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How to Make Your Subject Stand Out From The Background Using One Light

profoto a2 one light portrait
Straight Out Of Camera // Settings: f/1.2 @ 1/8000, ISO 50

How many times have you walked onto a scene dark and overcast and wished you could make your subject jump off the background?

The first thing most photographers will do is shoot available light, which is ok… but its going to look very flat.

Why? because the same light hitting your subject is hitting your background… So exposure is technically the same on both. as you raise exposure on your subject, you are raising the exposure on the background at the same time – creating a very flat edit.

See example

Equipment Used:


Ok… So what can we do here to make this image more interesting? For me – I break the image into two different exposures.

The first exposure is on the background… I want a dark moody background so I expose the camera for the background. this is what you saw in the first image. the result? your subject is going to be underexposed.

AND THAT’S OK! This is where you use flash to fill your subject’s face.

Let’s check out the second image below.

profoto lighting tutorial
Straight Out Of Camera // Settings: f/1.2 @ 1/8000, ISO 50

The difference in exposure from the background to the face is about 1 stop. nothing too dramatic. this allows the light to look more natural and for this image that’s what I was going for – nice separation and good skin tones.

So how did I do this? Using a small light like the Profoto A2 on a monopod with a dome diffuser gave me the perfect kiss of light

Took a couple of test shots and I was off to the races.

Super easy right? Now get out there and try this on your next shoot. See you in the next video!

Final Image

Settings: f/1.2 @ 1/8000, ISO 50

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