So you have just picked up your first light or you have had one light for a while now and you are wondering what more you can create with just that one light, well you can create LOADS. I see many post/comments saying they can’t do that as they only have one light and while it is more efficient using more lights in certain situations it really is quite amazing what you can create with just one, so my best advice is to get out and shoot loads, experiment and fail as many times as you can, because honestly you will learn more this way and the experience gained will stay with you, In this post I will show you just a few ways I have created images with one light, now this is no tutorial more a post on ideas to try . If you want to jump straight to the video for this post click below.
Most folks starting out in off camera flash tend to focus on portraits, just seems the best place to start and its a great place to start! We all have family and friends who would love to help out so don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of the help, make a day of it head out to different locations, and just practice.
All of these images have been shot using a favourite light modifier of mine, the long focus reflector, getting to know your light modifier is important when starting out really learn how it effects the look, how the shadows look, get to know it inside out.
When out practising also try moving your self around your subject, leave your light in the same place and take shots at different angles and take note of how the images look with each movement.
Always good practice to move around your subject, also trying low and high angles can completely change the look and feel to the image.
If you find taking a portrait using just one light, you find on one side of your subject the shadows look to dark, using anything white or reflective to bounce that light back will lift those shadows, so if your lighting from above place a white card below your light and bounce that back up, and the same goes if your lighting from the side, simply place your white card/reflector on the opposite side to your light.
Light from above and place card below just out of frame to bounce the light back up.
The image below was shot using just one light and a whole lot of fake snow ( I wouldn’t advise shooting it in your living room though!)
Another great way to be creative with one light is to use a black card and place it between your light and your subject this will create shadow down the face creating a more moody portrait.
How about photographing a car? I here you say “with one light!” By taking multiple shots and combining those images together in Photoshop you can create some amazing results! All the images below were created using that simple technique, light painting cars with one light who knew!
Don’t stop at just cars, motor bikes, trucks how about lighting a landscape scene.
Or light a scene with people in it for fun! This Halloween image was shot in the same way.
Head out into the woods and photograph some great shapes that Mother Nature has produced, Once again taking multiple shots using my strobe and combining them in Photoshop.
Product photography is also possible using our good old well used by now one light, now this genre is always a challenge but by shooting and testing as much as possible you can yield some good results, using that one light and shooting through a scrim/diffuser will help create those lovely gradients across the surface of your product and by using white/reflective card bounce the light back where you need it, don’t forget you can also combine the techniques above to get more creative shooting products.
One light and fill cards sometimes that’s all you need as you can see in these test images above.
I really just wanted to put this post together to give ideas to the people who are new to lighting and to those who find one light limiting, and while in many situations it is more efficient to use more than one light, when your starting out, pushing that one light to the limits will stand you in good stead for when your ready to break out more lights and get even more creative!
About the Author
Barry Mountford is a portrait photographer based in Gateshead, England. For more of his work, check out his website, follow him on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to his YouTube channel. To get in touch, you can look him up on Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.