Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Technique Tuesday: One Light Window Light - Simple Portrait Lighting

Good Morning Everybody,

Class notes - Fotolia_5212268_Subscription_XL Our class is officially underway and off to a great start.  We have such a variety of talent across all walks of life in the class, it should be an exciting  and informative for all of us.  You know, attending a workshop like my Master Class is a learning experience for all of us – myself included.  More importantly, I want to say the learning that takes place is not just from my instruction, but from the genuine interaction of all the class members too.  It’s that synergy that makes for a much richer experience for all of us – teacher and student alike.

Today we head out for our all day shoot and are planning to visit some beautiful locations. I'll do the preliminary shooting to give everyone and idea of how I would handle the situation.  Then I'll step aside and let the class go for it, with my "coaches" standing by to offer guidance and assistance.  Last  fall we gave this concept a try and everyone loved it.

This time around we hired more models.  I'm really hoping the class goes home with some great portfolio images.  We'll see how they did tomorrow ;~)

Hey, time to get on with today's Technique Tuesday. Here we go...

One Light Window Light - Simple Portrait Lighting

A few weeks ago I was shooting a Bar Mitzvah for some of my favorite clients. Part of that shoot included the family portrait session on Thursday afternoon at the synagogue. I set up a portable studio complete with a painted studio background. I still use the background to bring continuity to the shoot - I've used it for the other three siblings Bar/Bat Mitzvahs too.

Anyway, my lighting setup has changed over the years.  I used to use a Paul Buff White Lightning 600 as my main studio light. I placed it in a Westcott 42 inch Halo.  I filled the shadows with a 36 inch Westcott reflector on a light stand.  this has been my standard studio setup for years.

0001-CBTL-IMG_1765DAZNOTE: This is actually this same set up I show in my book, "Captured By The Light" in Chapter 1.

Over the years, I've always been looking for more portable ways to go on location when shooting portraits. A few months ago I used my Zumbrella.  It worked very well but I had to be careful not to cast it's shadow on the background.

I've been working with Westcott on a new product. I'm calling it my Z-Cloud. It's an extra large 60 inch Zumbrella that actually folds smaller than my 42 inch Zumbrella - way cool. More later on the Z-Cloud as development continues. 

Anyway, Westcott sent me a prototype to experiment with.  I decided to see how I might work in a one light portrait setup.  I figured that if I could shoot through it with my Quantum T5d strobe in "bare-bulb" mode, I just might pull it off.

Well, my idea worked just fine.  I created a 60 inch light source which gave me a very nice soft quality of light on the subject almost like window light.   And, it reduced the specularity or "shininess" on the subjects considerably - a nice added benefit which reduced the image retouching time in post production.

Want to see how I put the One Light Window Light studio together and see the results, hit the PLAY button below and enjoy the show.

Pretty cool, don't you think?  I'm always trying to keep it simple and my one light window light is really pretty simple and gives a great result.  A reflector probably would have helped, but my Lightroom trick worked just fine getting to a great result for my clients.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We’ve got a big day at my Digital Master Class so I've got to get moving. I’ll have an image or two to share with you tomorrow.  I'm packing my gear bag and heading out the door.

See everybody tomorrow, same time, same station,

Adios, -David


  1. Hey Dave, two questions.
    1) What type of recycle time are you getting between shots on the Quantum?
    2) I assume you are shooting manual?
    tx Don Parrott, Simpsonville, SC

  2. Very cool.

    The use of a single large light source really helps keep things simple and we all like simple.

    And seriously?..a 60" umbrella that folds flatter than a 42"...you piqued my interest with that!

    Can't wait to get the details.

  3. Silly question,but how big is that backdrop? If seem the perfect size for a small group, 10x10?
    Thank you David for the good work

  4. Another great use for the Qflash. The images look great. This would minimize the amount of equipment needed for a variety of shots. What kind of ISO / f-stop were you using with this setup? Do you think the coverage with this umbrella/flash combo would be adequate for a full length shot such as a location bridal shot? I appreciate you giving us new ideas to use with our existing equipment.

  5. David, thank you for sharing your expertise as a professional photographer with the rest of the world. I don't know of any other photographer that takes the time to share their skills like you do. You are truly a MASTER teacher of photography. Thank you!!!

  6. David, you've pretty much sold me on the Qflash, but out of curiosity I was wondering why you use the T5dr instead of the X5dr? it seems that the price difference is minimal and yet you can get 200-400ws with the X...so..am I missing something? If I'm going to spend $1500 I want to make sure I'm getting the right gig.