Use This Simple Technique to Master On-Location Portraits with Just One Light

If you’re someone who likes to shoot dramatic portraits on location, but you don’t want to be weighed down by a lot of lighting equipment and don’t have an assistant, the folks at The Slanted Lens just might have a winning solution for you. Check out this one light set-up photographer Jay P. Morgan uses to light his subjects with very little ambient light:

The first thing to keep in mind with this set up is that Morgan is using the ambient light for his fill instead of a second light. This only works if you can get enough ambient fill to light your subject effectively. Morgan’s shooting around sunset/dusk and is still doing alright, but you might find yourself in some low light situations where you’re not getting the fill you need.

After he’s adjusted his exposure for the fill, he dials in his key light (a Photoflex Triton on a stand with an Octodome) to add the highlight to the subject’s face. Since the rest of the photo is fairly dark, this will lend a dramatic feel to the portrait.

Dramatic Portraits with One Light

Morgan also used the following equipment:

dramatic portrait tips

There’s no need to invest in this same spendy lineup of gear, though. You can use the same technique as Morgan with the gear you already have and get similar results on location. Expose for your background first, then use a diffused strobe to light your subject. This results in dramatic, well-lit environmental portraits that stand out and look professional.

Further training: How to Shoot Professional Looking Portraits on a Budget

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