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5 Pro Portrait Lighting Setups For Those On A Budget

Here are 5 professional portrait lighting setups you can create with just one light so you can capture great portraits without breaking the bank.

|  Portraits and People
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If you want to practice a range of portrait lighting techniques that produce 5 different looks without the need for a professional lighting setup, then The School of Photography's latest tutorial will be right up your street. 

"We’re giving you 5 professional portrait lighting setups you can do with one light, in fact, the whole kit we use costs around £120!" The School of Photography.

This is actually a snippet from an in-depth portrait lighting tutorial with videos, diagrams and examples that's available on The School of Photography website so do check it out but to get started, here's what you'll need:

  • A camera that has a full manual mode
  • Standard zoom lens
  • Studio flash head with barn doors
  • Reflector
  • Brolly
  • Softbox
  • Remote trigger

The portrait lighting techniques explored are:


Portrait Lighting Setup 1 – The Low Key effect

B&W Portrait


"This simple lighting setup is created by strong direct light coming in from one side of the face and it creates what’s called a Low Key look."


Portrait Lighting Setup 2 – Using a Softbox


Female model looking at soft box and light


"In this lighting setup, a softbox is used to give a diffused soft light to one side of the face. A black reflector is used to make one side of the portrait dark."



Portrait Lighting Setup 3 – White Brolly with Silver Reflector


Head and shoulder shot of female model


"This lighting setup gives a clean, crisp look to any portrait. It’s created by using a simple white brolly which reflects soft light over the top of the model. Black reflectors are used on both sides of the face to add contour to the portrait."


Portrait Lighting Setup 4 – Diffuser Brolly


Studio portrait of a female model


"Here is a very simple but effective portrait lighting setup. Most brollies also come with a diffuser which allows you to use the same brolly for different effects."


Portrait Lighting Setup 5 – Rim Lighting


Female studio portrait



"This may be a retro lighting setup but it’s one that’s fun to do and it adds what’s called a rim light to your portraits. To create this effect simply put the flash head behind the model and hide the light with the model when taking the portrait."

For more inexpensive lighting idea, have a read of our tutorial that uses Ikea lighting for a home photography shoot

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