Although a single light doesn’t seem like much, there’s a lot you can do with it. From some more traditional setups to unusual horror setups, a single light can really be extremely versatile. In this video, Manny Ortiz will show you the best, but also the worst ways for using a single-light setup in only three minutes.
Manny stats with the light directly above the model. This isn’t very good because it won’t light up the subject’s eyes. But you can make this work – have the model lift her chin and close her eyes. What could be a better solution is to move the light in front of the model a bit, and tilt it so it lights her face. Just make sure that you capture the catchlights in the subject’s eyes. if you can’t see them, adjust the light position a bit.
Another setup Manny tries out is placing the light directly on the side of the model. This can look bad if you only have a single light because the lighting itself will look pretty bad in terms of the falloff. One side of the model’s face will remain unlit, and it also shows all the pores and flaws of the skin. But once again, you can make it look better, just have the model look towards the light instead of towards the camera.
The third setup is close to the basic one we’re taught of: placing the light at the 45-degree angle relative to the model. But there’s one mistake. Manny doesn’t lift the light so it’s also above the model’s head, but leaves it at a lower height. While the lighting doesn’t look completely terrible, the shadows look weird and similar to the direct flash. To avoid this, leave the light at the angle, but lift it so that it comes from above as well.
Generally speaking, the most flattering lighting to work with if you only have a single light is when it comes from above and at a 45-degree angle. You pretty much can’t miss with this setup. But I encourage you to experiment a bit and try all the looks that you can get with one light because there truly are so many of them.