One Light Low Key Portrait

One Light Low Key Portrait

Let’s look at creating a low key portrait with one light.  Low key portraits tend to be dramatic, dark, and serious and accentuate the contours of the face while throwing others into shade.

Main Light

Because I didn’t have a light meter the setup of this light was trial and error in both position and power.  With one light and the camera on a tripod it was quick to figure out the correct setup.  First the position of the subject, in the case my dad, had to be far enough from the background that the light fall-off knocks the charcoal background drops to black, this was approximately 10 feet.

Next the position of the SB-910 with a Rogue 25 degree grid had to be such that the light lit the right side of the face (or camera left) but not the left creating a split lighting effect.  The Rogue grid allowed me to focus the light directly onto my dad’s face without any spill to the background.  I instructed my dad not to move as I shot, reviewed, and moved the light until I got the position where I wanted it.  I must admit I can’t remember the power setting on the SB-910 but I would guess it to be 1/4 power with the 25 degree grid.

Black and White

When it came to editing I converted the photo to black and white and adjusted the shadows and highlights to add to the dramatic nature of the shot and accentuate the some of the facial details.

The Result

The end result turned out better than I thought given the shot was a last minute idea (I may be a little biased because of the subject).  It’s easy to get carried away with adding multiple lights for a shot but sometimes the simplest setups give the best results.

Have questions, comments, or examples of your own one light setups?  Send them along.