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Four Tips For Portraits With On Camera Flash

Take your lighting to the next level

A full-featured TTL flash is one of the best tools you can have as a photographer. This simple accessory has the power to mimic studio lighting, freeze action, illuminate a nighttime session or control harsh midday sunlight. They’re also a great tool for creating interesting high-contrast portraits late at night. Portrait photographer Anita Sadowaska shares her tips for making the most of an on-camera flash during a late night portrait session with the Godox V1 Round Head flash. 

#1 Consider Backgrounds 

Using on camera flash without any lighting modifiers will produce hard light and lead to a dramatic portrait. Minimize the shadows that are being cast by that hard light by choosing your backgrounds carefully. For this shoot Sadowaska chose to place her subject very close to the background, first against some bright green foliage and later against the corner of the white house. In both cases the shadows that the model was casting were minimal because she was so close to the backdrop. 

#2 Consider Your Distance From Your Subject When Using Flash

Flash will fall off in proportion to the square of the distance. When you are close to your subject the circular light will cover the entire subject, as you move farther away from your subject a smaller portion of that light will hit the subject. Adjust your settings accordingly. During most of this shoot Sadowaska had her flash set between 1/32 to 1/64 of a second.  When you are farther away from your subject you will need to make the flash more powerful, when you are closer the flash can be less intense. Putting the flash in manual mode rather than TTL mode will give you more control over its output.

#3 Underexpose a Bit 

When shooting with on-camera flash it’s better to underexpose an  image so that you can pull up data in the shadows, rather than losing details in your highlights. Make sure you are shooting RAW to give yourself the most flexibility once you are ready to edit. 


#4 Add Some Oil 

 Having your subject add a bit of oil to their skin before you start shooting will add subtle natural highlights to their skin, which looks great on camera and means less work in post-production. 

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