It doesn’t have to be complicated…

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Portrait Photography with One Light

Portrait photography doesn’t have to be complicated with multiple lights, coloured gels and different gadgets and gizmos. Sometimes it works equally as well taking it back to just one light.

I love working with the Lastolite Exybox Octa II softbox. This has the flexibility to work with all the different lights that we use in the studio but one of my favourite combinations is using it with the Elinchrom Quadras. The reason that I like the Quadras is that you can get quite a low power level so you can get a shallow depth of field by controlling your aperture. With some studio lights (particularly in our studio) even on their lowest setting you are still shooting at f8 and above. One thing I will say about our studio at this point is that we have light coloured walls and unless I put something up to flag it out we get a lot of reflected light, in a different studio you would get very different results….

A recent addition to the Lastolite Octa has been a gride for the front; this controls the spill of light and keeps it far more directional. During a portrait session I will be putting this on and taking it off to swap it for the front diffuser to give me some different looks all from the one light.

I though it would be useful to show a setup shot….

Lastolite Ezybox Octa II


As you can see I have the light setup to my left and very roughly at a 45 degree angle. When I meter the light I point the flash meter towards the light. This is because I don’t want the highlights blown out and the main “lit” part of the face is going to be very visible to the camera. If the lit side is not important then I will meter towards the camera; it is all about you deciding which part of the image you want to be correctly exposed and then metering for it.

For this session I was working with the Canon 5d Mk3 with a Sigma 50mm f1.4 lens. The camera was set to ISO100 1/125 sec f6.3

The actual session was to photograph two sisters who haven’t had their photograph taken together since the 1980’s. They wanted a photograph they could frame for their Mum, some “fun” photos as well as some they could both use on Social Media sites such as Linked in and Facebook (this is becoming quite a popular reason for a photo session !) As well as using the backdrop setup in the shot above we also used just plain studio walls; the radiator on the right hand side of the photo and a single chair as props.

These are a couple of the photographs for the Social Media sites.

Social Media Portraits

Social Media Portraits


As you can see from the catchlights in the eyes it was just the one light and our light coloured walls provided enough fill in to the shadows for me.