7 Single Flash Portraits Techniques That You Can Apply Right Now

Aug 23, 2015

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

7 Single Flash Portraits Techniques That You Can Apply Right Now

Aug 23, 2015

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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Almost all the photographers I know have at least one speedlight. They use for their cameras hotshoe, if for nothing else. But what if you want to dub in off camera flashing but don’t have any modifiers yet? In this article I will show you 7 different single flash techniques for portraits that you can apply right now – without buying any modifiers.

The only thing you need to have is a wireless radio trigger and you’re good to go*.

 

One Light on Grey Background

Let’s start off with a simple one light portrait. I placed my model at about 5 or 6 feet away from the background, and bounced a speedlight off a white illustration board (but you can also use foam board which is easier to handle) to soften the light a bit. Here is a rule to remember when shooting against a white background – the farther your subject is from the background the darker the background gets. My speedlight was set at 1/4 power, and my camera settings were ISO 200, 1/125 shutter, f4.5.

Diagram (2) One Light Portraits (9)

One Light Portraits (8)

One Light Above the Subject on Black Background

For this shot I wanted my light to come from above the subject. I placed a speedlight on the camera hotshoe and pointed the speedlight at 45 degrees upwards, towards a piece of foamboard. (it was actually the same piece of board, I just placed it above the camera to bounce some light towards the model.

Diagram (4) One Light Portraits (11)

One Light Portraits (10)

 

Clean White Background

Question: How do you get a clean white background and get your subject lit well with only one light?

The subject was around 2 1/2 feet away from the background for this setup. I placed a speedlight directly behind my subject and pointed towards the white background. The speedlight was at 1/2 power. I got a mirror and placed it at camera left to catch the light bouncing from the backdrop and re-bounce it back towards the subject. My camera was set at ISO 400, 1/125 , f3.6

Diagram (5)

One Light Portraits (15)

One Light Portraits (16)

 

One Light Portraits (4)Window Shade

For this technique, I got an illustration board and cut out strip shapes and then placed it in front of my speedlight. My speedlight was angled at 45 degrees to the right. You can check out a complete breakdown of this technique here.

Diagram (1)

One Light Portraits (5)

Strip Of Light

This one is kinda similar to the previous technique, but it uses a different pattern. I got two illustration boards and placed them close to each other. I then popped a speedlight right in between. The result? A nice sharp strip of light.

Diagram (3) One Light Portraits (13)

One Light Portraits (14)

One Light Portraits (12)

Outdoors Shooting

I like using a bare speedlight outdoors because it resembles the hardness of the sun’s light. I have a routine I call the 2 Stops Magic Bullet which I will re-share now. Once outside use Matrix or Evaluative to measure the background. then move to manual and set your exposure to underexpose for 2 stops. From there place your speedlight at 45 degrees left to your subject. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

Diagram (1)

One light Portraits (1)

Shoot Thru An Umbrella

And lastly, I was doing a Pre-nup photoshoot near the street and it was raining. My “client” had a black umbrella with a white lining in the inside (or it may have been my umbrella, I’m not telling). I got them to stand on the sidewalk and the groom was holding the speedlight behind them and pointing up at the umbrella. I zoomed my speedlight to about 85mm. My speedlight was around 1/16, and my camera settings were at 1/30, ISO 800, f1.6

Diagram (7)

One Light Portraits (6)

* Actually if you have one of the new Canon, Nikon, or Matching 3rd party strobes, you don’t even need a trigger, it comes built in with CLS or e-TTL, Or even just a dumb optical slave.

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Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock

Laya Gerlock is a Portrait and Product photographer based in the Philippines. His passion is teaching and sharing his knowledge in Photograpy and has been doing this for 6 years. You can follow his work on his web page, follow him on Flickr and if you happen to come by Cubao, Quezon City (To Manila, Philippines) he gives a great workshop!

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41 responses to “7 Single Flash Portraits Techniques That You Can Apply Right Now”

  1. Paul Menard Avatar
    Paul Menard

    the mirror one is clever :)

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thanks for leaving a comment

  2. Petronilo B. Posadas Avatar
    Petronilo B. Posadas

    Nice share sir laya

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Salamat :)

  3.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    “without buying any modifiers.”

