One Light Portrait Lighting for AWESOME Portraits & Headshots

One Light Portrait Lighting for AWESOME Portraits & Headshots


great lighting is not the result of owning lots of lights great light comes from learning to see light so in this episode I want to show you how you create some awesome light for portraits and headshots using just one flash stay tuned hey gang every day I received messages asking about lighting so this is the first episode in a series of videos that I’ll do over the next few months to break down some simple lighting arrangements and hopefully teach you what you really need to pay attention to when you’re setting up lighting for a portrait or a headshot so we’ll begin with one light and some simple modifiers I’m going to use a studio mono light for this demonstration and to prove my point the light is a $99 Adorama flashpoint strobe you don’t have to use the most expensive equipment available and of course you could also use a speed light just as effectively if you are a speed light shooter be patient I have some cool stuff planned for speed light tutorials in the next few weeks from my first set up I have my subjects seated on a short posing stool just two feet from a white seamless background and my strobe is about eight feet from the background pointed straight up at a seven and a half foot high white ceiling now with this strobe set at half power I’m shooting F 6.3 with an ISO of 200 now if I tilt the strobe forward just a little bit I can shoot at f/8 and you’ll notice that I get even more fill under the jaw because the light is able to bounce off the card on a black background I get this with a light tilted forward still shooting at f/8 remember that light travels in a straight line so how you aim your strobes is very important tilting the lights slightly forward will allow the light to travel further with great intensity but be careful if you tilt it too far forward you’ll actually be throwing direct flash at your subject because you’re exposing the flash tube or showing too much of the silver reflector like you see here now if we take this set up and move the subject so that she’s 5 feet from the background and the light is 11 feet from the background with a light aim straight up I get this result and with it tilted forward we get this on white and here it is on black now before some of you start commenting that there should be more separation of the hair from the background I don’t disagree but let’s remember that this video is about setting up lighting with a one light setup not everybody has the money to buy a ton of lighting here so stay tuned and I’m going to show you a cool trick to get more light on the hair while still just using one light now let’s go ahead and add one modifier to the mix the one you see here is a photoflex 24 inch by 32 inch light dome you can get similar results from a cheaper softbox or even a shoot through umbrella like this one the key is the size you want a broad light source I’ve posted links to all of this gear in the comment section below now if we start out with a white background and place the subject just 2 feet off the background with a softbox on camera right we get this dramatic look if we add the Walmart reflector on camera left we get this now pay close attention to the height of the softbox in this shot the softbox is high and if we bring it down so there’s a little more light coming from below my subjects face we get more fill light under the chin we can also create a clamshell lighting arrangement using our one light and a reflector below the subject for the other half of the clamshell here you see it on white with a subject two feet from the background here it is on black you can see that the black backdrop turns to a dark shade of grey now if we move the subject forward to seven feet from the backdrop the same setup will look like this okay I told you that I would show you a way to get separation of the dark hair and the dark background with just one light here it is I simply added two more reflectors slightly behind my subject and angle them towards the side of her head if you want even more separation you could use silver reflectors or even just cover the Walmart reflectors with aluminum foil and if we switch from a softbox to a beauty dish on our speed light or mono light add in a really good makeup artist you could do a beauty shot like this or create something like this or this now I mentioned earlier in the video that light travels in a straight line I want to show you a quick example so that you understand how really important that statement is you can see here that the softbox is aimed a little high on the model and the white reflector is angled towards her face watch closely under her chin is eye angle the softbox down towards the reflector and then level the reflector so that the light can travel in a straight line to bounce off the reflector and hit the subjects neck and face when everything is lined up properly you get a much nicer and even light on your subject so the moral is practice and then practice some more experiment build your visual database and remember that your best shot is your next shot so keep learning keep thinking and keep shooting adios thanks for watching if you find these videos helpful please give them a thumbs up and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode and if you’ve got a question that you’d like answered post it in the comments section below your question could be my next video


100 thoughts on “One Light Portrait Lighting for AWESOME Portraits & Headshots

  1. Found you on Petapixel ๐Ÿ˜€ Your tips are amazing. Just subscribed! Thank you Mr. Joe for sharing such great tips

  2. Great video, question, where can I find the reflector that you used under the model's face?

  3. Great tutorial for a strobe beginner such as myself. There's so much to learn and you explained well without it being overwhelming. Subscribed!

  4. Hi Joe! Another great video. I have a question about ISO. Why did you choose ISO 200 instead of 64? I know the D810 is super clean at 200 but I see a lot of people preach about shooting portraits at the lowest ISO possible.

    Thanks!
    –Dennis

  5. I currently have 2 flashes and I try not to invest in a Monolight. Can you explain more if this could be done with flash units and their settings?

  6. Joe…I see your into making a fashion statement…your attire is well thought out along with your photographic advice. I ain't mad at ya…its good to see a well groom artist…Thx for the video. I'm trying to get out of the slump of shooting sports (action shots) and really start learning light (portraiture, FASHION, etc). I appreciate you bro!!!!

  7. Great video and lesson in applicable concepts and execution. Really liked how you mentioned and demonstrated that the lighting set up could be done with just a $99 light.

  8. Fantastic, great instruction. OK Joe, I'm sold — I've subscribed and am looking forward to more videos. I just have one speedlight with a radio trigger and am amazed at how versatile it is. I want to learn more about what I can do with it and how to use it properly.

  9. A question about using the lower reflector — I've tried this before and had a problem with people wearing glasses. Sometimes the reflector would be visible as a reflection in their lenses. I know I can take two shots with and without glasses and edit out the lenses in PS, but I'm wondering if you have any tips for avoiding this problem. I suspect I just didn't have things angled properly. Thanks!

