FAQ's, Fashion

To flash or not to flash?

“When photographing outside/on location, would a flash gun be ideal?”

I’ve had a college photography student get in touch for some technical tips. So here is my advice, as promised in blog form.

Any passionate photographer will come across as a bit of a pretty light junkie and rightly so. Lighting can make or break an image. Just a few centimetres can transform unflattering under eye shadows into breath-taking definition.

So as you can imagine, it is always important to consider what type of lighting you want to create and how you’re going to do so before any shoot. Easily enough said and done when working in a studio, you ultimately control every element within that environment. Essentially playing God in the construction of your own little world.

However plan and plan as you might, when it comes to shooting on location the ball is left in Mother Nature’s court and we simply have to both prepare and improvise as best we can.

Now the point that I always try to stress to anyone who approaches me for technical tips is to constantly experiment! Personally, I think that there is no right or wrong lighting techniques or styles, but only the most effective and appropriate for your subject. Unless asked for a specific technique or style, try to be open minded and experiment to find what works best for your subject and what is going to communicate the look you’re trying to achieve. Every photographer has their own personal style, it will be this style that attracts people to you and your work and only you can find and define your style by experimenting.

But saying that, if you still feel that you have yet to discover your personal style, here is a few of my own personal tips for location lighting.

– I personally NEVER use the on camera flash. I hate it. It flattens a subject, losing form and creates a cheap tacky look. Just generally rubbish!
– If you need to use a fill in flash use a flashgun, preferably doing so off camera. You can do this wirelessly depending on the model, or with an adapter. I prefer this as you can mimic the direction of a natural light source and maintain the form of your subject.
– I always consider the look I’m trying to achieve. If I want a soft and flattering look, I’ll diffuse the flash with an adapter or mini soft box. Whereas if I want to achieve an edgy and kitsch style, I’ll shoot bare flash to create harsher lighting.
– You don’t always have to use complicated lighting techniques to create an amazing image. Some of my best location portraits have been taking working entirely with natural light and a reflector. Bouncing natural light back at a subject, is a quick and simple way of removing unflattering shadows and subtly highlighting the subject. Reflectors are also relatively cheap, compact and fold away nicely after use. Great for if you’re lugging bags of gear from location to location. Although the first time you fold on away, they do tend to make you look as if you’re trying to wrestle and oily hoola hoop into the wrong bag. But it gets easier with practice, I promise!

Now, I could waffle on for days about different ways of lighting a subject, there are after all so many. But always be prepared to deviate from your plan if need be and improvise. Always think outside the box. There has even been a location shoot where I’ve had to resort to using the torch of an iPhone to light a subject!

So good luck & I hope that helped!



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