Shooting with one studio strobe

I recently picked up an Alien Bees B800 studio strobe for my makeshift home studio. A studio strode is an upgrade from a speedlight or flash unit. Unlike a speedlight (the kind that fits on your camera's flash shoe), a studio strobe plugs into an electrical outlet so you don't have to fiddle around with batteries. Studio strobes are also more powerful than small flash units and typically include a modeling light. For example on the Alien Bees B800, there is a 150 watt modeling bulb, which is basically a typical screw in type light bulb. The modeling bulb which dims along with the settings of the strobe, is used to cast some light on the model so you can check lighting.

Studio strobes can also accept a variety of light modifiers such as softboxes that are more difficult to use with speedlights. My Alien Bees B800 comes with a very easy to use clamp that makes changing from softbox to reflectors. The strobe also has a umbrella hole for holding umbrellas.

What can you do with just one strobe? By bouncing the light around your studio you can do quiet a lot with a single strobe as long as its powerful enough. In fact on Flickr there is even a group dedicated to single strobe lighting set ups called One Strobe Pony.

No doubt you've appreciated portraits done in front of a window with nice natural sunlight streaming in. The basic set up with a single strobe mimics this type of lighting. The strobe is placed above from about a 45 degree angle so that the light falls mostly one side of the face giving it definition rather than flat lighting. The shadows on the other side of the face can be lessened by using reflectors that reflect some of the light back to the subject. That's the secret of using a single strobe. By using reflectors you are adding another source of light by reflecting some of the light back on to the subject. Reflectors can be anything from a white wall to white poster board or silver reflectors.

Another lighting set up is a single strobe from above and slightly angled at the subject. Give your subject a white poster board to hold at and angle to reflect some light back up to lessen shadows.


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