Tutorial: What to Expect from Speed Lights Outdoors

This Tutorial is the beginning in a Series of Lighting Tutorials, designed to guide you through an Artistic approach to Lighting with compact and portable Speed Lights and their Accessories.

Take a look at the Photo Diagram below and read through the notes and then continue reading the article.

Lighting Diagram: What to Expect Outdoors with a Speed LightDescription of Setup:

The above Photos, Diagram and Notes describe the basic setup and camera settings for achieving the lighting depicted in the included photograph of our Model Denise. In order to create the right balance of Flash Exposure to Ambient Exposure; and in order to obtain the right Quality of Light for soft Rembrandt Lighting, will be the subjects of introduction, in this article, the first in a series of Tutorials on the Advantages of working with and using Speed Lights.

Assuming you have defined your light source (to be covered in an upcoming article) the location and subject, the first step is to select a visually interesting background of medium contrast. You will likely be under exposing the background and, as well, allow the background to fall out of focus in order to create a sense of depth, and visually separate it from the model. This remains true whether your setting is indoors or out.

Steps: (To be fully explained in upcoming Articles.)

1. Position your Model (subject) facing the torso away from the Speed Light.

2. Set up and position your light(s) 45 deg Ark, 5 or 7 O’clock Nose Shadow

3. Measure the ambient Exposure at the Aperture you would like to use. (Select for desired depth of field) Note: This may require a jockeying of ISO value and Shutter Speed selection, for the desired Aperture. Set to Under Expose the background (ambient light) by one Stop.

4. Set the output of the Speed Light (flash unit) to match the desired Aperture. That is with the Manual Flash Exposure Guide (shown below) Find the Output power level setting corresponding to the selected Aperture and ISO. Note that the Flash Guide# chart is based on a guide # of 130 at 8 feet. Ex: Canon 580 or 580 II or Nikon SB 900.

Special Note: As the lighting diagram above specifies bouncing the Speed Light into an Umbrella, set for a distance of 4.5 feet from the subjects face, the losses due to reflection and use of the flip down wide angle flash lens are cancelled by having moved the Light to approximately half of the calibrated distance, indicated by the card. Inverse Square Rule. Doubling the distance of the Flash Unit to the subject reduces the amount of light falling on the subject by two stops. The opposite is true for halving the distance, which is the case here. Therefore, with the specified setup, the power settings will closely follow the Guide# Chart for quickly calculating the exposure. An upcoming article will go into this subject in more detail.

5. Pose your Model and capture some images.

Note: There are a lot of considerations for achieving the above Portrait, each of which will be individually taken up in upcoming articles.

Flash Exposure Card: To also be fully explained in an upcoming article.

Special Thanks to Scott Robert Lim who re-inspired me last year at West Coast School, to delve back into the use of low cost speed lights and accessories for creative lighting.

Tutoring and Lighting Workshops:

If you are interested in receiving one on one Tutoring in Lighting with Speed Lights or would be interested in attending a four hour or full day workshop, contact me by phone or email:

480 284-5516


Complete Lighting Kits and accessories are also available.