Archivi categoria: phototips

The Pros and Cons Of Speedlight Flash Photography

Lighting is the most important element of a photograph. It is essentially the only thing that a picture is truly made of. And it’s the quality and type of light that really sets a picture apart from the masses of imagery, or limits a photo’s ability to really captivate an audience.

One convenient means of shooting in low-light, indoor situations—or if you want to add some fill light to an outdoor location shoot—is to employ the use of speedlight flashes. Speedlights really shine (no pun intended) in some instances, but they can also lack in others.

In this article, I want to cover some of the pros and cons of using speedlights as off-camera light sources, as well as the unquestionable limitations of using these types of intermittent photography lights. You’ll also see a series of speedlight-only photos I recently shot, which highlight how you can make these portable light sources work for you.

Cons – A weaker, smaller light source with a narrow beam

In comparison to studio strobes, speedlights have a very low lighting output; even set to full power, they can only produce about 1/4 (or less) of the light emitted by the average studio strobe or monolight.

They also produce a very narrow beam of light. This results in hard edged shadows and a rapid falloff of light that doesn’t gradually taper into a nice, soft gradient. Unlike the more aesthetically pleasing, long shadows of low angle sunlight, the light from speedlights often ends up looking more artificial than larger light sources.

Additionally, the light being output from a speedlight often looks rather stark and displeasing (those narrow beams again). When compared to the softer lighting created by studio strobes, speedlights can make skin and other surfaces appear hard and rough.

Finally, you have to be very precise with your placement and positioning of speedlights to ensure the light ends up in the right place.

Pros – There’s a modifier for that

Based on the above points, speedlights are not the ideal light source for many types of photography; however, because they are so light-weight and portable, many photographers still like to use them, combining them with flash modifiers to try to combat the issues I just explained. These days there are many types of softboxes, umbrellas, and other attachments made specifically for use with speedlights.

The main problem with modifiers is that most of them will reduce the net power output by at least 25%. This can be a problem when you already have very little total light output to start with, so keep that in mind.

Speedlights can also add a lot to a photo as a fill light when shooting with ambient light, or when you’re in a dark or shaded area where the colors are looking a bit drab. This means using the available light as your main or “key” light source, and filling in the shadow with a speedlight to give your photos that extra bit of pop.

Finally, speedlights can also be very useful when you are on a shooting location with limited access to electrical power, or when you’re working in tight spaces where it might be difficult to set up larger strobes.

Make It Work

Despite all the cons mentioned above, the photos you see in this post were shot using only a group of 3 speedlights triggered remotely in a very dimly lit weightlifting gym.

For this shoot I was looking for an edgy, high-contrast light source to give the photos that sort of “hardcore” look. I also didn’t want my light to spread out too much, because I needed to isolate the subject as best I could from the environment. In a situation like this, speedlights are the perfect type of lighting.

I placed three speedlights on lightweight light stands and used a radio trigger to fire them. All the shots seen in this post were shot with a 70-200mm lens at an aperture of f/5.6 with ISO set between 100 and 200.

For my lighting placement on these shots, I positioned two speedlights either alongside or behind the subject. Then I positioned a third light high up on a light stand in front of the subject and pointed downwards to obtain a bit of frontal fill.

And there you have it. Using speedlights as your main light source can be very limiting, especially if you’re used to working with more powerful studio strobes, but it can be done. Just pick your situation and techniques carefully, and keep your limitations in mind.


About the author: Marc Schultz is a travel and commercial photographer who writes a blog about various aspects of photography during his free time. To read more of his writing visit the Marc Schultz Photography Blog. A similar version of this article was published on Marc’s blog.

What Lens Should I Buy? This Video Breaks Down All Your Options

“What lens should I buy?” It’s one of the most common gear questions that pops up in the PetaPixel inbox, and while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, photographer Peter McKinnon does a great job of explaining what’s out there and what you need to know to decide on your next lens in this informative video.

