Photographer's Toolkit: How to Incorporate Flash or Studio Lights in Your Photos

Photographer's Toolkit: How to Incorporate Flash or Studio Lights in Your Photos

Our friend and professional photographer, Brittany Dunbar of Brittany Dunbar Photography is sharing 5 quick tips on incorporating flash and studio lighting in your photography.

Flashes and studio lights are some of the many tools available to photographers to help create beautiful images. They can be very intimidating when first learning photography but they’re essential to understand if you want to take your photography to the next level. Here are 5 tips for how to incorporate flash or studio lights into your photos.

1. Assess the ambient light!

photographer toolkit

As a wedding and portrait photographer my default method is always to use the natural/ambient light in the space I’m shooting. I’ll then add in flash/studio lights only if needed to provide proper exposure or create the desired mood.

For example, at a wedding I most commonly use window light as they’re commonly readily available in most venues. If windows aren’t available or it’s a very dark space I’ll decide to use artificial light. In this photo I placed the couple in a sliver of window light and used that as my only light source for the image.

2. Pick your flash and modifier you’ll need to create the desired look.

flash photography

The easiest way to pick the type of flash you’ll need is to decide how soft or hard you want the light. The larger the light source, the softer the light will be on your subject. The smaller the light source, the harder the light will be. When shooting newborns or in-studio portraits I always use a high-power light with a large modifier to create an even, soft look across my subjects. This is the most commonly desired look for portraits.

Godox is a great affordable brand for beginners and pros alike. I use this flash at weddings and this strobe light in my studio with a large umbrella.

3. Decide whether bouncing or diffusing the flash will be best.

bride and groom at altar

Due to the fast pace and limited space at weddings I don’t have the luxury to take portraits with the same large modifiers as I use in my studio. To still create beautiful flash portraits I either bounce the flash off of a nearby wall or ceiling or use a portable softbox. In this photo, there were no close walls for me to use bounce flash so I lit this couple with a portable soft box.

My favorite portable softbox to use on wedding days is this one by MagMod.

4. Position the light source relative to the subject.

groomsman formal photos

I enjoy high contrast in my images so I commonly use the Rembrandt triangle method to light my subjects with a flash and softbox. This involves positioning the light at a 45 degree angle to the subject and slightly above their eye level. You may use a 2nd flash or a reflector on the other side for a more even look. In this image I lit the wedding party from multiple angles and minimized the ambient light used to create a moody vibe.

5. Get creative!

bride and groom dancing I love to get creative in balancing ambient light with light from flashes to create dramatic images that tell a story. In this image I used direct flash to show the fun and movement from this reception dance floor!
How do you incorporate flash or studio lighting in your photos?

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