5 things you need to consider when using a one-light setup

What we see on the big or silver screen is created using multiple lights. However, you and your crew can instead use a one-light setup.

No matter if you want to cut down on the equipment in your shoot setup or if you just don’t have the budget to get more than one light, you don’t need multiple lights to light your video. In fact, sometimes it’s better to use the simplest and most effective way to light your projects.

Here are five ways you can experiment with a one-light setup to get professional results with less equipment:

1. Place subjects strategically

Depending on where your subject is in the scene, it will create varying looks. Use that to your advantage. However, be careful of hot spots that can cause blow out, due to the the light being too intense on the subject.

Also, be aware that you need to light your environment, too. Place your light and subject in such a way that the light adds to the background. Take advantage of any potential fill or backlighting in the actual environment to help you out, too.

2. Try all 5 light angles

The following are light angles that you should always try lighting your subject from: the front, back, side, from above and from below. Each one will give a different look and tone to your shot. For instance, if you want a more traditional portrait, place the light 45 degrees above your subject.

Here the light is placed above the object, giving it a more standard interview look
Here the light is placed above the object, giving it a more standard interview look.

3. Play with intensity and quality

If you are able to adjust your light’s output through a built-in dimmer or an external timmer, try it out. Not all lights have the ability to be dimmed, but you can achieve the same effect by moving the light closer to or further away from your subject.

Each level of light will create a different effect. The light’s quality also affects the image. Is the light a hard or soft light? Hard lights will make much denser and well-defined shadows. The soft lights will diffuse light around your subject.

4. Create a silhouette

One thing that single-light setups are good for is creating a dramatic scene. Since the shadows won’t be filled by a second light, you will get a sense of foreboding. So, if you want to make a menacing character, this is the way to go.

5. Use reflectors

Reflectors can help spread your one-light setup’s light around the subject. They will create fill light that will reduce shadows. When using reflectors, your subject will be separated from the background a bit more. Also, the light should be evened out better.

So, if you find yourself with a one-light setup, consider all these different ways you can use the setup. Just because you don’t have a ton of equipment, that doesn’t mean you can’t make something great.

If you want some more information about ways you can use your one-light setup, read “5 Considerations for One-Light Setups.”I

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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