How to get a good natural light look when using flash outdoors

Jul 13, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to get a good natural light look when using flash outdoors

Jul 13, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I’m always asked why I use flash outdoors and the answer is quite simple. The natural light doesn’t always give me what I want. Sometimes I want to complement or augment it and sometimes I want to override it completely. There’s nothing wrong with natural light and I use that too when it looks good, but yeah… It just doesn’t always look the way I want it to.

But how can you work with flash outdoors and still have it look natural when shooting things like weddings or portraits? Well, in this video from Vanessa Joy, we look at several different ways you can light a subject with flash, balancing it with the natural light to create a natural look. And, yes, there’s more to it than simply adjusting the power level to even out the brightness.

Vanessa shows three different ways of lighting her subjects with the Profoto B10 strobe using reflected light, a small softbox and a large bounc umbrella diffuser and the reasons for and against each different setup. With most outdoor situations, there are often multiple setups that will work well and keep the shot looking natural, but there is also no single go-to that works for all natural lighting conditions.

So, the secret isn’t so much what gear you use, or even a particular technique, but how you interpret the scene and decide what gear and technique will work best for that particular shot. For example, that relatively hard light from the small softbox didn’t look great for this particular shot, but it might if you’re trying to enhance or simulate late evening golden hour sunlight.

Figuring out how to blend flash with natural light was the best thing I ever did for my portrait photography. If you’re a portrait shooter who hasn’t done so yet, it’s probably about time you learned. Vanessa’s video will give you a push in the right direction!

Do you mix flash with the outdoor natural light?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to get a good natural light look when using flash outdoors”

  1. 1861man Avatar
    1861man

    Interesting angle used in the bounce flash using the ceiling. Not sure if an extra powerful flash is required to do that – I will try it out. I have a Canon 580 exIi (the old version). Nice video but not real fan of the blurry plant in the foreground idea, it seems to be a distraction to me. Thanks for your useful information though.