Off-camera flash: how to stop fearing your flashgun and take control of lighting

Lighting portraits with off-camera flash

Lighting portraits with off-camera flash

Lighting portraits with off-camera flash

Shot with on-camera flash

Straight, on-camera flash is useful for revealing shadow detail in portraits taken in daylight, but it doesn’t always produce the most exciting quality of light. Shots can end up looking a little flat.

However, by taking the flashgun off the camera, you’ll see that you are able to create more dramatic, directional lighting effects.

The on-camera shot at the top of this page was taken with the flash in TTL mode. In this mode, the camera meters the flash exposure ‘through the lens’, thereby shutting the flash off when it determines the subject has received enough light.

TTL metering therefore tends to produce well-balanced shots, where the flash blends with any ambient light.

Lighting portraits with off-camera flash

Shot with off-camera flash

For the off-camera shot above, we used the flashgun in Manual mode. Unlike TTL mode, the flash always fires at a predetermined power level in Manual.

As a result of this, you can move the flash closer to increase the exposure level (as we have done here), or further away to
decrease it.

SEE MORE: How to mimic studio lighting in Photoshop for stylish portraits

TTL Metering
If we had used TTL metering in this scenario, it would simply have adjusted the power level of the flash to maintain a consistent exposure. This means that we would have needed to use the camera’s flash exposure compensation function to force the flash to increase or decrease its output instead.

PAGE 1: Common questions about off-camera flash
PAGE 2: Shoot with off-camera flash using cords
PAGE 3: Adding texture with off-camera flash
PAGE 4: Improve your vertical shots with off-camera flash
PAGE 5: Lighting portraits with off-camera flash

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