Essential Lighting Tools and Modifiers that Every Portrait Photographer Should Have

Learning to effectively use speedlights can give you quite the advantage when you’re on the go and don’t have a lot of room for gear. They’re small, effective, and can attach to your camera or just about anything. With that in mind, photographer Kevin Kubota put together the following tutorial on how to light many different scenarios using speedlights:

Speedlights can be controlled remotely using a an optical slave trigger, radio trigger, or a TTL camera system like the Nikon commander, any of which can make on-site coordination and adjusting very easy. The trick is knowing the look you’re going for, how many lights you need, and packing accordingly. They’re somewhat limited in their output, so you’ll need to consider that when you choose how many you wish to take with you. Also, they don’t come with modeling lights, so you’ll need to have a good sense of what the flashes will do and how they correlate to the f-stop you want to achieve.

Shooting with just one bag of gear

For example, to achieve the effects in the photo above, Kubota used a number of speedlights; some were attached to stands and at least one was attached to a tree. And while you generally may not need so many different light sources in one shot, adding an extra speedlight or two to your bag won’t take up much space in case you find yourself on a shoot that needs some extra punch.

Setting up for the ninja shot

While speedlights aren’t the end-all-be-all in lighting, they’re definitely one of the most portable lighting sources out there. Learning to use them comfortably can open up quite a few horizons—especially the ones that include carry-on airline travel.

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