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How to Take Studio Portraits with One Light

Only have one light on you for your portrait photoshoot? No worries, because this is how you pull off awesome studio portraits with one light.

Lighting is certainly essential when it comes to photography. Whether it's natural lighting or flashes, we mainly need light if we want the photos to comes out clear and detailed. As for studio portraits, lighting plays a huge role. Since portraits are all about photos of people, we want details, emotions, and good lighting! There are so many ways you can use light in portraits. In fact, there are multiple ways for light to create certain moods, too. 

But if you're planning on taking studio portraits of yourself or someone else and you only have one light on you, you don't have to worry. One light is actually perfect for taking stunning and really cool portraits. There are also so many ways to play around with that one light. If you're looking to know how, check out these ways to take studio portraits with one light. And if there's natural lighting out, you better use that source of light, too!

Fill Light

Taking portrait photos outside is definitely a good idea if you want enough lighting in your photos. While it’s great to take the photos when it’s midday, the ideal time is around the evening hours. This way, the sun isn’t shining on top, but directly in front of your model. Now that the sun is giving light to the side of the model, place the one light you own facing the front of her.

The fill light technique gives your model a wider overview using both sources of light and your model will show better. So, whichever side the sun is hitting the model, always keep the flash directly in front of her. It will give all-round lighting and even a shadow behind the model.

Outside Halo Effect

Among the best tips for studio portraits with one light, using the rim light strategy is perfect for that stunning halo lighting. While the sun is shining light on the side of the model, place the flash behind him. The natural lighting will expose half of the model, and the flash behind him will illuminate the edges of your model with a beautiful glow.

One side of the model will feature a glowiness while the other side will slightly be captured in the shadow. The halo effect in portraits usually come out awesome, and I highly suggest you using this tip with the one flash you own.

Diffused Rembrandt Lighting

Now, with this next advice on taking studio portraits with one light, you’re going to need a reflector. A great reflector is this one by LimoStudio, because it gives off simple natural light for portrait photography! When taking portrait photos outside, place the flash in the concave of the umbrella and to the side of the model. A reflector is designed to soften the lighting instead of a harsh flash. Which is why you’ll be placing this closer to the model—it won’t give off harsh lighting.

While the sun is giving light on one side of the model, place the flash in the umbrella on the other side of her. This way, it’ll give a softer glow to the model’s face and overall being. The softer flash will also give off warmer tones to the model’s features like highlights on the face and a glow to the hair. The umbrella reflector is among the best accessories every photographer needs, too.

Hair Light

Speaking of glowing hair, you can make any type of hair shine in the portraits with one of the best tips for studio portraits with one light. While the sun is shining on one side of the model, place the flash in the concave of the umbrella and allow the convex to face the top of the model. Don't put the reflector far from the model, this won't give off the best lighting.

This strategy will cause your model's hair to glow! The lighting from the sun and from the flash will ignite intense shine against the model's hair and it's mesmerizing. Be sure that it's not just the flash facing the top of the model, or else this will cause too much light and exaggerate the shine to make it less natural looking.

Inside Halo Effect

Here are ways to do studio portraits with one light inside! While you still have access to natural lighting through the windows, using a single flash works just as great indoors, too. Another great way to achieve the halo effect is by placing the flash behind the model and the reflector in front of her.

Not only will the flash behind the model give off a stunning halo by illuminating the edges, but the reflector in front of her will brighten the face. In this strategy, you're actually cheating your way into having two lights with the help of the reflector! To include more lighting into the portraits, positioning your flash and reflector this way will help.

Dramatic Lighting

In order to capture a dramatic emotion in your portraits, position the flash directly above the model. As one of the best ways to shoot studio portraits with one light, this strategy brings a dark and mysterious mood to your photos. The flash above the model can darken the surroundings as well as the eyes and nose through a shadow effect.

It's usually a technique that's used for a few photos and not all, because it can cause the model to not look like herself. Either way, it's still a pretty cool way to use a single light for a portrait photoshoot!

Shadow Edges

Try placing the flash in the concave of the reflector and the concave side facing the model. Among the unique ways to shoot studio portraits with one light, this method gives off bright but soft lighting on the model while the edges of the frame look as though it's fading into a shadow.

It's actually really cool for portrait photos and to take the perfect selfie, because it's as though it's blurring the sides of the frame while the center of the photo has all the attention. Also the lighting isn't too harsh, because the flash is hitting the inside of the reflector and the reflector is giving off the soft lighting.

Close Reflector and Flash

With the same manner of placing the flash behind the model and the reflector in front of him, bring the two closer. If you think this will bring in harsh lighting, it won't. Since the flash is positioned in the back, the reflector is capturing the lighting and softening it in the aftermath.

The lighting in this method can illuminate the face as well as the model's hair at the same time. For a more natural glow, your model can tilt his head just a little to enhance the features through the lighting. This is one of the useful ways to do studio portraits with one light.

Flash and a Wall

Yes, using a wall can actually be beneficial when taking portrait photos! For full-body portraits, a wall is ideal to absorb the lighting in a photo. However, a white wall is usually more preferred, because it won't come off as a color in the background and the focus will mainly be on the model.

Have your model stand in front of a white wall while the flash is planted on the opposite side of the wall. While the flash gives off strong lighting, the wall behind the model completely disappears and is substituted with a black background. As the face is finely lit from the flash, the wall in the back becomes dark like a shadow. This is perfect for portrait photos that place all the attention on the model and nothing else.

Flash Behind the Reflector

Finally from the ways to pull off studio portraits with one light, positioning the flash in the concave of the reflector causes softer lighting and you should definitely know this by now. And have the convex of the umbrella facing the model. But since we're now taking portrait photos inside, this technique gives off an all-round soft lighting on the model.

To have the same level of lighting on the model, you can place the reflector and the flash a bit further away from the model. This won't give off any intense lighting on the model's face. However, if you choose to focus on the model's face, place the lighting setup closer for the best, soft lighting.

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