How to Light & Shoot a Dramatic Portrait by Yourself

SLR Lounge Staff
5 min readFeb 19, 2020

In this video, we’ll show you how to create a dramatic portrait flash setup all by yourself! This is a great technique to learn when you are solo-shooting or don’t have an assistant to help you out.

1. Place Your Camera on a Tripod

For this tutorial, you’ll notice we are using the C.A.M.P Framework that we created in our Lighting 4 course, which means our first step is to decide on our composition for our photo. We chose a “leading line” of rough terrain composed of rocks that positions Jae right in the center. With this position we were able to emphasize the backlight of the sun. Once you’ve decided on this, let’s lock things down by placing your camera on a tripod. Why? This will keep things consistent for you while you’re shooting on your own, it’s a lot easier to manage when solo, plus there’s an added benefit which we’ll get to later!

2. Dial-In Your Ambient Light Exposure

The intent here is obviously something more dramatic than normal. Since we know we’re going to add some strobe lighting later, we’ll set the camera to shoot a little darker by using faster shutter speed, (taking advantage of High Speed Sync), to ensure the ambient backlight provides just a nice highlight on the back of our models hair. Now we can prepare for our portrait flash setup. Your ambient light exposure is very dependent on your intended look behind your photograph.

3. Modify or Add Light

Now that we’ve got our settings dialed in for the ambient light exposure, we now need to figure out how we want to light our subject. Since we don’t have enough ambient light to simply modify with something like a reflector, we need to add a flash. What would make the most impact in this particular situation, is a butterfly light dropping directly over…

SLR Lounge Staff

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