Create Stunning Photos With These Simple Lighting Setups

Lighting is crucial in photography, and learning how to use it effectively can elevate your images significantly. This video covers five dramatic lighting setups using just one light source, designed to help you create stunning, impactful images.

Coming to you from John Gress, this informative video explores various lighting techniques, starting with a shoot at Lake Michigan. Gress uses the Elinchrom FIVE and a 100cm Rotalux Deep Octabox. This setup is versatile, perfect for full-body and headshots. For this shoot, he sets his camera to 1/5,000 of a second at f/2 and ISO 100, freezing every droplet of water in motion. High-speed sync balances the bright sunrise with the strobe. When shooting outside, consider your desired depth of field, then adjust your shutter speed and ISO to expose the sky correctly before adding flash.

The next setup is a sunset portrait on a sailboat with the Chicago skyline as the backdrop. Gress uses a 24-inch softbox, positioning the model at the front of the sailboat. Depending on the boat's position, he achieves both front-lit and back-lit compositions. Using high-speed sync allows for a high shutter speed and wide aperture, creating a shallow depth of field that isolates the model from the background.

For a studio shoot, Gress employs a 27-inch white Elinchrom Beauty Dish as the main light and set dressing. The key is to ensure the beauty dish is parallel to the ground. Gress positions the subject so that the hard line from the edge of the reflector falls just right on the background. 

Another setup involves using the a Fresnel to create focused light that mimics sunlight. The Fresnel, placed about 10 feet from the subject, provides the right amount of coverage and detail. A reflector bounces light back into the shadows, adding detail without reducing drama.

The final setup features an optical snoot with a palm tree gobo to create precise hard light patterns. The snoot is positioned directly at the subject and background to keep the pattern in focus. Adjusting the light's location and the gobo inside the snoot allows for perfect composition. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Gress.

If you would like to continue learning about how to light a portrait, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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