How I use flash outdoors to take portraits - featuring Rebecca (10 images in post!)

in Photography Lovers3 months ago

I love shooting outdoor portraits. Not only is the light generally good, but you get a background far more creative than a roll of paper, canvas, or some fabric haphazardly hanging from a wall.

There's limitless challenges and opportunity when you're shooting outdoors, and natural light from the blazing star in the sky is an excellent light source. However, you can augment and enhance that natural light in many creative ways if you are willing to take a flash with you.

You get even better results if you pop it in a modifier, or use it creatively.

The following series of images are of Rebecca and were shot last Saturday, on location, in Gawler, South Australia - which isn't too far away from Adelaide, South Australia.

Here's a brief look at some of the shots from the series:


The first thing you're going to want to do in order to get a balanced exposure outdoors is to take a few light readings. The techniques vary for each person, but I've got a simple (well, perhaps complicated, formula to ensure you can dial in your Flash perfectly).

  1. Take a light reading through your camera for the background. Set your aperture and shutter speed as desired for a balanced background exposure.
  2. Take a light reading from the model's skin. If your subject is backlit, this means that they will be underexposed compared to the background. Don't change your camera settings.
  3. Using the light meter in the camera, think about how many stops underexposed your model is going to be.
  4. Adjust your flash power and its location to correctly expose the model.
  5. You'll get a balanced, dramatic looking exposure, with significant separation from the background as you marry the concepts of composition, focusing on the model's eye, and lighting them correctly using your flash!

This first image is one that I absolutely love from the shoot - and it was a happy accident. I was asking Bec to move her head towards camera, and was "pre-focusing" on the location where her eye would end up. Enter a gust of window, and the sun popping out from behind a cloud (camera right) - and this moment was perfectly captured.


The images that follow are in simiar vein - with post processing consisting of some burning, dodging, and a mild use of frequency separation to even out tones. There's also a tad bit of selective sharpening applied across the image.



This was the first location of the shoot - a picturesque log on a hill. We then moved down the hill (after we had climbed it...) and found a hollowed out tree trunk that acted as a bit of a studio space. Here, I exposed in a similar way as I would indoors, or in a studio situation, using a single light, and the dark interior of the tree as a black "v-flat" to capture all the excess light from the flash, and get some nice low key portraits. 750_8571.jpg


I couldn't decide whether I liked Black and White or Colour more, so I produced both options. I am leaning more towards the black and white versions of this part of the shoot.



I much prefer the black and white here - its contrasty, and a lot more timless than the colour variation.

Following the hollowed out tree log we moved to an area near the creek, that had some running water and a series of reeds. The image that follows is one of bec's favourites from that location.


I'm a little bit upset with my framing on this image. I cut off the shoulder to the right, and her hand to the left. I shot with with my 105 F/2 prime lens, and should've taken a single step back to bring those elements into the frame. This one looks incredibly in colour!

My favourite from the reeds was the last frame taken in that spot, which saw a more primal expression, and some interesting compositional elements as the reeds moved in the breeze. 750_8610.jpg

We then moved to another spot, where there was a bridge over the top of the creek. I was on the bridge, Bec moved to just near the water level, and I lay down on the cold concrete bridge. We didn't spend long here, as light was fading, and the cold afternoon air swirling against the trickling creek made it bloody freezing!


I decided to move away from this position when I could see goosepumps through the view finder- it was time to move. Good communication is always key when working with people. Here, the shot could be slightly better if I hadn't cropped out the top of Bec's hair. Lighting was from the sun (right), and a flash (above and to the left).

Finally, we moved to our last location for the shoot as light continued to fade very, very fast!

This location was up a steep hill, and we climbed up a muddy embankment to get there. There was a dazzling patch of awesome natural light, and I supplemented it with flash from the right of frame.


I saw something in that tree stump, among the rocks and grass, and decided to use it as a posing aid. I'm happy with the outcome:


All in all, this shoot was a good lesson in learning to use a new location. For once, I didn't location scout (beyond Google maps) - and made use of what was found in the environment. An assistant held up the flash (@ursa) - and I operated the camera and flash via a remote trigger.

A 80cm softbox is an ideal modifier for almost any situation, and in natural light and for portraits, it excels as a supplementary light source to take your portraits to the next level.

These images were shot on two different Nikon D750 camera bodies, and the lenses I used were a Tamron 70-200 f/2.8, Tamron 24-70 f/2.8, and the Nikkor 105 F2 DC. Lighting was provided by the sun, and a a Godox AD200 Portable strobe.

Thanks for reading, and please follow me if you want to see more of my photographic work - I've got a few on the editing table at the moment!

If you have any questions about my process, please let me know in the comments!


Manually curated by blacklux 💡Hurricane Rider 🌪 from the Qurator Team. Keep up the good work!

Thank you!

Nice shots!

Thanks mate! Getting better all the time!

Really awesome. That process for identifying exposure doesn't seem too complex at all; I actually really like the elegance of it.

I think I also prefer the black and white versions of those portraits, though I typically prefer black and white over colour for most pictures. I think it has more pizzazz and character.

Lots of people get bogged down with light meters, exposure rules, settings, etc - its important to focus on the fundamentals - capturing something balanced and neutral (and as close to perfect in camera) - then pushing it ever so slightly!

Most of the feedback is that the black and white are nicer, too - its something I can throw my focus toward in future. I think the lack of colour in this series of black and whites lets you focus more on texture and engaging with the subject - with less distractions!

Beautiful, i would like You can see My last post, your work is amazing, artístic!!

These are awesome pictures. I think my favourite is the black and white one of her smiling. I think it captures her spirit and personality the most.

Thank you so much!

Good work mate, those are some professional looking photos

Thanks mate! You heading into town tonight for the meet?

Yeah, I should be there

 3 months ago 

Is she trying to stand up, here? It's not quite stretching or relaxing, or even fishing. What am I looking at here?

A stretch of some sort. :)

If that's simple I'd hate to see what complicated is!

Nah just kidding it sounds like it would be pretty straightforward but probably requires some practice ;D

My favourites are the first one (how awesome is it), the one where she's smiling (I prefer the colour version but the black and white one looks so classy) and the two in the reeds (even the one where you should have probably taken a step back, at least the unintentional crop is somewhat even).

Thank you as always!

Got to keep improving!