Simple One Light Setup for Dramatic Portraits

Creating in-studio dramatic portraits may seem daunting when you’re short on gear, but it’s actually pretty easy. In the video below, photographer Miguel Quiles shows us how simple it is to set up a shoot using just one strobe for his lighting:

The setup is uncomplicated: an umbrella angled down at around 4 feet from the model, the model about a foot away from a canvas backdrop, a fan, a 500W strobe, and a trigger. Pretty standard. The only particular thing of note here is that Quiles is using a Lee 3-stop ND filter to get down to an f-stop of 1.8 and as result, he needs to use manual focus exclusively.

Gear List

Dramtic Portraits with a Sony A7 II

The other interesting element he added was that of a fan, be he warns:

“Fans will potentially make your subjects cold and potentially dry their eyes if they stand in front of it too long. Take frequent breaks so you can keep things moving along smoothly.”

lighting a portrait

light a portrait with one strobe black and white

As you can see from his final shots, a very simple setup can yield some very fine results.

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