If you’re new to studio flash photography, you may be a little confused about how everything works. The types, sizes, and shapes of light modifiers, the light’s placement and distance from the subject… There’s a lot to learn, and in this article, we’ll focus on the distance of the flash from your subject. Does it really matter how far you place the light? Spoiler alert: it does. And in this great video from Adorama, Gavin Hoey will give you plenty of examples of how and why the flash distance affects your studio images.
To provide you with the examples, Gavin used the camera on a tripod and the same settings so he gets consistent results. The general rule for headshots is to place the flash as close to your subject as possible, but what changes as you move it further away?
The first thing you’ll likely notice is the color of the background (or at least that’s what I always notice first). As you move the light further away, it appears brighter. This happens due to the Inverse Square Law, and you’ll find more about it here and here.
Another obvious change is in the shadows on the model’s face, which become more elongated. In Gavin’s case, they also got a bit brighter, likely the light partially bounced off the white wall. In addition, the catchlights in the eyes become smaller, which is a subtle, but logical change.
I’m completely inexperienced in studio photography and I learn best from examples and demonstration. So, I found videos like this quite useful, and I hope this one will help you, too.