One Light Portraits

Hey guys!

This post is all about shooting portraits, using just one flash/strobe. There are a lot of articles out there from fantastic photographers that cover this topic and go into great detail (Zack Arias being one) but here is a brief bit from me.

When I'm shooting indoors/studio environment I will 99% of the time be using at least one strobe/flash.

Using flash really makes an image pop! Gives crisp sharp images, nice soft light, shapes the face and creates soft shadows.... the list goes on and on for reasons why to use flash. Indoors I can kill the ambient light using a flash, it really gives you full control of the image in terms of what is exposed and how much.

When shooting on location and the weather is pretty dull which in the UK is quite a lot of the time I will be using flash to get what I want. I can create the effect of the sun, light otherwise poorly lit area's. Create drama and add dimension to the picture. 


A Self Portrait using a single flash shot through a silver beauty dish camera left, at about 60° angle to the wall.

Using a Single Flash

Shooting multiple flashes can sometimes get complicated... different exposures on each flash, different groups....etc etc
Sometimes less is more and I have lately enjoyed using just one flash. There is a multitude of looks you can create by using just one flash. 

I can't recommend using flash enough, it can really amplify your photography to another level. Again this is completely a personal preference and a lot of people are happy to use ambient/natural light on there shoots but flash rocks!

A single strobe can be used in very creative ways... You just need to experiment with it and you will see how in different situations it can bring your game up.

If you want to shoot into the sun to get lens flare, the subject will be very under exposed... Fill with a strobe and boom!
If you want to create a sunny day when all is dark and gloomy outside... A bare flash with a Colour Gel and boom!

They are just a couple of examples but a single flash really is worth the investment and learning how to use it effectively.

Four shots... Four different locations and four different ambient conditions.... All using just one flash.

Understanding Flash:

Manual Flash or TTL?

I shoot flash manually for two reasons:
                                                                1. My flashes don't have TTL capability (Intentionally purchased like this)
                                                                2. I like to dictate how my images are exposed

It's much like shooting the camera itself. Do you like to shoot in Aperture/Speed Priority or in Manual? Both will do the job, but to know exactly how your images will be is surely better?

I can't comment too much on using flash in TTL as I have very limited experience. From the little I have used TTL I know it works, but frame to frame the exposure could be different. This is what made me decide to shoot manual flash. 

Flash Exposure

Every time you shoot with flash, each frame is capturing two exposures! You are capturing the ambient light exposure and the flash exposure. It may sound complicated but its pretty simple.

1. Meter the ambient light - For this example the ambient light gives us an exposure of 1/60th, F5.6 at iso 200
2. Under expose the ambient exposure by 1 stop - change the exposure to 1/125th, F5.6 at iso 200
3. Use the flash to balance to get the correct exposure on your subject/model

By decreasing the ambient exposure by 1 stop of light and filling with flash, it will make your subject pop out more than if both exposures were the same.

Example below:

In this shot, I under exposed the ambient light by 2 stops and used a single strobe shot through a Silver Beauty Dish to balance the flash exposure on the model.

1/250th, F5.6, iso 200 - the ambient exposure was 1/60th, F5.6, iso 200

For more detailed information I recommend heading over to The Strobist by David Hobby - Its the bible for anything regarding flash!

Shooting with flash on camera or off camera, can make a flat image look very dramatic and entirely different! It doesn't have to be expensive neither... I use GODOX V850 Speedlights (Chinese made, sold on Amazon) and they are for what I need perfect... Cheap (Approx £80 with remote trigger) very reliable and the best thing is they use a Lithium battery instead of x6 AA's. This gives me around 500 shots at full power (Never use them and full power) from one charge! Awesome!

Godox are also sold in the UK under the brand name Pixapro from .... If you get a chance definitely check them out! 

To Sum this post up.... If you don't shoot with flash, I really recommend you pick up a flash and get out and give it a go... I love shooting flash, be it with three strobes or just one flash. It really makes a difference and I enjoy the math's and technicalities of shooting flash!

Thanks for reading


Portraits with a Beauty Dish

A usual response from my son when I ask if I can take some pictures of him goes like this:

"I Don't like pictures"
"I'm too tired!"
"I'm watching the tv"
"I'm too hungry to take pictures"

etc etc....

However, I recently got lucky! I must have caught him off guard when asking and he actually said "OK Daddy". YES!.
I wasted no time in getting the light and beauty dish set up! (The Beauty Dish is by far my favourite modifier)

The Silver Beauty Dish is certainly my go to modifier for studio and location shoot. The light it projects is just awesome.  The vignette it creates I love, the light seems to wrap around the subject beautifully.  

I'm not sure when I'll next get an opportunity to shoot our son again like this, but I certainly enjoyed it and love the results (He loves them too!)