How to Create Multiple Portrait Styles with One Speedlight

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Not all photographers have used artificial lighting before. In fact, some people only even rent lighting equipment when certain events or situations call for it, otherwise they just make do with natural light. For one, it’s expensive. The other reason? They don’t know how to use it.

Learning how to use lighting equipment properly takes time. Formal lessons are offered on the different lighting techniques, tools and setups involved in creating a well-lit picture. However, all that knowledge would be more helpful to those who already have most, if not all, the tools and equipment mentioned in tutorials:

So what if you only have one speedlight at hand? Bob Harrington teaches you how to use it in several ways.

Simple Bounce Flash

girl posing against backdrop

photoshoot fashion girl

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 500, WB Daylight, Small Rogue Flashbender

This technique entails mounting your speedlight on a lightstand and simply bouncing the light off the walls. It works well in enclosed spaces and with low-hanging ceilings. This is great for indoor events such as birthday parties, weddings, cotillions, and etc.

Reflective Umbrella

fashion shoot

fashion portrait

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Photoflex 45” Umbrella

One of the most important tools in your lighting kit is a reflective umbrella, preferably a convertible one. This can work well both indoors and outdoor, especially if your reflective umbrella is made of sturdy material, like carbon fiber. That way, it won’t break in case it falls during a shoot.

Reflective Umbrella with Reflector

behind the scenes fashio

fashion shoot portrait

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, California Sunbounce Micro Mini with Grip Head

The Sunbounce is a little pricey but well worth the money. You can change up the look by moving the Sunbounce around or by flipping it over to the more reflective side. The white side is softer and less contrasty, while the silver is a little harsher.

Sidelight Reflective Umbrella

portrait long dress photoshoot

photoshoot long gown

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Photoflex 45” Umbrella

By simply moving the light and turning your model towards the light, both the model and a little bit of the background are lit up.

Crunched Umbrella

collapsed umbrella photoshoot

dramatic photoshoot

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Photoflex 45” Umbrella

Using the same umbrella, collapse it over the light. This compresses the light, creating a very dramatic lighting effect.

Shoot Through Umbrella with Reflector

young girl photoshoot

young girl portrait

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, California Sunbounce Micro Mini with Grip Head

Position the reflector at an angle, slightly lowered. This fill light will reflect light onto the bottom of the chin and under the eyes, wrapping the subject in light.

Shoot Through Umbrella

girl in black posing

Through an Umbrella

little black dress photoshoot

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Bare Head Flash

This creates nice, soft lighting with a drop shadow. This technique is popular for magazine covers and editorials because the light fill in all of the pores, reducing the need for skin correction in post, except for a few minor tweaks. Flat lighting makes post-processing easier.

Over and Under Beauty

lighting setup living room

Over and Under

beauty close-up

1/250 @ f/7.1, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Photoflex shoot through umbrella, California Sunbounce Micro Mini with Grip Head

This is another simple setup that you can execute even without the help of assistants.

Bounce into Reflector

graffiti portrait photoshoot

portrait against graffiti

1/250 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Bare head flash, California Sunbounce Micro Mini with Grip Head

For outdoor photoshoots, expect a lot of light to spill. This creates a soft, diffused light that is similar to if you had a wall to bounce the light off of.

Direct Flash

photoshoot lighting setup

direct flash photoshoot

1/125 @ f/5.6, ISO 200, WB Daylight, Bare head flash

You’ll see this technique a lot on magazine covers and editorial shoots as well. This creates a very hard drop shadow. The effect created is different from if the flash were to be mounted on your camera’s hotshoe.

For more techniques, view the video in its entirety.

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