How to Light Dramatic Black and White Portraits With Just One Speedlight

There's a lot that can be done with portraiture, even if you don't have an arsenal of studio lights at your disposal. Here's how you can create iconic, black and white portraits with just one light.

My first low key, black and white portrait I ever took I somehow still remember. I used a bendy floor-standing lamp to light one side of my girlfriend's face and leave the other shrouded in shadow, with a black backdrop. It could have been good, but it wasn't. What I didn't know was how to properly light a person, and I mistook it for the quality of my light. Well, that was true too, I suppose, but one cheap flash gun or strobe would have been sufficient for what I had in mind.

In this video by Jiggie Alejandrino, you're walked through how to create beautiful, minimalist portraits with one speedlight. One of his setups is a particular favorite of mine: profile shots of the subject with the light creating a rim light effect on the front of the subject's face. This has been a particularly popular for many years, first with artists, then with photographers. Though the lighting and camera settings are straightforward, it is worth noting that finding a subject with a beautiful profile is more difficult than it sounds: most of us do not look anywhere near as visually pleasing as Alejandrino's wife!

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Rashad Hurani's picture

I like the idea, and the way he went through the shoot. The model is great also!

Robert Nurse's picture

Sometimes the simplest setups are just as awe-inspiring.

Denis Trudeau's picture

This is the first video i viewed here since a long time and it worth it.

More of stuff like this please