Some photographers go to elaborate lengths to find the perfect lighting set-up for a shot. They often use 6 or more lights to get things perfect. Others (ourselves included) are happy to work away with much simpler methods. We are regular users of a “one light set-up’. The human eye is conditioned to look at objects with the assistance of one light (clue – it’s a big yellow one in the sky that rarely appears in Scotland). The careful use of one light can make beautiful and interesting images.
This image was shot with one light, in what has become known as a Rembrandt set-up. The painter often used a side light source to illuminate his portraits, and so this technique carries his name. The light is traditionally side-on to the model, but can be moved to a more front-on position if preferred. Note the marked contrast between light and shadow on the face. This is lessened when the light is moved in front of the model. Personally, we like this look.
When looking at a photo, always look into the eye of the model. You can see a catchlight (the reflection of the light source in the eye) and that will give you a clue as to how it has been lit. In this shot we see one catchlight to the edge of the eye, indicating one light situated to the right of the shot.
The shape of the face causes a shadow to fall over the far side. Some people like this effect, some don’t. To lessen the shadow, a reflector can be used, or we can introduce a second light. More discussion on this will feature in the next instalment.