A Simple One-Light Portrait Setup Every Photographer Should Master


Portrait photographer Miguel Quiles‘ most recent video breaks down his favorite one-light setup for portraits. The tutorial is perfect for beginners who are just getting started with flash photography—not only is it easy to replicate, but having a one-light setup in your back pocket is a must as a portrait photographer.

The seasoned shooters among you are probably assuming that Quiles is about to demonstrate ye ole’ Rembrandt lighting: probably the most common one-light setup for beginners. But he’s not.

The method he’s using—which is common for headshots and beauty portraits—is a slightly modified butterfly lighting setup. Quiles places a speedlight inside a softbox that is positioned about two to three feet in front of the subject, with the bottom edge of the modifier lined up with the subject’s nose and the modifier itself angled slightly downward. He then places a reflector below the subject’s face to provide some fill and an additional catchlight.

The exact setup looks like this:

And the results look something like this:

But Miguel doesn’t just share the setup and send you on your way, he walks you through exactly how he sets up his camera to cancel out available light, describes the gear he’s using and how he set it up, and offers helpful tips on how to make this setup work for you.

As he explains at the end of the video, “if you’re an available light photographer who wants to dip your feet into off-camera flash, this handy setup will give you a great foundation to get some beautiful portraits.”

Check out the full walkthrough up top, and if you like Quiles tutorial style, you can find more helpful videos over on his YouTube channel.

Image credits: All photos by Miguel Quiles and used with permission.

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