and reflectors. We would tend to use silver as gold can give uneven colour temperature issues and white may be a little flat with only one light source.

The point I'm trying to make is that although most of us use multiple lights, it doesn't have to be that way. If a photographer is just starting out in portraiture, he/she doesn't need to feel hampered by not having huge amounts of kit.

Many of the world's greatest photographers were initially unable to afford to buy much equipment and had to improvise - often leading to some of the most iconic images of the twentieth (and possibly the twenty first) century.

If I'm truly honest, I normally prefer to work with four or five lights, as it allws me to build more depth into the shot, but it doesn't hurt us to experiment from time to time.

by David Keffen Wedding Dresses

Photography
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