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One Light Portraits That Pop: Lighting and Editing Techniques for Single Flash Portraits

5/27/2024 Matt 0 Comments

In this insightful video by Mark Wallace, we delve into a simple yet effective lighting technique for crafting captivating portraits using just a single flash single flash. The technique hinges on utilizing a standard reflector positioned directly above the camera, generating harsh, directional light with pronounced shadows. This is coupled with dynamic posing and minimal post-processing to achieve a retro, eye-catching aesthetic.

A Detailed Breakdown

Lighting Technique:

    1. Light Setup: A flash with a standard reflector is employed. The reflector is positioned directly above the camera, pointing downwards. The model is placed opposite a concrete wall, with the flash illuminating her from above.
    2. Posing: The model is encouraged to move and pose dynamically to create a variety of captivating looks. The plain concrete wall background helps maintain focus on the model.
    3. Camera Settings: Exposure is metered to achieve an aperture of around f/9. White balance is adjusted for a warm tone.


    1. Basic Adjustments: Temperature is increased and tint is reduced to warm up the image and achieve more accurate colors. Shadows are brightened, and highlights and whites are raised to enhance contrast. Texture is increased to accentuate the details of the model's skin and hair. Clarity is boosted to sharpen edges and definition. Saturation is reduced for more natural colors.
    2. Selective Masking: A mask is created for the concrete wall background. Temperature, tint, and texture are increased on the background to make it more vibrant and eye-catching. Clarity is increased and haze is reduced to bring out the background details.
    3. Cropping and Vignette: The image is cropped to eliminate unwanted space and keep the focus on the model. A subtle vignette is added to darken the edges of the image and draw attention to the center.

Additional Tips:

    1. This technique is ideal for working with models who are comfortable moving and posing dynamically.
    2. Experimenting with different poses and angles is crucial to find the most flattering looks.
    3. Minimal post-processing helps preserve the authenticity of the image.
    4. Different types of reflectors can be used to create varying lighting effects.


This technique serves as a valuable tool for photographers seeking to create striking portraits with a single flash. The simplicity of the setup and the effectiveness of the results make it an appealing option for photographers of all skill levels.

Remember, practice makes perfect!

About Mark Wallace:

Mark Wallace is a photographer based in the United States. Best known for his web-based video series “Digital Photography One on One” and “Exploring Photography”. In 2014, Mark left the United States to embark on a 2 year worldwide adventure. He visited 28 countries and captured thousands of unique photographs across the globe. Visit

Images and video via Mark Wallace |  Model: Tasi