Like I said last week, we had a ton of really awesome lighting tips in 2014, and had to break down all our best tips into two posts instead of one.

Part I covered a lot of miscellany in regards to lighting, but Part II will focus primarily on off-camera flash (OCF) and the use of reflectors. And without further ado…

Best Tips on Lighitng Using OCF

Using OCF is great, but not always the easiest to pick up on. The best tips on lighting takes learning and practice to create beautiful portraits. Using these tips, your results will be amazing!

To start learning, you need a flash and something to tell it to fire, like a trigger and receiver set. Once you have your hardware, use a doll or something to practice.

Set it up on the kitchen table, and systematically try different flash power settings. Once you find settings that work, try the same thing in a different room that has a different amount of ambient light.

This will help you know approximately what to set your flash power settings to given the ambient light levels at a shoot.

Photograph by Infiniti Photography!
Image taken at night using OCF

Even if you’re an experienced OCF user, many times when you expose for your subjects you totally blow out the background in the process.

OCF is a great way to light your subjects while still maintaining the integrity of the background.

One way to do this is to use an off-camera flash with an SB800 speed light and a white umbrella. Have an assistant hold the flash with umbrella at about 45 degrees to the side of the clients and just above eye level.

Well-exposed subject and background
Well-exposed subject and background

This way your clients are lit but you don’t have to blow out the background to do it.

More Advanced Use of OCF.

Once you get good at it, you can try some really cool effects like this editorial shot:


To pull off this shot, the photographer placed the subject so that the setting sun was off camera left and placed a beauty dish off camera right to serve as their main source of light.

Keep your aperture relatively closed to make sure you capture the background as well. From there, you can put the finishing touches on it in post-production.

Another really dramatic way to use OCF is to use it to capture the motion of dance.


This amazing, dramatic image was created using two speed lights and a barn. The barn provided a darkened area, which you need to shoot into for this to work.

The speed lights were placed behind the dancer at 45 degrees, pointing towards the camera, with a reflector in front of the dancer for fill.

Make sure to put your focus on manual for this too since as the dancer jumps and moves, your camera will try to re-focus if it’s on auto-focus and will create a blurry image.

Speed lights can also be used to create a golden sunlight look, even when it’s not the olden hour.

This image was taken in a forest in the morning, with low ambient light and using speed lights to create the warm color.

To pull this off, you need two speedlights, a reflective umbrella, a triflash holder, and  an orange gel filter (which usually comes with Nikon speedlights).

Gel one of the speed lights with the orange gel, but leave the second one open. Ask an assistant to hold the speed lights and umbrella (which were mounted onto the Triflash holder).

Using Reflectors

One of the most common uses of reflectors is to use it to bounce light back onto your subject. If you’re shooting at the end of the day and the shadows are getting longer and engulfing your subjects, this would be one of those times.

This is exactly what happened to one of our featured photographers, and she was able to use a reflector to maintain a decent amount of light on her subjects as the sun sunk and shadows got longer.


She had her subjects in the shade of a barn and used a Larson Enterprises 3×4 ft rigid reflector (with a kickstand) to bounce light back into the shadow.

She placed it somewhat far away from her subjects to make sure the light was spread wide over her subjects, and wasn’t too bright so as to blind her clients.

Keep in mind though in this type of situation that you’ll probably want to make sure to adjust your camera settings/ISO to account for the lower light conditions.


Reflectors don’t just work great shadowy settings, they work great in sunny situations too.

If you want to try a more ethereal, glowing look to your images, have your client stand with their back to the sun and shoot into the the sun.


Place the reflector in front of your client and use the silver side to get more contrast and help keep the details in their face.

Using Your Surroundings.

Fancy gear is all super nice and great, but a lot of times, you don’t need all that.

One of our featured photographers even just used a set of sheer curtains to diffuse the natural light coming through a client’s windows in their home.

For a reflector, she set up white foam core boards on each side of her at 45 degree angles.


Snow also makes an amazing reflector if you live in an area that gets snow in the winter.


Uniform snow cover is amazing, because it produces even, beautiful light (and no need to have an assistant hold a reflector!).

And if you’re shooting at the right time of day during the golden hour, you can only give yourself a step up in terms of lighting:



Here are a few of our favorite lighting resources:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.34.45 PMOCF and speed lights are crucial to pull of a lot of these tips, so getting a firm handle on how to use them is also important. Andy from Simple SLR has put together a great guide all about mastering OCF (and it’s less than $30!), plus it comes with portrait recipes too and great ideas for putting together portrait images. Check it out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.26.42 PMAnother key element to mastering off-camera flash is knowing your camera settings and what they need to be to optimize the use of OCF. Photography Concentrate makes a really easy-to-follow guide that is written to quickly and thoroughly introduce you to using your camera in manual mode (in fact it’s designed to do all that in just a few hours). Check it out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.01 PMOne of the most important parts of the OCF setup is, well, the OCF. (You can get great on-camera flashes too, and some really great accessories and flash holders and firing devices). There’s tons of options out there to suit your needs, and Adorama has a plethora of them. Check them all out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.09 PM

If you need a more continuous light source as opposed to a flash, there’s lots of options there too. Fluorescent lighting, HMI (hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide) lighting, LED, Tungsten, etc., and any and all accessories you need to make it work and fit your needs. Check them all out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.26 PMLight Modifyers and Reflectors are another common option for lighting for photographers. These include things like soft boxes, umbrellas, gel diffusers, and of course, a wide variety of reflectors that are necessary to pull off some of the tips in this article. Check out your options here.


What are some of your favorite lighting tips and gear?

Leave them in the comments section below!



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Published by Beth Teutschmann

A big fan of food, chaos, and all things fun, Beth is the owner of Starboard Editing, LLC - a photography post-production company focusing on anything from editing to blogging and SEO. When she's required to leave the confines of her dark room, she enjoys martial arts, eating, tattoos, cooking, ice cream, sillyness, eating, and traveling. You should probably say hi.

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