One Light Wonder


Lesson Info

Creating a One Light Playbook

Here we are, continuing our one light playbook. Talk about just a little bird's eye view of what we're gonna talk about. We've been talking a lot about about this, form and content right? How our formal decisions, what we choose in the light, how it supports the mood and ideas and the feeling of our picture. How we can, you know, represent one person a couple different ways using the same light. We're gonna demo more easy one light set ups. We're gonna illustrate more subtractive and reflective using cards, gobos, just shaping light a little bit. We'll look at that for sure. And we're gonna understand the limitations and why you might wanna use a second light because that's gonna happen, right. That's just gonna hit that situation. So this again, what we're talking about this is one of my diagrams. This is very similar to the picture Jason, right? Hat, right. Overhead sort of light. This is similar situation to what we were working with before with you. It looks kind of like two lights...

, right. Kinda looks like we might have a light coming this way and a second light coming this way. But this second light is actually just the fill card. Silver card underneath, small grated soft box over head. We have that we soft box here? The small one? Yeah, the very small soft box. This little kitty? Yeah, cool. So I use one of these a lot. It's kind of in between a soft box and grid spot, it's just got a fabric grid on the front of it, it's a great small point light source, and it still gives some softness to it. So we'll check these out today. But these diagrams are what you wanna start. So I've been putting together these diagrams in a Photoshop document a little bit neater than before. Typing up a little bit of notes, and then the pictures that we have as well. I can show you two of the finished ones right now. Just from that first light set that we had, Look at that, that's beautiful light, I really like that. Showing, too, that we've go the softbox right overhead, everything else, and the notes regarding the power and the ratios and what not. And another one too, for that more open set-up where we're bouncing a lot of light in with two V flats on the side, both white, and then a silver reflector from below. Thanks, Chris. You're welcome. Those are looking good, right? So I mean this practice is, the more thorough you are, the better you are with it. I think the more it kind of cements what your lessons are doing and clarifies it, and I don't know, like I've always wanted to write a book on photography, and I feel like we're kind of writing a little book on photography that's just like this is it. So we're gonna be doing that. Again, hard light, soft light, what's the quality of light, why is it working, you know, I think you just wanna make the right choices. Here, I'm shooting, it's actually a sneaker story for a hip-hop magazine. So it was on sneakers, it was on fashion. And I'm choosing a really hard light, why am I choosing that hard light, anybody wanna know, what am I trying to emphasize? Yeah, just go ahead. 'Cause they're very dingy, they've got, they've broken up in places. No I got it. Sure, give him the mic. They're very dingy and they've got extreme sports sort of feel to it. Cool so it fits the idea. And you were gonna say something too? It's just the mood and ambiance that you're trying to create and communicate, you're saying this isn't the soft beauty box, this isn't something soft and fluffy, this is something harder. Yeah, and most importantly, like, what's in this picture? What, shoes, and what else? Dark tones. Dark tones, and what else? Detail. Detail. And what is the detail? No, it's these guys and their shins are all cut up from riding bicycles, right, so I just really wanna show that off. And there's ways to do that. Or, many times, I'm sure like you, it's great when I have an assistant, and I roll around with Chris and we get to work together. Sometimes I'm going in there by myself and I'm just using one raw light, one hard light, and I think this particular kind of light has a certain honesty to it, a certain realness to it. It has like a snapshot quality or it speaks to us in a language that we trust or that's familiar to us. And there's a realness to it. It also has a little vignette, just, I don't know, it works for some things. I'm a fan of raw light. This is exactly what we did with Doug earlier, it's just that overhead light, we see a little fill card right under here, under her eye, bouncing some light back up. It's just a different typographical diagram and people asked about catch lights. We could see there's a little bit of an octagonal shape to that that's an octagonal shape catch light. This is a tight portrait. This is a tight portrait Very different people. So what's different? You guys just speak off the top of your heads, so what's different between these two pictures? The texture's different for the second. Yeah, texture, a lot of texture, yeah, you don't need the mic, I'll just repeat you. Texture is definitely here, it's different, and why do you think I chose? Iggy's got a different vibe. Yeah, Iggy pops a little bit more like driftwood, right, you know what I mean, you kind of, he feels like driftwood, he feels like the strange rock and roll artifact that's been flowing through the ocean of, Time. Time, for a long time, you know what I mean? And you kinda wanna speak to that and his gravitas. And a young, more poppy artist, you wanna light her up to look like buttery soft. These might seem like, I don't know, I think these are, you wanna be making these choices with intention. Raw, hard light again, again I'm just using a bare bulb. Chris, show 'em, point to that thing, point to that reflector, exactly, something just like that. Bare bulb, right against the wall. And this is gonna touch on, day three what we're gonna do when we talk about high-speed photography and slow-flash duration and freezing action, you know. Electronic flash, a great way to do that. Raw light again, just bare bulb. I roll with that a lot. Or even here, where you're working with the inverse square law, people be like ahh, you know that light's falling off, I don't know, it kind of works, it puts you at a time of day and a place, and freezes you. It's just working with the picture, so. Or many times, I get in these situations where I have to run into the studio and photograph somebody and they're not gonna give me a lot of time, so we're gonna run in and work quickly in these situations with the light on the fly. Again, these are all one light examples I'm showing you, a lot of one light examples. Soft beauty dish straight from the front. It's gonna give you, this is just a beauty dish with a sock, we're gonna look at that. We're just gonna run through 'cause maybe you haven't seen all these modifiers, maybe some of you have, I'm sorry, but we're gonna rip through 'em quick, put 'em in your playbook, give you like a simple little PDF, that's what this looks like, that's what that looks like. This is one light overhead, yep. Just a beauty dish again overhead with a silver card underneath, I think I drew it, boom there it is. So bounce card underneath with an apple box here, one beauty dish overhead, and it's working with that fall-off nicely. Lot of notes up there. Again, it's a lighting style, and me I try to pick the style that's right for the picture. Or right for my subject, and I try to show 'em in the right way. Huge soft source which we were looking at earlier, working with that big soft box, very similar source from the side, just creating a lot of depth, a lot of form, nice wrap-around light, it kind of wraps and smooths around your subject because of how it operates and then a fill card. So here's just, more diagrams, more, just stuff to get your head around it, what we're working on, any questions from you guys? Right now, or anything you thinking about, yep? When you're using the Octabox versus the square diffuser what is the reasoning there? The biggest thing that's gonna change is the catch-light in the eye, right? And, some people, that means, like somebody asked us online, what about your catch-light? Some people are really attached to that sort of thing. Me, I'm not so attached to it, right? Not so attached. But some people really care about those catch-lights, so the Octabox is gonna give you a different catch-light. Sometimes, the difference is, what's inside those lights, sometimes they're silver, sometimes they're white, sometimes it's the number of layers of diffusion. Yeah, generally I use one that's a little bit different than the one we're using today, and instead of facing, the head facing your subject this way, and the diffusion happening here, it faces this way and it bounces, and it makes it bigger and softer, because it's gonna be softer. So, you know. Most often I'm gonna use the bigger sources for bigger sources and smaller sources when I wanna create more shape and mood, so that would be my general rule. I don't think there's any hard and fast answer to that sort of thing, so, he's a big dude, right? Here, this is a perfect example, right? You can actually see the Octabank in the reflection here right? I kind of wanted that sort of glow and that hard light reflection in my background, it's like silver background here. And I wanted that light straight on and even, 'cause we talked about this, these are like pretty boy kind of band that I wanna light straight in, and make 'em look young and pretty, right? It's a huge source, straight into them, and I drew this diagram a little bit different 'cause I thought you could think about it here. So sometimes we talked about this, your light source, if it's as big as your subject, it's a little bit easier to light your subject, just a rule. So I had a huge Octabank, eight foot Octabank, with my band right here, so this is me. So there's a lot of ways to draw these things, you gotta find ones that's right for you. Camera, and sometimes I'm standing right in front of that Octabank with it right behind me, you know. It's just a good way to roll, you know. All one light set-ups here. It's just a 22 inch gridded spot, we're gonna look at that, it's a big beauty dish with a grid on it, creates like a nice vignette. And it's somewhere between being a very focused hard light and a soft light, it's like right in the middle. Yeah, it's a dish, it's six inches away from the subject and a light covers him from head to toe. So, this is Eddie Van Halen, I grew up listening to this guy, he was like my hero, I photographed him all day and at the end of the day, he kissed me on the lips. (crowd laughs) Which, I was like, really excited about, and felt uncomfortable about at the same time, right. So it's just like this. This is what we're gonna do right now. We're gonna look at one light, we're gonna look at a lot of different modifiers, kind of like what we did with the soft box but different light shaping tools. Umbrella, strip bank, grid spot, right? And it's gonna fall on our subject a certain way and fall on our background a certain way. Why are we doing this? It's gonna really dig into the next part where we start putting these things together, we start understanding why, alright this is a great light for lighting that, but maybe I need a little bit more to light the whole thing. When we start combining them. Yeah, so these are just those examples, all one light. All slightly modified. Some of them we covered already. Yes, let's shoot. Alright, any questions? Any questions? Yeah, quick question from the internet, Clay, do you remember your first modifier? My first modifier, yes, let me talk about my first modifier. It was a simple soft box. Chimera, it was about yea-big. At the time, I chain-smoked cigarettes, so it became filthy yellow and like, it had like a warming filter on it, you know what I mean? (crowd laughs) So it was like a, you know, the color temperature was totally jacked on this thing, it was like twenty points too yellow. So that was my first one, and then I used a lot of raw light and I bounced the light off of stuff. Yeah, it taught me a great deal, and I just kind of shot everything right around here and it worked just fine.

