S I M P L E O N E - L I G H T S E T- U P S
Fashion photographer Brett Stanley demonstrates how to create bold, dramatic portraits — with only one light
As photographers, we rely on light to create our images; without it, we would just have black frames. In fact, ‘photography’ actually means to ‘draw with light’. We use light in dif ferent ways every day, and its manipulation is what allows us to give the same subject a dif ferent look without moving the subject. Think of landscape photography: the same scene can look very dif ferent over the course of 24 hours, and it’s all down to light. The direction, colour, quality, and quantity of light are what give everything we see its specific look. Change any of these parameters, and you change the appearance of the subject — which is great, because it gives us loads of options when we want to get creative with our photography! In this article, I want to show you two very dif ferent shots that I took, explain how I lit them, and then give you options for ways to recreate them using a few dif ferent tools.
My passion for photography comes from shaping light. I love being able to get creative with it to create a certain look, and my influences for this primarily come from cinema, in which lighting is used to create the mood of the scene. A lot of that lighting is artificial, but set up in such a way that it mimics the light that would be there if it were a real scene. For example, the light on an actor’s face that looks like it’s coming from a lamp in the room but might be off-camera. This is called ‘motivated lighting’ — it’s fake, but your brain believes it because it seems to be coming from somewhere that there could be a light source in real life. Shooting at night means that you can control the artificial light more easily than during the day, and in the photograph of skater Richie (opposite page), the main light source is offcamera right. It could be from a street light, or even the sun between some buildings, but is, in fact, from a small Speedlight strobe (or flash) mounted on a stand. This image was taken at night near the opening of a large tunnel in downtown Los Angeles. There was light from the nearby streets, but it wasn’t very interesting or bright enough, and I really wanted to capture Richie in this pose as he wrapped his wrist. I quickly set up my Speedlight with a remote trigger connected to my camera, so that it would fire when I clicked the shutter, and put it down the tunnel pointed towards him a little. I wanted to only light half of him to give the scene some depth, and I used a lower shutter speed to capture some of the ambient light to lif t the shadows on his other side. The side light gave the image a nice contrast and balance, while it left the other side of the image darker, really drawing attention to my subject, which is what we want for all our images.
LIGHTING AT NIGHT