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A one light setup can be all you need if you understand how light works and particularly how it falls on the human face. There’s always going to be a powerful contrast between highlights and shadows and finding the perfect balance is a big part of successfully using a single light.
It depends a lot on how and where you photograph your subject. You’re always going to need a different approach when you shoot outdoors, but for the sake of the argument let’s focus on shooting in a studio.
As you probably know, there are a few ways to using a single light source and these setups have popular names. I’m sure you’ve heard of Rembrandt lighting, split and butterfly lighting. As they say, different strokes for different folks.
To make it easier, especially when you’re first starting out, I recommend two essential things. First of all, try to use your light source with a modifier. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot light or a strobe. A modifier, like a softbox or an octobox will soften the light and create a much smoother transition between highlights and shadows. The second element I recommend adding to the scheme is a reflector. You can use any white cardboard as it will get the job done. However, you need to be careful when bouncing the light back on the subject’s face. Too much light from the reflector will make it look like you’re using two lights, it will kill the shadows almost completely and it will reduce the sense of depth.
So to sum up, remember to use a soft light source and bounce that light with a reflector. Don’t kill the shadows; just make sure you make the transition between highlights and shadows more subtle.
In the meantime, here’s a great video tutorial from The Slanted Lens on using one light.