Single Light Techniques – Part 1

For those photographers who have visited my studio before through a studio creative night, a 1-2-1 session or to help out on shoots would have already heard me rave about using single light set ups.

I’ll rewind a little here before I go too far into the technique and talk a little about why I like them. Are you ready for this? I am lazy. If I can create a stunning image for a client portfolio or magazine editorial with the least amount of faffing around as possible. I will.

I’m a self-taught photographer in terms of lighting. Well actually, I’m taught by YouTube, magazines and a huge amount of trial and error. I am not afraid to try something, even with a client in the shot, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not afraid to say so and change it so that it does work.

My entire approach to studio lighting has been built upon trying to replicate the look I like and then trying my own techniques and perfecting them through trial and error. After all, we learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. I’d far rather get it wrong three times and then know why I got it right the fourth time- it’s just the way that I am wired.

So, onto the first in a series of single light techniques. I will be posting tutorial videos for all of these techniques over the coming weeks but for those who prefer written word and diagrams, here it is.

This is my favourite single light set up to use, its quick, its easy and if you have the space you can shoot this set up around 180 degrees to your model without having to touch the light itself.





A flat surface always works well for this set up- I’ve shot it along a 20ft scoop in my studio, and I’ve also shot this on a 4ft fold out background. Place your model against the wall, as close as you can and set the light up at about 45 degrees to the model. I use a studio strobe with a gridded reflector fitted in order to channel the light into a concentrated area which creates a natural vignette, depending on how you frame the shot. I’m not going to go into the mathematics of the lighting and the power etc- I like shots with lots of contrast so I will tend so shoot at much higher Apertures. So for instance- this shot of Dee below was captured at F18, 1/160sec with ISO 100.


If you look at the diagram further up the page- my shooting position is more shallow than the light- usually starting at around 20 degrees to the model and the wall behind of the model. Now as I said the beauty of this set up is that you can move around the model (if you have the space) and literally shoot a full 180 degrees without moving the position of the light. Obviously as you move further towards the opposite side of the light, the look is going to change dramatically, so be conscious of where your model is facing and where the light it going to hit.



One of the main variables you can create with this set up is the shape of the vignette of light. For instance, if I was shooting this set up with the light at the same height as the model and pointed directly toward the wall (which I wouldn’t but..) it’s going to produce a pretty definite circle of light. However, if I raise that light, and point it downwards, the vignette becomes stretched into an oval shape down toward the floor. If I moved the set up shallower to the wall, the same would happen with on oval going away from the model. Trial and error and a little experimentation is well worth while with this set up to learn how moving the light by 6″ one way or another can totally change the look of the image.



As I mentioned above I will be publishing a Video tutorial for this technique over the next few months which will be included in a training app that I will be releasing.

If you’ve any questions on this technique, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer.



See my tutorial video below on shooting a very similar effect, but outdoor using a Speed light;




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