Effective portraits stems from many factors, from effective posing, choosing the right focal length and aperture, composition, and rapport with your subject. But one thing that all photographers must learn and know how to execute by heart is lighting a subject from a single light source.
One Light Source – A New Fangled Approach?”
A single light approach isn’t new, the fact that we only have one natural light source – the sun, makes one-light approach natural and intuitive.
By using just one light source, we can clearly define areas of highlight and shadows that can shape our subjects’ features and instill the mood we desire for our overall composition. Having one light source only makes lighting easy and predictable as well.
One light doesn’t automatically mean ‘strobist’ or artificial, studio light.
As I’ve mentioned, the concept is derived from the fact that we have one sun in the real world, as such, we can manipulate how that single natural light source can hit our subject as well. The only difference between natural and artificial lighting is we adjust natural lighting by changing our subject position or changing the shape of the light rays from the sun as opposed to moving the light source physically
The best thing is, we can manipulate how the light hits our subjects to achieve a desired effect and the series of videos below show you how.
Single Light Source Portrait Tutorials
The first video is actually a Panasonic promo video, but Bobbi Lane was able to create a superb tutorial on window light portraiture and honestly, there’s no better person to learn from than Bobbi as she’s an excellent video teacher.
Next we move on to studio and artificial lighting tutorials, the concepts are similar but you get to see more dramatic changes and explanations on how to use different light modifiers to achieve different results.
ProPhotoLife has always been a great YouTube resource, and here, Jim Talkington gives us a great video tutorial on light placement and shaping using just one light source and how fill light can be used to reduce contrast.
Next, Ed Veroski shows you how to do fail-proof, single light source classic portraits. Strobist beginners should watch this and implement the tutorial immediately.
Christian Hough and Chris Reeves show us how they use one light, in this case, Bowen lights, to create unique and captivating portraits with different light modifiers using a single light source.
Finally, Tony Corbell teaches us how to do one light portraits with a stunning model. It’s very fundamental and you’ll learn how to pose your model (particularly female) in a pleasing manner to match the lighting as well.
Execute and Practice those One Light Portraits!
Now that you’re equipped with enough knowledge and fundamentals on how to execute and apply a single light source portrait, you must practice again and again with your preferred choice of equipment, focal length, aperture, and subject so that you’ll develop a ‘go-to’ lighting technique you can rely on again-and-again.
Go out and practice!
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