One-Light Fashion Photography



NOTE: The video below is available in Spanish here.

When you search the web for fashion lighting you will find a lot of elaborate lighting setups and gear. What I am going to illustrate in this lesson is how to get the same results with one light. To do this I use one Photoflex 72″ Silver Umbrella and a Diffusion Cover. Crazy? Maybe not!

Let’s first look at one very popular approach to fashion photography; butterfly lighting. Butterfly lighting is considered the go-to ‘fashion’ or ‘glamor’ lighting setup. This technique consists of a single light pointed directly at the subject (straight on), and positioned high enough to create a downward shadow on the subject. This creates a butterfly shaped shadow directly underneath the subject’s nose, hence the name.

Often photographers use a reflector in front and below the subject to reduce the contrast ratio. However, for my big reveal, the coverage area of the 72” Silver Umbrella adds light under the subject’s chin by bouncing off the studio floor. So no additional reflector is needed. Remember, more lights doesn’t always equal better lighting.

Additionally, I like to add a 72″ Diffusion Cover to the front of the umbrella to diffuse the light and soften shadows. Below are examples of this setup. As ou can see, the light works beautifully for both close-up shots as well as full length.

In the image below, I removed the Diffusion Cover and moved the light and umbrella slightly to camera right to increase shadows and create a more dramatic effect.

On my second setup using the 72″ Silver Umbrella I am using a 45-degree monolight approach. This means that I will continue with one light but place it at a 45-degree angle to the model so that the lighting is soft and shadows are even throughout. I wanted more drama in these images so I removed the Diffusion Cover so that the light would have more contrast and punch.

For this technique I keep the camera directly in front of my subject and sometimes utilize a tripod if needed. As you can see in the video, I added a Photoflex 5-in-1 MultiDisc Reflector to reduce the contrast on my subject’s face just a bit.

In the final images below you can see how beautifully the light falls off on the backdrop and we can see all the details in the dress from top to bottom. Again, with only one light.

As you see, fashion lighting can be pretty simple and cost effective if you have the right tools and the know how. With the 72” Silver Umbrella from Photoflex, you can achieve BIG results with only one light!

Written and photographed by Jose Aguilo.

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