  10. Hi,thanks for your bril videos. May I ask two questions. Number 1. Just starting out learning and want to learn how to do good portraits. Using my wife as my model what is the best way to take photos of an older lady, my wife is 72. Not brought any umbrellas or reflectors yet, any advice on what to get 1st.
    Thanks Dominic

  11. Hey Joe….I just came across one of your tutorials accidentally (aren't those always the best finds?), and am so happy I did. I've watched several in a row, and if my eyes weren't going all fuzzy from too much laptop eye strain, I'd still be watching! There is SO much to learn!! LOL I've subscribed and look forward to learning more and more and more. I've only had my speed light a few weeks now – have been scared to death of trying to figure out flash – ha! Also really keen to figure out the whole 'lighting thing' and actually learning to 'see' light. I will definitely be coming back to your channel for more! Thanks so much!

  12. Great videos! Do you have any videos on pregnancy/maternity photography? Have not had the time to se every one you made, yet.

  13. I know this is a tutorial on LIGHTING but looking at your sample images brought up another question. When doing head shots, what camera height gives the most flattering results. If camera height is about subjects hairline high, the subject will turn their face up slightly which will stretch the skin under the chin. I've seen some very attractive images using this style but is it only for women? Please give us your thoughts on camera height for headshots. Also, do you have any ideas for DIY posing tables?

  14. I am Korean photographer. Very helpful. Thank you.! very good tutorial —- I follow you from Italy!
    ์ •๋ง ์ด์ง€ ์ž๊ธฐ์— ๋…ธํ•˜์šฐ๋ฅผ ์ „๋ถ€ ๊ณต๊ฐœํ•˜๋Š”๊ฒŒ ์‰ฝ์ง€ ์•Š์€๋ฐ ๋„ˆ๋ฌด๋‚˜ ๊ฐ์‚ฌํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.
    ๋‹น์‹ ์˜ ๊ฐ•์˜๊ฐ€ ๋‚˜์—๊ฒŒ ๋งŽ์€ ๋„์›€์„ ์ฃผ๊ณ  ์žˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค ๊ฐ์‚ฌํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค!

  15. Such good advice again Joe. Just watch out for photography lighting manufacturers bumping you off for showing everyone how to do it cheaply and with one light! ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. Lighting explained very well.. Watched three videos BACK TO BACK and liked it.. You changed my way of using reflectors(after i saw your video of using it oudoors). Thank you sir.. Sumit gupta from India

  17. Thank you very much for making this video with subtitles in Spanish, they are of valuable help. We will be in tune with this channel.

  18. I just feel like I can never get the images exposed right it's always too blown out or too dark, I try to modify the light source or the camera but have little success. I feel like a lot of my problem is not getting the exposure right in the camera? Do you have any video on how to set up the camera, like on what camera settings you go with to find the right lighting.

  19. That is one of the well done needed videos I've ever seen. You made it simple packed full of useful info Thanks Joe

  20. Joe, you are a God send! Thank you for all of your VERY helpful advice. I'm glad I came across your channel

  21. Thank you for all of your VERY helpful advice. I'm glad I came across your channelRead more Show less

  22. Awesome tutorial. Fallen in love with you, Joe. You explain everything very simply and effectively. Got hooked to you.

  23. Excelente explicaciรณn, muy detallada y lo mejor es que tiene subtitulo en espaรฑol, para los que no dominamos el inglรฉs. Gracias.

  24. I been a subscriber but just hit the bell button so I can get a notice when you post new videos. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  25. Hi Joe – I am a complete novice with Flash photography. I see that many photographers use expensive handheld light meters. Do I really need one? Do you use one? Can we do without one? Many thanks – I love your videos!

  26. Very good videos! Only came about them the other day but love all of the tips you give! I am starting to get into portraits so this really helps!

  27. As usual a fantastic video from one of my favorite photographers, Joe Edelman. He explains the details very clearly and I learn a lot by watching his videos. Thanks for sharing such awesome and useful tips. Love from India.

  28. With one light, separation can still be applied with only one light on a black background with a piece of aluminum foil. Just make sure it doesn't come back into your lens.

  29. Just found your channel, your amazing Joe… Definitely subscribed, I follow alot of teachers/content creators here, it's really hard to find someone with a level of explanation and an oratory so good as yours, you make things so easy to learn, congratulations! I am a videographer getting into photography right now… I'm in a very tight budget, want to setup an ONE light studio with some reflectors and I'm in doubt in getting a spot led light with a beam angle of 55ยบ, diffuse with a modifier like an umbrella (cheaper) or get an already soft led light with a beam angle of 110ยบ. What would you recommend? Thanks!

  30. thank you for making a simple lighting video and not busting out 50k worth of gear to pull it off ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. What light setup is done for those shots where a models face or part of the face is seen through a hole in sheet of paper. Is it just photoshop or can be done in studio?

  32. Hi Joe, Great video!! I am looking to do headshots soon!! I shoot Sony a7iii I have an 85mm 1.8 and I am looking for either modifiers or reflectors to use… What do you suggest? I was looking at Luna Grip kit as a start with a stand and another reflector. Just looking for some advice, so I can have a good shoot. Thanks Ryan

  33. hey Joe you are one of the best period. Not only the way you present but also the intelligence of your video shots is great!

  34. Excellent video! Why donโ€™t you do a video about portrait retouching! This is where I struggle the most.

  35. Hello Joe, absolutely awesome. If the ceiling is high and not exactly white will a white shoot through umbrella work?

  36. You have said you like questions so here it goes…I am new to studio lighting (and photography x1yr) . I have a key light/model light (?), a speedlite, and 2 octagon softboxes. Can I use the two lights for portraits? Headshots and full body. Do I need a boom stand and an additional light? Although I learned a lot from this video I really need help! I am so lost! Thanks!

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