Single Light Quick Tip

I spend a lot of time making portraits and product photographs with multiple lights. It’s fun and challenging and almost always interesting, but sometimes I find myself drawn to the challenge of making equally powerful photographs with fewer lights. Especially when I try to do it with just one light. Just last week I made a one-light still life to illustrate the ominous effects of three red hot peppers I grew in my garden. Not only was it possible to make the shot with one light, it was actually better since the single source upped the drama. I used a light from a high angle designed to rake across the peppers to showcase their shape. I used a soft source (a fairly large softbox about two feet above the peppers) to keep the highlights from looking like specular spots that might distract from the effect. (If the subject wasn’t shiny, or if it had a lot of texture, I would have probably used a harder light source to bring out the texture and increase the drama even more.) It’s a simple shot but one that is improved with the use of a single light source. The lesson in that? You don’t always have to complicate the lighting to make a better photograph. In fact, keeping it simple increases your chances of letting the subject shine through. It’s a great exercise, no matter what you shoot or how you light. So try lighting simply to see how powerful one light can be.

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