Tag Archives: off camera flash

Portrait photography

6 Jan

Portrait photography can be so much fun but can also be the biggest pain. It’s fun to create moody, artistic and representative images of ones personality. My main objective with portrait photography is to capture the essence of someone while making them look beautiful.

Know your subject

In portraiture, take the 10-15 minutes to discuss with your subject instead of shooting right away. You need to make them feel comfortable. Your confidence will make them confident and more at ease. Talking with your subject will transport them into another frame of mind. Find out what there passions are, talk to them about that. This is where general knowledge will help you to have proper communication with the person in front of you!

Relax, enjoy and make it fun!

Your confidence will also affect your subjects energy. Have you ever noticed how one bad coworker can ruin the mood in a lunch room? The same can happen with portrait photography. You need to have energy, positive reinforcement for the subject and the confidence of achieving the desired look. You can relax because most portraiture session are only going to give you a couple of amazing shots and many good shots. You are working for the amazing one. Most portraits are taken with the camera at (or around) the eye level of the subject. While this is good common sense – completely changing the angle that you shoot from can give your portrait a real WOW factor.To build confidence, you simply have to take photographs. Try to shoot on a weekly basis. Framing is a technique where by you draw attention to one element of an image by framing it with another element of the image. Framing gives an image depth and draws the eye to a point of interest in the image. You could do it by placing your subject in a window or doorway, have them look through a small gap or even use their hands around their face. Portraits can be so static – but what if you added some movement into them? This can be achieved in a few ways:

  • Make your subject move
  • make an element move around your subject while keeping him still.
  • Move your camera or zoom to introduce movement.

TIP: Take your time. I see too many people rushing when they are in a portrait session. Take your time to achieve greater results.


In the equipment spectrum of portrait photography, multiple tools are available to achieve various lightings and moods. The first part will be lenses. A great lens will allow you to have a shallow DOF to direct the eye of the beholder to your subject. The DOF control will be important since you either need to eliminate the background or your need to show it. Various focal lengths can be use to create amazing portrait photography. Don’t hold anything back by thinking that portraiture is only done with one lens or a longer focal length.

TIP: Know your equipment. It looks pretty funny if you are shooting a friend or a client and do not know how to operate your camera or flash.

You can use a 14mm lens

Here is an example with a 24mm wide angle

Here is one with a 50mm

Now an 85mm lens

With a 300mm lens

And last one with a 500mm


A medium size reflector of 32 inches can do wonders on your portrait photography. They fold up nice and can be put in your laptop pocket of your photography bag. I will suggest that you either purchase a 5 in 1 reflector or purchase a white and silver reflector. The contrast will be control by the side or reflector that you use. White will reflect a soft light, silver and gold a harsh light with a tint depending on which one you use. If you do not have the budget for a reflector, you can always go to the local craft store and you can purchase a white foam core. If you need it silver, go to the dollar store and by yourself some aluminium foil and stick it on one side.

TIP: Use the reflector overhead of the subject for the light to look natural and flattering.


You should take the time to read the post on flash photography here.


Candid styles of photography are increasingly becoming popular both in general day to day photography but also in formal photographic situations. Probably the best way to take spontaneous photographs is to always be ready to do so. Taking your camera with you everywhere also helps people to be more at ease with you taking their photo. I find that my friends and family just expect me to have my camera out so when I do fire it up it’s not a signal to them to pose but it’s a normal part of our interaction – this means that they are relaxed and the photos are natural. Don’t be afraid to shoot lots of images to get the right one. With experience your number of keepers will grow. You might want to think about not using flash so that you do not distract the subjects and the others around. While Candid Photography is about capturing the spontaneity of a moment and getting that perfect shot at the right split second of time I find that if you think ahead and anticipate what is about to unfold in front of you that you can greatly increase the chances of getting some great shots. So at a wedding get to the church early (or even go to the rehearsal) and think about what will happen during the ceremony and where will be best for you to stand to capture each moment. Which way will people be facing? What will they be doing? What will the light be like? Thinking through these issues will save you having to run around repositioning yourself when you should be shooting images – it’ll also mean you take a whole heap less shots of the back of people’s heads! Images of people doing things tend to be much more interesting than people sitting passively doing nothing. For one your subject will be focussed upon something which adds energy to a photo (and takes their focus off you) but it also puts them in context and adds an element of story to your image. Timing is everything in Candid shots so wait until they are distracted from you and fully focussed upon what they are doing or who they are with and you’ll inject a feeling into your shots of them being unaware and that the viewer of your image is looking on unseen.Something very interesting happens when you photograph more than one person in an image at a time – it introduces relationship into the shot. Even if the two (or more) people are not really interacting in the shot it can add depth and a sense of story into the viewing of the image. Of course ideally in candid shots you’d like some interaction between your subjects as that will add emotion into the shot also as we the viewer observe how the people are acting. A trick that I often use in candid shots is to purposely include something in the foreground of the shot to make it look as though I’m hiding behind it. You might do this with by shooting over someone’s shoulder, by including a little of a tree branch or the frame of a doorway.


Photojournalism style differ from candid by the fact that a photojournalism portrait will explain an event while being a portrait. You don’t direct, you don’t tell people what to do. You are there to observe and absorb the environment and document it as it is, just like you don’t want to lie to the public when you publish an image. Many photographers use the two names (candid and photojournalism) as if they are the same. However, photojournalism is not just a series of random photographs where the subject is not looking at the camera; nor is it any photograph shot with black and white film. Photojournalism is more of the philosophy on how the photographer approaches photographing a subject or event. Wedding photojournalists, like news photographers, photograph the wedding as an observer, and do not interfere or try to force moments into happening. A true wedding photojournalist will observe and capture key moments and a variety of other shots that help tell the story without any interference. On the other hand, candid photography can be any photo that isn’t posed.


