When I first started creating portraits long before I made money with my photography, I was that photographer who loved natural light. Even just the thought of using one flash to help light a portrait seemed nerve-wracking to my younger, less experienced self. I got over my fear by forcing myself to learn manual flash and eventually bought a Light stand, umbrella, and a sync cord for my speed light and was hooked almost instantly!
Since my early off-camera flash days, I’ve added more speed lights to my collection, radio triggers, and I can’t go to a wedding or session without multiple off-camera flash set ups. My point here is that even being scared of off-camera lighting, once I forced myself to learn, using just one light I was able to shape and mold portrait light like never before, and the best thing is one simple off camera flash is ultra powerful when used correctly.
In the Westcott sponsored video below, Joel Grimes shows you just how powerful one off camera flash and a white wall can be for creating ultra soft portrait light with minimal gear and investment.
The techniques Joel uses are about as simple as one light portraiture can get. Using a large umbrella with a diffuser on the front of it very close to his model will create extremely soft even light on one side of the model’s face. That’s great, but a downfall of using one light, if you’re looking to create soft even light across your whole subject, you will need to add another light to fill in shadows. Joel fixes this issue by using a large white wall as a huge white bounce card to fill in the shadows on his model’s screen left side. The result is extremely soft even light and a beautiful portrait.
This technique may seem simple to some of you, but if you’re new to the off-camera flash game, it might be eye opening. Joel shows us that even with just one light, we can shape and mold light to suit our needs or tastes easily. Personally, I love this look; it’s clean, simple, and easy to do in the studio or in the field. Don’t be scared of off-camera flash, once you start using it, I promise you will never go back!
Images captured via screen grab.