Today’s tutorial is from the wonderful Andy Lim.

Within the world of photography, speedlights give portrait photographs that professional, polished look when used correctly. Here are some tips to use speedlights to your advantage when working with clients.

How To Use Speedlights Effectively

Here is a list of equipment you will need to complete this tutorial:

Andy says:

This entire series of 5 images were taken with two speedlights and a reflective umbrella. The shoot took place around 7.30am in the morning in a forest, where ambient light levels were pretty low.

My assistant was holding the speedlights and umbrella, which were mounted onto a Lastolite Triflash holder. I asked the couple to push their bicycles forward while my assistant walked backwards.

I always shoot in Manual mode, both for the camera exposure as well as the flash (speedlight) exposure. This meant that my assistant had to keep a fairly consistent distance from the couple as they moved forward.

The warm color is achieved by putting an orange gel filter on one speedlight, and leaving the other speedlight without any filters.

This effectively creates what is commonly referred to as a half CTO (color temperature orange). A full CTO would have created too warm of a cast on the couple, and I wanted to make sure that I balanced the flash color nicely with the ambient light.


The angle at which my assistant stood in relation to the couple is important. In this shot, he needed to be to the left of the couple, aiming the light to the right. This creates short lighting, which is generally flattering.

Short lighting is essentially lighting the side of the face which is furthest from the camera. In this scene, it creates depth by highlighting the couple and separating them from the background.


The shot below still uses the same lighting tools (speedlight and umbrella) but as a separator light instead of a key light. Used as a hair light, it now provides separation of the couple’s heads from the background.

portrait-photographer-malaysia-andy-lim-1 Again as a very subtle hair light, below.


and here too:

portrait-photographer-malaysia-1 Interestingly, all 5 images were taken with a Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 lens, at various focal lengths. Different impressions of depth-of-field are created in each because of varying subject-to-camera distances, and subject-to-background distances.

Love this tutorial?

We did too! Andy is awesome with lighting, and wrote the book on portrait lighting – no literally, he wrote a book about it (an eBook to be exact!). And it’s filled with all sorts of goodies about lighting specifically for portrait photography.

And for the month of July, if you use the coupon code BELOVELY40, you get a 40% discount on any purchase!

There’s more there than just portrait lighting books too, so click here to check it out!



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Published by Andy Lim

Andy Lim is a professional wedding photographer from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His brand, Emotion in Pictures, attracts clients worldwide with his unique flavor of wedding and portrait photography. He conducts SimpleSLR hands-on digital photography workshops, from beginners to advanced levels. He is also the author of the best-selling SimpleSLR Photography Guide e-book series.

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