Ultra-Soft Beauty Light with One Bare Speedlight | Good Light Magazine

Ultra-Soft Beauty Light with One Bare Speedlight

Time has passed, things have changed since we did the beauty light shooting with 3 speedlights. Now we realize that the same results could have been achieved with only one speedlight at our disposal. Back then, we thought that the simplest and most effective solution to equalize out the distribution of light in the room was to add more flashes. In hindsight, this was a poorly thought-out strategy: the lighting seemed slightly aggressive, and highlights, although soft, were very, very bright indeed.

What we should have done was to re-position the one speedlight that we had: mount it on a lightstand, get it further away from the background and aim it properly. This would have taken care of our “uneven lighting problem” by ensuring that every part of the room reflected the light in equal measure. That way, not only was high-key lighting achieved with a lot less equipment, but the hightlights were soft instead of intense, and the background was glowing and shining with warmth instead of “burned out”.

Onlight setup tutorialNow that this idea’s been tested and proved to work fine, we would like to share it with all of you. If for some reason you don’t own three flashes, have never taken high-key shots before or prefer work with as little gear as possible, you will definitely find this information useful. Let’s get to it, shall we?

When shooting in high-key, our goal is to light up the model from all directions, “burning out” the background and leaving as little shadow as possible, but at the same time keeping the light soft, albeit quite bright. White surfaces will act as reflectors, whereas the speedlight is going to be our main lighting source.

Mount the flash on a lightstand and set it for 50% power; place it behind the model so the speedlight would face the white background somewhere between the upper section of the wall and the ceiling. Cover any of the darker objects of interior with – you guessed it – white pieces of cloth. Now position your model, aim the camera and shoot some posh photos!

Beauty lighting setup using just one speedlight

See, didn’t we tell you it was easier than it looked? Also, maybe it’s just us, but this new one-light setup seems to produce less aggressive lighting, which can be very advantageous if your model has a pale complexion. As you can see, shooting high-key images with one speedlight is a valid and extremely useful technique.

Now, to get better results and further refine your photographic skill of taking high-key shots, you may want to heed some additional advice:


Onlight setup for male model- The amount of light captured by your camera will vary depending on the speedlight settings and the reflective properties of the model’s surroundings. If you don’t feel like there is enough light for a decent high-key image, ramp up the intensity of the flash – or bring in a reflector to the side that is insufficiently lit.

- Chances are that your white room is going to be quite tight for two people – so be a gentleman and zoom in with your lens instead of trying to cram yourself in there.

- By their very nature, high-key photos tend to look generic; to avoid this, emphasize variety in the model’s poses, lingerie (or lack thereof), facial expressions, make-up (or lack thereof), hair-do etc. There will be no interesting background or curious lighting patterns to add to the atmosphere, so do the best you can with what you’ve got.

- High-key lighting is usually used to convey upbeat and jolly mood, and rightly so – it’s thoroughly non-dramatic. You can use it to create very expressive and punchy pictures, as clean and beautiful or as lively and joyful as you want them to be.

Lighting Diagram Onelight Beauty Setup

So, today we’ve learned how to make a high-key lighting setup the minimalist way – with nothing but a speedlight and a white interior. Congratulations, you have discovered a little secret of beauty photography: high-key images are not so hard to do! Now don’t miss a prime opportunity to enhance your portfolio with some sophisticated pictures; you know it doesn’t take much to shoot those – but your viewers don’t. This is time to impress them with your photographic prowess!

Oleg Starko

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