Lighting – its one of life’s mysteries. Or at least it can feel like it. I always say it’s one of those things thats really really simple – when you know how! For a quick intro see my article on getting started with Speedlight here.
I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already written somewhere else so let me give you some food for thought by showing you a few effective portraits I’ve made using just 1 Speedlight.
Jargon Buster – what’s a Speedlight? It’s that little flash you’ve probably got in your camera bag but don’t have the know-how or confidence to use. The one that takes 4 AA batteries and fits into the hotshoe on the top of your camera. Some people call them flash guns, some say strobes, speedlights, whatever – it’s a little, portable flash with the power to change your photography forever – when you know how!
Right, now you know how, lets go. Each of the following examples was shot using just 1 Speedlight plus a modifier (either an umbrella or a softbox).
Jargon Buster – umbrellas and softboxes are diffusers which go between the flash and the subject effectively increasing the size and softness of the light source.
Example 1 – 1 person, 1 white wall, 1 light, 1 Umbrella.
Yo can’t get simpler than this – the speedlight is just out of shot, above and directly in front of the subject so the shadows go straight down creating a cool, fashionable look. Interacting wth the subject is key and if someone’s got loads of hair then why not have them smoosh it around a bit to create some movement and, hopefully, a bit of a laugh?
Example 2 – A reflective mood – remove eye contact and move the light to the side.
While having the subject fix their gaze into the camera can have a strong, confrontational mood (see the header image in this article) you can create a much gentler mood by having the subject look away from the lens. Again, one speedlight was used here with a cheap, ebay softbox. Moving the subject away from the wall allows the background to fall into darkness and the low-key look along with the downward glance lends a quiet, reflective feel to the image. The light is placed to the side of the sitter, allowing the shadows to fall to the front of the image which creates a nice sense of depth.
Example 3 – Step Outside and Match the Ambient
This example was shot as part of a demonstration at Westhill Photography Club. With the sun having just set the light was fading very quickly. It was so dark that I could hardly see Paddy. When you’re working with flash outside you often want to underexpose the ambient light but, in this case, the level of the sky was perfect so it was a case of metering for that and matching the level of the flash so expose the subject to the same level as the sky. Fairly simple…but only if you know how! Here’s some more food for thought..
So, hopefully you can see that it is possible to create evocative portraits using the most basic of equipment. Other types of flash are available but a Speedlight is the best place to start because you can experiment at a relatively low cost then, once you get confident, you can move on to fancier equipment if you like.
This is the point where I subtly draw your attention to my upcoming Intro to Speedlight Workshop – click here for the next date and full class description. Don’t forget to comment or get in touch if you have any questions.