When I was creating stock photography full-time, I used my Alien Bee lights on a regular basis. I photographed a lot of people in indoor environments and needed to create my own light. I still create images for stock and have a growing portfolio on Stocksy, but until now my images have mostly consisted of food, landscape, and travel photography. But now that I’m in Nebraska—and living close to my nieces and nephews—I expect my portfolio to change.

This weekend Brian and I had the pleasure of hosting 3/4 of the kids, including two girls who love to be photographed (lucky us!). In the morning we had originally planned to do some outdoor photographs, but those plans quickly changed after an early-morning storm rolled through. So instead, I decided to set up the lights in our new (still in-progress) basement studio space and have fun photographing their portraits.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if we would be able to do any photographs at all. Not only did I have to search for the box with the lights (somewhere in the garage, still filled with plenty of unpacked moving boxes), but these are lights that I have not used in several years. After making my online store the main focus of my business, my photography has shifted so much that the two lights I was able to locate had not even seen the light of day during the entire 3.5 years that we lived in Portland. I wasn’t even sure if they would work! Thankfully, after I plugged them in, one of them was functional (unfortunately the other was completely fried). So the two-light setup I was hoping for now turned into a one-light setup. Sometimes you need to work with what you have, and in retrospect, I’m really pleased with how the images turned out.


  • Main light: I positioned the light-source to the left of the model and used the giant shoot-through umbrella (PLM) to give the light beautiful and wide soft quality. I moved the light as close as possible to the model to make the light as soft as possible.
  • Fill: I used either a reflector or a white board for fill light, positioned on the right and connected to a second light stand with a clamp.
  • Background: We have a nice dark gray wall on the basement walls, so I opted to use that as a simple backdrop for these portraits. The umbrella I used spread the light out enough to light the background so that it retained some of the gray tones (and didn’t go completely black). The model was sitting approximately three feet from the wall.

My one-light setup. © Nicole S. Young — nicolesy.com

Gear and Equipment

Here’s a quick breakdown of my lighting gear & setup:

View this gear list on Kit.com