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How to create mood and contrast using one light

As with most, if not all of my fashion lighting sets-ups, I keep it simple but effective. A simple set-up using one flash head, a small octa-lite or small softbox or a beauty dish can give you amazingly results. (for the more observant readers, I have flipped the left hand image to make a better balance of the images, hence her face being lit from the left when my lighting is from the right)


Photographer: Bruce Smith

For the images above I used a 500 watt Profoto head, a 1mtr octa lite without the front diffuser, to give the light a crisp edge, but keeping the inner diffuser attached.

The head was set up slightly higher than my models head position to the side, as close to her as I could get it without it being in the frame.

The background is a white backdrop c 6 to 8 feet behind my model.  It’s dark because the light of the flash head is falling off, over the distance to the backdrop in relation to the model.  (the inverse square law) A little light falling onto the background and the shadow of the model creates a nice separation between the back ground and the model.

Either side of my model I have 2, 8ft x 4ft black poly boards taped together to create L’s, these are to block any of the light from my flash head bouncing off the studio walls onto my model reducing the contrast of my light hitting my model.  Why not try this set up for yourself and send me your images results to b.s@mac.com and ill give you my thoughts about them.

  • Camera: Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 17mm to 55mm f2.8
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter: 125th sec
  • Aperture: f8

You can learn this lighting set up plus many more of my lighting techniques for fashion hands on during my fashion photography courses, check out the schedule of courses that I am running this year.

Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith

Bruce Smith is a world-class fashion and beauty photographer whose work has appeared around the globe for more than thirty years. He's the author of "Fashion Photography: A Complete Guide to the Tools and Techniques of the Trade" and teaches workshops internationally. His website is www.brucesmithphotographer.com.

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