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Have A Single Light Source? No Worries | Get 10 Great Lighting Looks From 1 Light

By Kishore Sawh on January 8th 2015


One of the difficult things about photography, is how disheartening it can be at the start. When you begin, most people have a little of everything; a little know-how, a little gear, small lights if any, little experience, and little money with which to put into your craft. As much as that old adage ‘it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools,’ certainly applies in this field, there are just some things that can’t be done in photography without certain pieces of equipment. There’s no arguing this, and no getting around it.

Should you want to be able to take professional headshots with the right amount of compression and less distortion, you’ll need a certain focal length of lens, perhaps with a wide aperture; if you’re shooting sports you’ll need another, and on and on. To achieve certain lighting effects you’ll likewise need a particular size, power, and number of lights, and good lighting equipment, as we all know, is costly. So what are your options?


Well if it is lighting you’re seeking to experiment with, Tony Corbell is a great person to look up. As an interactive presenter, lecturer, and speaker, Tony is well versed to teach you, and his numerous awards and fellowships are testament to his actual ability. Tony’s speciality is lighting, and in the video featured here, he addresses the beginner’s problem (to a degree) by highlighting, explaining, and demonstrating ten different looks that can be achieved with only a single light source.

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Granted, the light is a sizable one, but it is, nonetheless, singular, and attainable. He does mention that when he is asked by beginners who have only enough money for one light, what to buy, he does say to buy the biggest one you can afford, because you can always make it smaller, via blinders, tape, etcetera. He then uses a multitude of inexpensive modifiers to demonstrate how to get high quality lighting for set-ups ranging from product photography to high key portraits, to group portraits with even lighting, giving invaluable advice along the way, such as the relationship importance of the size of the source relative to its distance, and how reflectors can change the light density of the shadows.

[REWIND: Packing Small & Shooting Big: Professional Results With Speedlights | Joseph W. Carey]


You can find more from Tony on his site, with examples of his work, and info on his typically sold out workshops and all. And if you’re starting out, and perhaps you really want to take your photography up the ranks quickly, but don’t have a lot of cash on hand, or want to focus on other types of lighting, keep and eye out for our Lighting 101 program which will be launching very soon. It’s an extremely comprehensive, yet highly watchable instructional package that will take you from complete lighting neophyte to lighting polymath.

Sources: Tony Corbell, ISO1200

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Brad Harberts

    I can’t wait to try all 10 ideas!

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    I love to use speedlights. This one is really great tutorial!

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  3. Hans photoWerks


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  4. Brandon Dewey

    Great tips

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  5. David Hall

    Another great video from Tony Corbell.

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  6. Chuck Eggen

    Love Tony’s tutorials even if he plugs equipment.

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  7. Daniel Thullen

    Tony certainly makes it look simple enough. I consider myself a “natural light” photographer primarily because I’m mostly shooting sports Indoors or outdoors with available light. But I’m also one of those who is still uncomfortable with the whole lighting process. Hopefully Lighting 101 can push me over the hump. Thanks Kishore.

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