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Shooting Tips

Making the Most of Studio Portraits with Limited Lighting Equipment

By Chris Nachtwey on April 16th 2014

Love the look of a simple portrait in front of a black background? Think you need multiple studio lights and light modifiers? You don’t! In the Nikon sponsored video below, our good friend Joe McNally teaches us how one off camera speedlight and a white diffusion panel can generate great results.



The Technique

Getting started with off camera flash can seem like a scary process. Joe’s technique is simple, yet effective and a great place to start. The large white diffuser Joe uses really helps to evenly light his subject and simulates beautiful natural light coming from a window. If you don’t want to splurge for a professional diffusion panel, Joe states you can even use a white bed sheet to diffuse the speedlight. (I’ve used a bed sheet more than once).

Joe has his Nikon speedlight set to TTL (Through The Lens). For those getting started, TTL is great The camera will talk to the speedlight and tell it how much light to emit. One down side to using TTL is the flash output is not always consistent, rendering different exposures. Personally,  I would have my off camera speedlight in manual mode, but for a beginner (or as Joe proves, even a pro) there is nothing wrong with using TTL.



Gear Used

Nikon D800

Nikon SB-910

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Similar Diffuser: TriGrip Diffuser



The technique Joe uses is wonderful, but he brought up an even more important point near the end of the video. All too often, we as photographers can get caught up in the one scene we are working in. Joe reminds us to look around and understand our environment. The images he made with the natural light coming from the window are great. If he had not surveyed the environment, he might have missed a chance to make more great images.

What’s your go to modifier when using one flash? Let us know in the comments section below!

Via: Youtube

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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Brandon Dewey

    Once again he shows why he is one of the best.

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  2. Chuck Eggen

    What’s your go to modifier when using one flash? The largest white object within a few feet of my subject.

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  3. Rafael Steffen

    He is able to show the world how amazing results you can achieve with a combination of a few speedlights.

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  4. Jacob Jexmark

    Joe never stop to amaze me. Such a master. My biggest inspiration when it comes to speedlight photography.

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  5. Kurk Rouse

    Dude is a master with speed lights

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