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Tips & Tricks

How To Evenly Light Backdrops With Just One Light

By Elaine Torres on August 29th 2018

At one point during our studio photography journey, we encounter the need to achieve that evenly-lit background to create portraits with a more commercial approach. Sometimes we seek to create shadows depending on the planned concept, but it’s always useful to learn how to shoot images with a shadowless background and one light, just in case we find ourselves with the need to apply this technique later on.

This has been a constant question that keeps popping up in my Instagram comments and messages lately. Followers specifically want to know how many lights I use to accomplish this. For everyone’s benefit, I decided to create a simple video tutorial showing the exact way I usually do this for at least 85% of my shoots. I prefer simplicity when it comes to light setups, and this is why I only use one light to achieve this technique. This light serves both as a key light and background light.

[RELATED: 3 Lighting Modifiers Every Fashion Photographer Should Use]

The key element is in the size and type of modifier you’re using. To achieve this, I prefer to use medium to large octaboxes or parabolic umbrellas. This is why I decided to use the Savage Universal 78’’ ModMaster™ Multi-Fabric Octobox for the tutorial. The octobox’s circular shape and large size allows me to spill the light into the background evenly around the model, and to light up the body and face at the same time. Always remember to avoid using a grid, since we need to intentionally allow the light to spill.

Equipment used in this video:



For more specific tips on how to achieve an evenly lit background with one light, watch the video below. If you want to see the complete set of images shot in the video, don’t forget to visit my website and follow me on Instagram for more inspiration.


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Elaine Torres was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and is currently an Editorial and Portrait photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. Elaine graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with a Master’s degree in Art for Commerce Photography, specializing in color and visual composition. Her passion for sharing her knowledge in creative photography led to the launch of her YouTube channel, where she shares studio tutorials and photography related videos. You can also find her tutorials featured on photography channels and blogs like ISO1200, SLR Lounge, Fstoppers, Flash Mates, Good Light! and Adorama TV, where she recently got included as one of their hosts.

“I take pride in my Hispanic culture, and I represent it in the way I work with color and light. My goal is always to awaken curiosity in everyone who looks at my work, to spark the interest to ask questions and admire the combination of beauty and oddity.”

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Michael Zelbel

    I love the simplicity. I’ll share this post with my list tonight. Thanks a lot for the explanation. It would be awesome to see a diagram that gives me an idea about the distance between light and background as well as the subject and light source.

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    • Christopher Lin

      Thanks for the support and the comment Michael Zelbel

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    • Jim Miller

      Hi, Michael. I came here from being on your list. The model and the background were both lit evenly, but the lighting was very bland. As Roberto Valenzuelo would probably say, “It has no Hot Sauce!” But thanks for the heads up. It just may come in handy some day.

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