Speedlights are quite handy light sources that fit into many photographers’ budgets. Being a small light source, it creates hard light and can produce harsh looking results. But, when used with different light modifiers, it has the potential to create beautiful and dramatic results. Photographer Mark Wallace from Adorama shows you how you can use speedlights with some of the light-shaping tools to create soft light for beautiful portraits:
Wallace demonstrates how you can create a soft light portrait that packs a punch to it using three speedlights. Start by using a shoot through umbrella as a key light. It creates a soft light that beautifully wraps the subject. While you can easily get a soft look this way, it’s not all that exciting.
“We need to be able to shape our light, and add and subtract some things to make sure that we have beautiful light, not just blah soft light.”
You can then use a second speedlight with a reflector and a grid to work as a kicker light to highlight the cheek, shoulder, and hair. Finally, set up another speedlight with a grid and snoot to focus the light just on the subject’s hair. These three speedlights work great together to create a soft look portrait with highlights just at the right place.
To add a final touch, you can restrict light coming from the shoot-through umbrella from reaching the background. Simply place a subtraction panel between the shoot-through umbrella and the background. And if the side of the model’s face that’s away from the key light is too dark, use a reflector to fill the shadows.
You don’t always need expensive flashes and modifiers to create brilliant portraits. Try this technique to start off, and build on it to improve your portrait photography.
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