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Tip of the Day: Trade in your Reflector for a Speedlight for Solo Outdoor Photography

By Anthony Thurston on May 4th 2013

One of the hardest things for me when trying to learn how to take better natural light outdoor pictures was that since it’s just me I did not have an assistant to run around holding a reflector for me. I did not want to use a Light stand to hold a reflector because that is bulky and annoying to reposition. So I began to look at alternatives, and by far the best one to me was a speedlight.

Now obviously if you use a speedlight you are no longer in the realm of natural light only, you are also working with artificial light. But in my case where I am alone with my subject the convenience of shooting with a speedlight vs fiddling with a reflector is so much more preferable. Also, a speedlight with a Shoot Through Umbrella is almost a perfect replacement for a reflector – just be sure that the weather is umbrella permitting. Windy days are not good for umbrellas.

Below you can see a few examples of a few shots that I took yesterday during a shoot with a friend, I used a speedlight instead of the reflector. The images have not been processed much, just some basic RAW editing in lightroom to get rid of that trademarked dull RAW look. All three shots below were taken with my Nikon D300s at 160th/sec, F2.8, ISO 100.  The speedlight is situated camera right, at about 45 degrees.




Do you have any tips that should be shared? Send suggestions to athurston[at] and I’ll link to your work if your tip gets selected. Also make sure to check out our Natural Light couples DVD that has some more great tips for working outdoors in natural light.

Do you like this tip? Leave us a comment below!

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. jr456

    Reflectors are a pain to work with when you don’t have an assistant and I find it tough not to blind the subject yet still get enough light on them. Speedlights are a great solution here and one that I employ; although umbrellas outside can be a pain too even if there is the slightest breeze. Another thing to mention with the speedlights is that depending on your trigger you may be limited to a particular range of shutter speeds which may or may not present a problem.

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  2. dslr video studio

    This is a really hand tip and how a speedlite can be beneficial instead of a reflector

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