How to Take Dramatic Senior Portraits with One Light

Pro sports photography can often seem like an exhibition of lighting and equipment. However, if you choose the right time of day to shoot and use ambient light mixed with artificial lights intelligently, you can shoot with only one light and still make dramatic portraits. To demonstrate this, photographer Matt Hernandez brought a single light to this high school senior portrait shoot:

The 59” Westcott Zeppelin Deep Parabolic softbox used for the shoot has an arm that allows you to move the light closer or farther away depending on whether you want to focus it or have a bit of spill.

parabolic light modifier

In this case, the idea was to focus the light. With normal softboxes and octoboxes this is difficult to achieve.

how to make portrait images with a single light

Dramatic senior portraits shot with one light.

Hernandez chose to shoot during the blue hour so he could control the light without having to ramp up the power on his light. As you can see in the image above , the ambient light in the sky really helped capture details while the softbox helped to zero in some light on the model’s face and torso without spilling it everywhere. Hernandez used a wide angle lens for this shot and got down to grass-level to shoot this, aiming high.

ramatic portraits with the westcott Zeppelin Deep Parabolic softbox

The softbox mimics one of the stadium lights.

In one of the shots, Hernandez mimicked the stadium lights by placing the softbox to the side and asking the subject to look in the direction where the stadium lights would be.

This is a really simple way to make some dramatic senior portraits or sports photos without having to lug a ton of equipment around with you.

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