The Beauty of the One Light Portrait - part 1 of 1 2 3

by Tony Corbell Published 01/12/2016


In all of the new and exciting things we see happening in our world of highly polished, colourful and eye-popping professional photography, we are continually inspired by digital composites, HDR landscapes and creative editing of all types. One style of photography remains, however, as a simple yet powerful message to the world. A fine quality portrait taken with one light. This kind of work is as important today as it was 100 years ago and can be the perfect choice with all kinds of clients.


Standard Soft-box

A medium-sized soft-box placed at 45 degrees to the subject will almost always work as a very salable and, in some instances, even a high-impact picture. A 3’ x 4’ box is an almost ideal size for most portrait situations even though the larger the group, the larger the light might be used. Also, when showing ¾ length of full-length portraits, a large source should be considered as well.

One of my most useful tips for working with a single softbox is when to position the soft-box in such a way as to send about half of the light past or beyond my subject, allowing it to reach the background behind my subject.

Now this does work best when there is a background fairly close to my subject and of a light or medium tone. A very dark background does not work quite as well. Several of the images that accompany this article are taken with what looks like a separate light on the background but were taken with only one light. It is a practice I have come to rely on in many situations. It is not about being too lazy to turn on an additional light. But it is about minimising my own distractions when working with a client. Much like the wonderful feel of working with window-light portraits when you are able to give the client your full attention and are not distracted by moving lighting, testing or metering, or even dealing with remotes, not working at times.

Simplify … this is where it is at!!!

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1st Published 01/12/2016
last update 07/04/2022 09:14:49

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