We only have one sun, so why should we need more than one light? In this course, celebrity portrait photographer Clay Patrick McBride will dive into lighting with intention. Through a variety of live shoots, he’ll demonstrate how to incorporate lighting diagrams into your workflow so you can create setups that you can use again and again.

He’ll cover:

  • How to control your light
  • Creating hard or soft light
  • The importance of documenting your setups
  • Sculpting with Light
  • Removing and creating shadows with intention

By the end of this class, you will be able to create incredible images with confidence and the use of only one light.



  • WOW! I was getting ready to go to bed, when I saw this class last night as I was perusing the classes available. Got the notification that it was playing, so I thought I'd check it out for a minute or two. Well, once I turned it on, I couldn't turn it off! As someone who has shot musicians on stage since I was 16, I've recently been interested in shooting portraits of them, so Clay instantly intrigued me! The more I watched, the more I couldn't shut it off, and I stayed up til 5:30 in the morning to finish the course (financial issues, so I can't afford the class right now) This class is amazing! I love Clay's teaching style, his willingness to step outside the box and play by his own rules, and his lighting is awesome! As soon as it is possible, I WILL be purchasing this class! Loved it! Thanks again CreativeLive for introducing me to yet another outstanding photographer to learn from!
  • I absolutely loved this. Great instruction, great content and very inspiring demonstrations. I'd highly recommend this course
  • Awesome intro to lighting. I love Clay's teaching style and his personality infused presentation was a pleasure. I highly recommend this course.