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Tips & Tricks

How To Shoot Editorial Photography With Only 1 or 2 Lights

By Elaine Torres on July 10th 2018

Editorial photography is all about creating images that will accompany a story (usually within a magazine context), or to visually embellish a specific theme. With editorial we have the freedom to experiment with a conceptual approach and creatively find ways to visually represent the story. Even though there are several standard lighting setups that are used for editorial photography, it’s not necessary to use complex setups of four to even six lights to create magazine-worthy images.

I recently shared a video showing how to create two easy and budget conscious setups using just one or two lights. These setups are enough to create quality images for editorial use. In the video I also talk about my preferred modifiers when shooting these types of images and why I have a fascination with circular shaped ones.

[REWIND: Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO Review | Is This The Best Value In Location Lighting?]

The lighting equipment used to create the setups is completely budget-friendly and easy to operate if you’re just starting this editorial journey.

Equipment used:

When shooting Editorial images I prefer to use medium to large circular shaped modifiers, like the octagonal softboxes (octaboxes) or parabollic umbrellas. If we are using only one light, larger modifiers are necessary if you want to properly illuminate the model’s full body and the set surroundings.

Another reason I prefer circular modifiers is because of how the light falls evenly in a circular shape, making the lighting in the background appear softer and natural. Lastly, the catchlight will look circular too, making it natural looking as well. This is why I decided to use the Paul C Buff 60 inch Foldable Octabox to create the following simple setups.

First look: 1 Light Setup 

With a one-light setup you can create several lighting effects, but for this first setup I wanted to go with a more dramatic look, adding soft shadows and depth to the scene. The addition of a darker background will help with this low key effect.

I created the look by using only one strobe with the Octabox, placing it on the model’s right side, a 45 degree angle to her right. if you use the floor area as reference. The diffusion cover and the location of the octabox were key elements to the creation of these elegant looking images with an extra edge.

Second look – 2 Light Setup

For the next look, I wanted a brighter scene. I left the key light roughly in the same location and added a second light to her left side to use as a fill light, pointing towards the sky blue background, but still allowing a little light to spill on her body. I don’t usually apply a fill light just to fill shadows, I add it to fill the scene with a color tone.

For this second light addition I used a small 16’’ beauty dish with a yellow color gel. This extra light added warm tones and extra shadows, creating additional light shapes to the scene. Color hues typically represent specific moods, making it a key element in the portrayal of concepts.

If you combine these simple but effective setups, you will get quality and professional looking images that will work for your clients and magazine submissions. So, get inspired and start getting your images published.

For more details on light and camera settings, more information about the octabox and specific tips, make sure to 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.”

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