There is no basic rule in any field of photography since there are too many variables. Portraiture does not differ from that. You need to see your light, you need to control it with reflectors or flash, you need to decide on your settings and more.

The first rule is that your Autofocus system should be in AF-s or One shot for static portrait. You should at least work in Aperture priority (A, Av) and understand that you need a minimum of 1/125th of second shutter speed. (Your camera will determine the shutter speed when in aperture mode but your ISO will give you the desired speed for stopping motion or showing motion) When you are capturing images with a wide angle try to be at the height of your subjects sternum so that distortion will be more controlled. With a standard or telephoto lens, try to be at your subjects chins height for a more intimate and connected portrait.

TIP: Have a goal to your madness. Create a desired look or lighting for a portrait don’t just shoot to shoot. Think about the result, the mood, the feel. If it’s not what you are looking for, then change it to your taste.


Flash photography

19 Dec

Flash photography

Flash photography is an art and a hard subject to understand. Flash can be hard light, flattering light, added light in low light and a flash can be used to achieve focus in low light.


Always purchased the biggest flash gun of your manufacturer. Sigma flashes have been known to not be consistent in ETTL mode. Why purchase the biggest one? You will need the most power especially if you do not shoot with the biggest aperture lenses (see f1.4). The power will also be helpfull when used in Off camera flash (OCF).

Off camera flash example

There is alot of knowledge to learn about when using flash as main or fill light. You need to understand that a flash is usually 5200K balanced. You need to proper balance your flash gun with gels for the environment in which your are in. In a tungsten environment, you will need to use CTO gels (orange) and in a NEON light area, you need to use Green gels to balance with the ambient light. Proper white balance will need to be achieve for proper results.

Now that your light is properly colour balanced, you need to put your camera in manual mode and your flash can be used in ETTL mode. You need to understand your light meter to properly balance your ambient and flash photography.

Your Shutter speed and ISO will control your ambient light. You will need to overexposed your images by 1/3 of a stop to make your flash look like natural light. Your aperture will control your DOF like usual. If you can only achieve a highest shutter speed of 1/60th of a second then you will need to put your flash in rear curtain sync.

Bouncing your flash…trust me on this!

You should learn to bounce your flash off the walls instead of the celling like demonstrated on the following examples. Don’t be afraid to bounce your flash off of any surfaces…I have made portraits while bouncing my on camera flash off of a reflector, my assistants shirt and even leaves in a tree. Just explore the potential and open your mind to the possibilities.

On camera flash bounced on the wall to the left of the camera.

Here is a mix of natural light and flash. The model is exposed to the natural light of the window and the pool table is illuminated by an Off camera flash

Here is a hint when bouncing your flash on walls. When using a wide angle, you’ll need to bounce it behind you with a direction. When using a standard to telephoto lens, you can easily bounce you flash at a 90 degree angle. The direction of your flash is always depending on the nose. Point your flash where the subjects nose is pointed. This once again where the best manufacturers flash will be useful with it’s 180 degree towards the left and right.

You can see multiple examples on my Event and Wedding photography blog.

AF help from your flash

You can use your flash’s infrared beam to help you achieve focus without using the flash to fill light. You can disable your flash just to allow this focus help to be used.

Small flash big power

A camera flash can create big light. You will just need to at dusk or dawn. You do not get 1100 watts out of a camera to compensate for a full powered sun but you can create amazing images with such flashes.

Read this book it will teach you amazing potential with camera flashes.

The hot shoe diaries from Joe McNally

The stobist a great blog about Off camera flash.

This last picture was done with a on camera flash in ETTL mode with a silver reflector to bounce it and make it bigger. I used CTO gels to shoot in tungsten white balance to make the sky go blue.


Off camera flash is a very popular technique to allow you to add and control your subjects lighting. The technique is used in studio photography, automotive photography, portraiture, event photography, macro photography and more. You will need tools and knowledge to properly exposed your pictures with using OCF.

The first tool needed will be portable flashes. You will have the choice of using portable camera flashes or a powerful set of flashes used with a power pack. Now power will be the main issue here. Like stated before, the camera flash will be powerful enough to illuminate subjects that are in a shadow and when shooting at dusk or dawn. They will not be powerful enough to overcompensate the light from a mid day sun. The second option will give you the power to compensate for mid day lighting but it’s less transportable because of it’s weight.

With both solution you can achieve an amazing quality of light if used properly.

The second tool that will be needed is wireless flash triggers. You can use them manually or in ETTL depending on your budget and need. There are tow brands trusted by the pros, Pocket wizards and RadioPopper. They both can be used in manual setups and in ETTL setups. They are very easy to use and give you an amazing creative control. I chose Pocket wizards since I have been using and trusting that product for over 3 years now. Pocket wizards also give me the opportunity to remote trigger my camera with a special cable.

The third tool needed is knowledge. Don’t be afraid to test at home with dolls, fruits and round objects. They will teach you how light reacts and shapes your subject. You will need to be in manual mode on your camera to control all aspect of the flash and ambient light. The ambient light will be controlled by your ISO and your Shutter speed. (watch your lightmeter) and the amount of flash power will be control by the Aperture. You need to note that this is also in manual power control with the flashes. In ETTL, the flash power will be automatically calculated and control by the amazing flash system.


Here is a fun picture. It was made with one flash and a long exposure. I selected a long exposure to achieve an ambient light capture and flashed the tree at multiple time with my flash in my hand while running around the tree. This way I could pick which part of the tree would be exposed and which one would not be. The orange sky is from the city’s light.

I hope you enjoyed the information if you have question’s, feel free to ask them via comments.