An Unusual but Effective One-Light Portrait Photography Setup

If you are new to working with artificial light, you might look at some of the complex multi-light setups seasoned professionals use and feel a bit overwhelmed or discouraged. However, you can absolutely make creative, compelling, and professional-level portraits with just a single light, and this neat video tutorial will show you one of the more unusual but effective ways of doing so. 

Coming to you from Pye Jirsa with Adorama TV, this great video tutorial will show you a particularly creative one-light setup for portraits. I firmly believe that photographers who are new to working with artificial light should stick to working with a single light at first. This will allow you to become more comfortable with the fundamental properties of light and how to manipulate them without having to wrangle multiple sources that are competing with one another. Beyond that, many photographers, particularly those who work on location, prefer to shoot with a single light because of the simpler logistics. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Jirsa.

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," which is currently on sale along with the rest of the Fstoppers catalog!  

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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Unusual is an odd word to use. It's actually pretty common many famous images are taken on minimalistic set ups.
The majority of my work are in studio one light set ups, always have been and probably always will be.

1) Not really a one-light setup since he got daylight from the right.
2) Putting a giant umbrella in front of a strobe with a reflector is about as effective as a 60 inch octabox on a speedlite.

I had seen/tried this learned from Felix/Sue setups. But for the location of hair light that it creates , wasn't a big fan of it. I might try it again this time with the light not in center ...