    Requires:
    1. modifier.
    2. modifier.
    3. mirror.
    4. modified modifier.
    5. two modifiers.
    and
    7. modifier.

    1. Atronoush Bashang Avatar
      Atronoush Bashang

      A white board or paper is not a modifier! But an umbrella is ;)

      1. LSG Avatar
        LSG

        Yes it is, but in this case, it was a normal umbrella that the client had ;)

        1. Ador Pamintuan Avatar
          Ador Pamintuan

          It is a modifier!

          1. LSG Avatar
            LSG

            :)

          2. LSG Avatar
            LSG

            :) it’s a normal umbrella that the client had and the article is about using a bare flash without buying any modifiers :) Thank you for commenting :)

          3. Ador Pamintuan Avatar
            Ador Pamintuan

            By saying it is a modifier, paper or ordinary umbrella I thought it meant something that changes the original nature, quantity, color, direction, etc ,of the flash emitted light..

    2. Red Fred Avatar
      Red Fred

      Why are you reading this technique since you clearly know everything already?

  4. Red Fred Avatar
    Red Fred

    Easy set up for white background. Very good.

  5. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    People here are so freaking picky. Get over yourselves. Don’t see any of your posting any articles…Jeez.

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thanks for that comment :) hehe

  6. Bill Gracey Avatar
    Bill Gracey

    Nicely done. Thanks for the lucid explanation and the pictures of your setup.

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thank you :)

  7. Thom Whicker Avatar
    Thom Whicker

    Thank you for the great tip for outdoor shooting! I’m going to try that right away.

  8. Fernando Avatar
    Fernando

    Thank you so much! This is perfect for me because I’m on a limited budget LOL

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thanks for leaving a comment :)

  9. Lucas Pitcher Avatar
    Lucas Pitcher

    Thrifty and innovative – very good!

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thanks :)

  10. Jakub Chodounský Avatar
    Jakub Chodounský

    Thanks for the tips, for me as a street/landscape photographer it’s always interesting to learn something from other genres.

    I featured this article in Photography Digest #2.

  11. JOhn C Avatar
    JOhn C

    your articles are the main reason I keep coming back to this site. Great write-up as always. Absolutely love the umbrella one!

    1. LSG Avatar
      LSG

      Thank you very much :)

  12. Ruben Saucedo Avatar
    Ruben Saucedo

    Excelent suggestions and esay to do

  13. Cesar de Miranda Avatar
    Cesar de Miranda

    Thank you Laya for this tutorial. Love the Strip Lights method.

  14. Stan Perry Avatar
    Stan Perry

    I used a reflector and put the speedlight flash few inches away and its acts like soft box with a trigger …

  15. manwhsohot_jfk Avatar
    manwhsohot_jfk

    i mirrored this post in my FB group. I hope you don’t mind. Of course with full credit to you. You can check out my FB group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/shutterfreaks

    You are welcome to join as well as I need someone who has the passion to share and teach. I also do hold free workshops in smaller groups here in Sydney.

    1. udi tirosh Avatar
      udi tirosh

      you know you can just link or share the article right? you don’t actually need to copy the entire thing.

      1. manwhsohot_jfk Avatar
        manwhsohot_jfk

        I do know that. I like it better the way I do it my way so the memvers don’t have to be redirected outside the group’s page. But thanks for your concern.

        1. udi tirosh Avatar
          udi tirosh

          well, when you pick someone else’s writing you want to redirect them to the original source, don’t you. Otherwise you are plagiarizing… AND stealing traffic from the original post.

          1. manwhsohot_jfk Avatar
            manwhsohot_jfk

            Read my comment carefully before you reply.

          2. udi tirosh Avatar
            udi tirosh

            I am not sure what I am missing

  16. luke Avatar
    luke

    Very interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Bruce Smith Avatar
    Bruce Smith

    Very nice article. The schematics of your setup are invaluable. Other articles on this topic fail to do the same.

  18. Toni Fernando Avatar
    Toni Fernando

    great article…

  19. L. Avatar
    L.

    That umbrella one really got me. Nice work!

  20. Heywood Jablome Avatar
    Heywood Jablome

    Very nice.

  21. TokyoInPics Avatar
    TokyoInPics

    This article may be old now, but good information never goes out of date! I have a model shoot coming up in a few weeks and this article has so much stuff I’m going to try.