Portrait Photography Tips: Using flash
10 Get artistic with flash lighting
Equipped with a flashgun, remote triggers and a good-sized diffuser, you open up the possibility of a vast array of clever and cool lighting set-ups.
Light your subjects from the side to add drama to your portraits, and get creative by under-exposing the sky or background, dialling in -2 stops of Exposure Compensation to capture a moody backdrop behind your subjects.
10 Wired and wireless flash triggers
Although your digital camera’s pop-up flash can be handy and helpful, there are many reasons to invest in a hotshoe flashgun.
One of our favourite portrait photography tips is to use off-camera flash. An off-camera flash is much more powerful, which means a brighter burst of light, enabling you to set smaller apertures to capture more depth of field, or to light up a group of people.
You also have more control over its settings, and you can angle it up or sideways to bounce the light off ceilings and walls.
11 Stand by me
Consider investing in a flashgun stand, such as the Manfrotto 5001B Nano stand (£45), plus a Manfrotto 026 Lite Tite Swivel Umbrella Adapter head (£29).
A stand not only acts as a second pair of hands, it also enables you to position your flash up high or down low, pointing the head exactly where you want the light to hit.
12 Using fill flash on sunny days
Although it may seem odd to use flash when the sun’s out, that’s precisely the time when you should use it!
The sun can cause all sorts of problems for portrait photographers: harsh shadows across faces, unbalanced exposures and burnt-out highlights.
Use a bit of ‘fill flash’ and you’ll instantly improve your portraits; your camera will capture a much more balanced exposure, because your flash will light up your subject while the camera exposes for the background.
13 The benefits of off-camera flash
A flashgun is detachable and can be fired via a cable, or wirelessly using a remote control attached to your hotshoe (some of the latest SLRs can even fire flashguns remotely, without the need for an additional trigger).
You can also use two flashes in unison for more complex lighting set-ups. Using a remote trigger will enable you to fire one flash, to act at the ‘master’, which in turn will fire the second ‘slave’ flash unit at the same time.
Attach diffusers and softboxes for a bigger, softer – and more flattering – spread of light.
14 Five flash upgrades & add-ons
- A hotshoe flashgun (or two). Check out the Nissin Di866, £200.
- Flashgun diffuser. The functional Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce is a good option, £18 (see page 130).
- Flashgun softbox. LumiQuest Softbox flash attachments come in a range of sizes, from £25.
- A remote flash cable, such as the Canon OC-E3 Off-Camera Shoe Cord or Nikon TTL Remote Cord SC 28.
- Wireless flash triggers, such as Hähnel’s Combi TF Remote Control and Flash Trigger, £50.
Studio Lighting: 4 seriously simple lighting techniques to try at home
Classic Portrait Ideas: how to take pictures of people from all walks of life
Three easy ways to fire your flashgun remotely
Flash photography tips: external flash techniques anyone can understand