Outside Portrait Lighting Techniques


As a photographer you are constantly searching for light when it comes to capturing your image.  Whether it is photographing a scenic landscape or taking a portrait you must always look for the light. Yet it’s not just about looking and hoping to find the light that you need to make your image pop.  In many cases it’s about using the light that’s there or to bring in your own light.

The fastest, cheapest, and easiest way of lighting an outdoor portrait is to use the light that is already there. A great way to control that natural light is by using a simple reflector.  It doesn’t have to be a name brand or expensive reflector, just something to bounce light back onto your subject and fill in some of the shadows.  In many cases I use this as a go to light source when time is of the essence.

If I have a bit more time I pull out one of my speedlights.  Having a bit more time still means I may need to hurry, I’m which case I will probably use my flash on E-TTL mode or “Through the Lens Metering” mode.  This means that the flash will automatically attempt to control the exposure.  I can adjust it according to my taste from the camera.  I can also use it manually, but again I like to work fast and not take 3-5 shots to figure out what to set my flash at.

Canon truly is steps above their competition in the speedlight department. I am a Canon shooter so I use their flagship speedlight, the 600-EX/RT.  These speedlights are the only speedlights on the market that offer built in radio control that eliminates the need for line of sight as with other brands.  You control them remotely using a Canon ST-E3 radio transmitter or you can use another 600-EX/RT to control almost every aspect of the flash remotely from your camera.

If I am really trying to get creative or go for a particular look I may also bring studio strobes on location.  The strobes I use are the Paul C Buff Einstein E640.  They are great strobes that offer a pretty wide power range and can be controlled remotely from my camera.  The main problem with strobes is that they are much larger, harder to move around, more expensive, and, of the three options I have, they take the most time to setup a single shot.  Again I would not use strobes when I am under a time crunch.