How to create great portraits using only one light overhead

Jan 18, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How to create great portraits using only one light overhead

Jan 18, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Creating a soft and dramatic image doesn’t require too many complicated settings and gear. In this short video, photographer Jeff Rojas will show you how to do it with a minimalistic approach. All he uses to create wonderful, dramatic portraits is one light placed overhead.

YouTube video

Gear

As for the gear, this is what Jeff uses:

Strobe: Phottix Indra 360

Trigger: Phottix Odin II

Lighting Modifier: Phottix Hexa-Para Softbox – 59″ – Jeff points out that it creates very soft light.

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Lens: Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8

Of course, you’re invited to experiment, use what you prefer and what you have. But as you can see, the amount of gear is minimal.

Setup

Light is placed 1.5 – 2 feet above the subject.What’s especially important to remember is that the subject is placed right along the edge of the lighting modifier. This is because the remaining light will accentuate and fill any unwanted shadows in the face. Jeff also angles the main light slightly down towards the subject’s face. This eliminates shadows on the face and creates subtle tones both in black and white and in color.

The subject is placed 5-6 feet away from the background. So, you can use this setup in almost any room.

You can see Jeff’s results in the video, and feel free to share your own examples in the comments below.

[How to Use One Light Overhead in Your Portrait Photography | Jeff Rojas]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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16 responses to “How to create great portraits using only one light overhead”

  1. Rob LeBlanc Avatar
    Rob LeBlanc

    7D2 for studio portraits?

    1. Jeff Rojas Avatar
      Jeff Rojas

      Yup! Any reason you saw why not? :)

  2. Stefan Kohler Avatar
    Stefan Kohler

    I do.
    All the time….

    1. Daniel Shortt Avatar
      Daniel Shortt

      Yup, it’s like half my portfolio, lol!

    2. Jeff Rojas Avatar
      Jeff Rojas

      Cool! Happy for you! :D

  3. stewart norton Avatar
    stewart norton

    Great set up…love it ?

    1. Jeff Rojas Avatar
      Jeff Rojas

      Thank you. :)

  4. Steven Naranjo Avatar
    Steven Naranjo

    I’m going to try that for the wedding I’m doing this weekend. Just a quick couple shots.

  5. Angelo Cayanan Avatar
    Angelo Cayanan

    Would this work with an umbrella? Just curious.

    1. Gürcem Eugene Zekai Avatar
      Gürcem Eugene Zekai

      Yes. But sometimes you might want to close the umbrella a little or put a diffuser over it, as it spreads light more wildly than softboxes

    2. Jeff Rojas Avatar
      Jeff Rojas

      It’ll also depend on the material of the reflector. To achieve a similar level of contrast… stick with white. For instance the Profoto Deep White XL.

  6. Graeme Simpson Avatar
    Graeme Simpson

    ok well this just inspired to try it out. I’ve never mastered flash and avoid it throughout my work but this looked appealing. Bought a parabolic umbrella just to try it out :)

    1. Rikki Avatar
      Rikki

      While I appreciate your work there, it doesn’t mean @jeff_rojas:disqus can’t share his technique and gear. Besides, his is totally different from yours. Softer, richer tones, vs. your harsh and contrasty lighting.

  7. Scott Wynn Avatar
    Scott Wynn

    Nice and very simple…and actually like the results (given how simple it is). Good direction on how to do it and keep it simple. Can see playing with it by pulling it to the side some too. TX

  8. Roshan Malik Avatar
    Roshan Malik

    Nice work Can i get the same effect with a gray background ?