Photography Tutorials and Articles

Portrait Photography Tips – Flash Settings

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Portrait Photography Tips for Flash/Speed-light Settings

Portrait Photography Tips -Flash Settings

Camera settings for flash photography are different from natural light or constant light photography, and the main differences are Exposure Value (EV) and Shutter Speed. With natural or constant light photography the shutter speed changes the exposure; but with speed-light (flash) the shutter speed does not affect the flash exposure. These five portrait photography tips will help you to set your flash and camera correctly for better results.

Portrait Photography Tips

Portrait posing
consider Slightly open mouth in portrait posing

Camera settings for flash/speed-light in portrait photography

1- ISO

In Speedlight (Flash) portrait photography, just like constant light portrait photography, use the lowest possible ISO. The low ISO (100-400) provides a clean and sharp image, as well as a better dynamic range. This also means you can retouch the photo later with more details.

2- Shutter Speed

Digital cameras have a SYNCH SPEED, which refers to a maximum shutter speed that camera and flash work synchronized. In other words, the flash fires when the shutter is completely open. Check with your camera model and make to find the maximum shutter speed for your camera. As a general guideline, with most new cameras you can use 1/120s or slower and be assured that you are within the synch range.

3- Aperture settings

In flash photography Aperture plays a very important role in exposure. The optimum f-stop is f5.6 to f8 for flash portraits provided that your speed-light is powerful enough or close enough to your model. If you use a TTL system, the flash will adjust the power automatically; if you use manual flash you need to adjust flash output. We cover how to make various speedlight adjustments in detail in our Flash Portrait Photography Workshop

4- White Balance

Your camera reads any and all the ambient light and adjusts the White Balance accordingly. In some situations Auto White Balance gets confused leading to unwanted colour casts, especially if you use Off-Camera flash or manual speedlights. Depending on the type of speedlight you use, I recommend using either the Flash White Balance (especially when the flash is the same manufacturer as your camera) or Direct Sun (Day Light) White Balance preset.

5- Light Modifiers

Because the light size of a speedlight is very small, this can create issues with harsh shadows and/or strong highlights. I recommend using some sort of light modifiers to tame and soften the light. Another simple solution is to bounce the flash off a white ceiling or wall. You can also use a piece of white cardboard as a reflector to improve the overall results from flash.

Stay tuned for more articles about posing. In our Portrait Photography Workshops you will learn these techniques in more detail, as well as gain practical experience shooting live models. Your instructor will guide you through each and every step. Please visit the workshop page on our website for more information.
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Portrait photography tips
Portrait Photography using Flash/Speed-lights
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