The video is titled, appropriately enough, “What LENS should YOU BUY?!”, and it tackles the problem in a very systematic way. First, Pete explains the three questions you need to ask yourself before making any lens purchase:

  1. Do I want a lens for photos or video?
  2. What’s my subject?
  3. What’s my budget?

Then he takes you, step by step, through basically all of your focal length options (explaining compression along the way), talks through aperture options, and dives into what lenses suit what styles of photography best.

The video is 14 minutes worth of advice that beginners in particular will benefit from greatly—a basic breakdown of what lenses are most commonly used for what style of photography, and which options are going to give you the best bang for your buck when you start out. It’s a great resource worth sharing with your favorite photography novice.

So check out the final video up top, and then give Peter’s rapidly-growing YouTube channel a follow if you like these kinds of tips and tutorials.

Broncolor’s Free ‘How To’ Section is a Lighting Tutorial Gold Mine

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate, or even a professional, you’ll want to give Broncolor’s free “How To” page a look. There, you’ll find nearly 100 pro lighting examples—beautiful photos, each accompanied by a gear list, description, and lighting diagram. It’s a tutorial gold mine.

The page consists of 98 (by our count) photographs, each broken down by the photographer who shot it. Want to know how this magazine-worthy wine photograph was captured? No problem. Curious what it takes to capture one glass of water breaking another at the moment of impact? Here you go. Need to light a simple, subtle portrait? You get the idea

Regardless of your skill level or the genre you’re interested in, if studio lighting is involved in any way this is a resource you’ll want to bookmark. Check out all 98 of the tutorials for yourself by clicking here.

(via Fstoppers via DigitalRev)


Image credits: Portrait © by Jessica Keller/Broncolor

Lighting Tips: How to Shoot Killer Product Photography at Home

We’re not entirely sure why, but product photography tutorials are coming hard and fast lately. So in case this DIY lightbox wasn’t good enough, and 360° product photography isn’t your thing, here’s a great tutorial that will show you how to capture killer reflective product shots on a sea of black.

The video tutorial was created by London-based photographer and cinematographer Tom Watts, and using the simple setup shown in the video he was able to capture a bunch of high-gloss product photos like this one:

A post shared by Tom Watts (@tomwattsdop) on

The setup is simple. First, Watts placed a glass table in front of a black backdrop, and added some black material underneath the glass to get a perfect reflecting surface. Then, he set up a big softbox as his key light, a fresnel kicker with some barn doors as a rim light, and a simple square “reflector” (read: cardboard cake base) on the other side for some fill.

You can see the whole setup in this screenshot from the video:

Using this, he’s able to get these product shots on all black with a great reflection to really make the final image pop. The results speak for themselves:

Check out the full tutorial up top to have the lighting setup explained step-by-step, and then subscribe to Watts’ YouTube channel for more videos like this one.

(via ISO 1200)

How to Capture Great Portraits in a Tiny Space

You don’t need a ton of space to create an impromptu “home studio” and capture some high quality portraits. As photographer Mark Wallace shows you in this informative tutorial, the corner of a tiny hotel room in Paris is plenty if you know what you’re doing.

This episode of Adorama TV is all about capturing great portraits in a tiny space, breaking down the common excuse that you just “don’t have enough room” to shoot studio portraits at home. You do… you just have to get creative.

Wallace managed to cram a Profoto B2 inside a small softbox into the corner of his hotel room, where there were a couple of windows and some curtains that made for a decent background. Using just that space and his Leica, he was able to capture some close-ups and even a few half-body vertical shots of his model—studio-quality work with no studio in sight.

Could Wallace have used a bit more room to work? Of course. But since he couldn’t control that, he made the most of the space by focusing on the direction of light, quality of light, strength of light, framing, and depth of field—in other words, everything he could control. Then, at the end, he shows you how to add the finishing touches with a bit of processing in Lightroom.

The final images aren’t what Wallace could have created working in a large studio with a proper backdrop, but the keepers he selected are great nonetheless. Check out the full video above, and then head over to the Adorama TV channel on YouTube for more tutorials just like this.

