LIGHTING SET UP: One Light Male Portrait

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: January 27, 2017

Category: Photography

Ok so in this post I thought I’d give you a look at a male portrait that I took whilst presenting at the Witney Photographic Club last Tuesday evening.

I’d been invited along to go through some post production techniques and workflow but thought I’d also squeeze in a quick (and I mean QUICK) photo shoot too, to show folks one of my favourite one light set ups…very similar to what I’ve been using in my World War 2 / Home Guard series.

So, here’s the portrait taken on the evening with thanks to Steve for volunteering (sort of) to sit in front of my camera…

Glyn Dewis One Light Portrait

Now with regards to the lighting kit I used the Elinchrom ELB 400 HS and my favourite modifier, the Elinchrom Rotalux 135cm Octa…

Glyn Dewis Elinchrom

Behind Steve I used a plain grey roll of paper for the background which I then added a texture to in Photoshop to give the look and feel of a much more expensive textured canvas background. CLICK HERE to watch I video I recorded showing how to do this.

Oh and for the light stand I use a C-Stand made by Phottix; these are more expensive than a regular light stand but very much ‘you get what you pay for’ and will last a life time. If you’ve never used one I’d highly recommend giving one a try.

On the evening I showed everyone how to position the light so that we get what could be called a ‘Rembrandt’ style of lighting where one side of the subjects face is lit and the other in shadow except for a triangular pattern of light around the eye and cheek.

First off I showed what the lighting would be like if the modifier was place directly to the side and in the example below you can clearly see that one side of the face is lit and one side in shadow…

Glyn Dewis One Light Portrait

So, to give us the triangular pattern of light on the other side of the face we need to move the light source further forward of the subject so that if you stood next to it and looked across to the subject, you would see the cheek, and when you can…so can the light.

In the example below you can see from the lighting diagram that I move the light forward of the subject and on the photo you can see there is now light on the cheek / eye…

Glyn Dewis One Light Portrait

However, the light isn’t quite bright enough and this is because I have moved the light source further away from the Steve whereby in the first example I’d metered to f/4.0. The meter reading in this new position gave f/2.8 so I needed to increase the power of the light by 1 full stop.

As I can trigger and alter the power of my Elinchrom lights directly from my light meter, the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR 10 clicks (1/10th of a stop increases each time) and the light metered at f/4.0 giving the lighting result below which is the picture I then retouched using Lightroom and Photoshop…

Glyn Dewis One Light Portrait

Earlier this week I uploaded a video onto my YouTube channel showing the complete retouching process for a male portrait and this seemed to be well received by quite a few. So if you’d like to see the process I went through with this picture drop me a comment below and I’ll look at recording something.

In the mean time if you have any questions / comments then feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Have a great weekend and I’ll catch you back here next time.

Oh one more thing…

I’m presenting at the PhotoHubs Event in Crewe for the Guild of Photographers on Saturday 3rd February 2017 and will be going through a LIVE photo shoot, retouch and lots of Photoshop Tips, Tricks and Techniques so if you’d like to know more and look to being there CLICK HERE and use the discount code GD30.


Glyn Dewis PhotoHubs

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  1. Anthony Crothers

    Great shot buddy,spot on character portrait, what could you produce if you took your time!
    Personally I actually prefer F4 to F2.8 and I’m suprised how shallow-ish the DOF is. Would this vary greatly from lens to lens and at different focal lengths?

    Of course we’d like a video tutorial, the more the better! You do like making work for yourself eh?

    When I first got my (cheap) strobes I worked on ‘Rembrandt’ lighting. Looking back I tried to move on to more complex lighting too soon, maybe even dismissing it as ‘old hat’. Thanks to your images/tutorials I’m going to re-visit it as I’m now of the opinion that it’s ‘timeless’.

    In the mindset of ‘PLAT’ if it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough for me!

    Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing.

    • Glyn Dewis

      Hi Mate..thanks for commenting.
      Re the DOF yes it will vary depending on the lens you use eg f/4.0 on a 24-105 compared to a 70-200mm

      Oh and Rembrandt lighting ROCKS 🙂

  2. amateur

    Wow. very nice shot. This is actually my default single-light setup. Light from the side and then feather it until cheek and eye on far side of the strobe have kind of a loop light effect.

    I also use black reflectors opposite of strobe so both sides of the face have rim of shadow on both cheeks, kinda like double short light effect on both cheeks, if that makes sense.

    I am just beginner. But when people look straight into the lens face forward it looks weird if one cheek is lighted. Because one half of the face looks bigger than the other. And with my black reflector it looks more even sized plus i add more contrast as well.

    But your photo worked out well because the guy has a beard.

    May i ask what you did with your white balance? because the colors look pretty messed up.
    Still nice photo.


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