Create an Effective Rim Light With One Light

When starting out with off-camera flash, especially in portraiture, we don't always have access to a lot of high-tech or expensive strobes and modifiers. Here's a simple setup that will help you create stunning low-key rim lit images with very little equipment required.

In this video, Gavin Hoey shows us how to create a simple rim setup using just one light, including common mistakes, and even shows how you can edit the image.

Instead of using a single, small light source to create a low-key rim, Gavin suggests using a larger light source such as a soft box or an octabox to give a pleasing soft light that wraps around the model. We can create a pure black background by simply using a black sheet or card.

By moving our model closer or farther away from the light source, we can change the amount of rim light and how much detail we can see in their face.

It's a great result from such a simple setup that you could replicate yourself in a home studio or even on location. Any off-camera flash behind a white sheet with a black rectangle of card pinned to it would give similar results.


Gavin goes on to show how you can easily create a beautiful split tone effect using a hue adjustment layer in Photoshop. Usually, you'd need multiple lights with color gels to create a split tone effect in camera, but using Photoshop, you can create this stunning effect with one light and minimal processing.

Have you tried to create interesting images with a single light setup? Do you have any tips for single light portraiture? Let me know in the comments.

Images courtesy of Gavin Hoey.

Brad Wendes's picture

Brad Wendes is a British photographer and travel lover.
He began photographing parkour and acrobatics in 2010 and has since taken to portraiture and fitness photography.
Brad is a self-confessed geek, Star Wars fan, tech enthusiast, cat lover and recently converted Apple Fanboy.

Log in or register to post comments

Actually, I tried it after watching the video. To be honest, I always used two lights, but I like the results of this set and wil defo use it more often.

Great results! I’d always used two lights myself, but this way gets some really nice images