What’s the Story? 5 Ways to Make Better Street Photos

Street photography is an addictive calling—the more you do it, the more you want to do it. You crave more people, more places, more action. Plus, it’s one of the most dynamic and exciting types of photography to share on social media, with an active community around the world.

Here are some quick tips to take your street shooting and editing to the next level.

Taking the shot

1. Get to know your light.

Where is east and where is west where you live? What time of day is it? Pay close attention to where tall buildings cast shadows, and where there are streetlamps or neon signs at night. Which way are your subjects walking? A subject walking toward the light makes the difference between a striking portrait and a lackluster scene.

When you find a great location, think about what time of day would be absolutely perfect for your bright or “noir” shot, then return at that time of day. Become obsessive about this. Learn your city and your landscape.

Making the shot

Here are some ways to power up your photo editing that’ll help to hone your instincts and get a better shot in the first place.

2. Find the story and hold yourself to it.

Is it about color? Is it about angles and lines? Is it about the expression on a single person’s face? Is it a personal portrait, or is it the story of a whole street scene? Is it about how small humans are next to tall buildings, or how wide and vast the scene? What is it about?

Tell yourself out loud: This is about… the look on the dog’s face, the way she’s holding that lipstick, how big Manhattan is, how empty the beach is, how fast the child is running, how many crazy colors and people there are at the carnival.

Before you tap the first tool on your editing app, decide what the strength or story of your photo is, then keep it in mind as you edit and make that shine.

3. Color or black and white? Be intentional.

If you’ve decided that the story is about lines and shadows, or a facial expression or movement, then black & white may help you isolate that aspect.

Think about how much noise you want or don’t want. Color can distract from the story you want to tell, or it can *be* the story—how green the grass is, how electric the night is, how loud the concert is, how vibrant the first day of summer in the city is.

You may always publish in one or the other, but even so, make sure they are playing to their strengths.

4. Color photo? Edit in black and white first.

This is a bit like the advice to writers to either write sober and edit drunk, or vice-versa. It’s about using the lenses of different states to see things in a new way.

View your color shot in black and white before you crop it—you will immediately see noisy elements that distract from your story. Cropping is the main thing here, but you may also play with shadow, vignetting, etc. to get a true feel for what the strongest possible version of your photo is. Trust me that this will lead to better final color photos.

Extra credit: Practice shooting in black and white. Make it a setting on your DSLR or shoot with the b&w filter on on your iPhone. The world will look different and your instinct for great composition will improve. When I starting shooting directly in b&w, I found that it took care of most of what I would’ve edited later.

Example: There are at least two ways to crop this photo—horizontal or square. Viewing this in black and white, I decided the story I wanted here was the man’s expression, and went with a more intimate vignette approach rather than a letterbox contrast story.

5. Make yourself gasp.

Pretend you’ve never seen your photo before—you may have to put it away for a few hours or days to do this. Imagine you have no emotional attachment to that day or moment or how hard it was to get the shot, and that you are seeing it for the first time. Do you love it, hate it, feel anything at all? Do you have an immediate emotional response to it, or do you have to study it or think about it to “get” it?

Be ruthless with yourself. Don’t make your viewer work to see the story—make it easy. Do a gut check. Surprise and delight yourself.

Example: This was a random test shot that only came alive to me in black and white. Suddenly… it transported me. It’s not my usual type of photo. I edited this while I still had the beach sand on my boots, but the final edit looks like a strange dream and continues to feel new and magic whenever I see it.

Let your stories tell themselves

Train your eye to find what is essential in your photo and to strip out anything that distracts from its power. Like a sculptor or writer, don’t be afraid to “kill your darlings” or chip away excess. Make every detail earn its place in your work, spotlight the strengths, and let your stories tell themselves.


About the author: Jill Corral is a Seattle-based photographer and UX designer currently on sabbatical to travel the world. You can find more of her photography on her website or by following her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. This article was also published on Medium.