Flash portrait photography is the way forward. Okay, I have heard the “natural light is better. Natural light is softer. Natural light is more flattering” hundreds of times however I still think that flash portrait photography is where it’s at. Used properly (i.e. with a light touch and in a controlled manner) you won’t even be able to tell a flash was used, unless you want to of course.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in flash portrait photography is to try and combine the flash light with other light sources. Since most flash lights are daylight balanced (or as close to daylight balanced as possible) mixing flash and natural daylight won’t cause too many problems. It’s when you start mixing flash light with other artificial lights, such as indoor tungsten lights or outdoor fluorescent lights when things happen, and by this I mean ugly colour casts that are impossible to remove – even with expensive photo editing software.
Artificial lights burn at different colour temperatures and trying to balance a camera when there are two (or even more) light sources at different colour temperatures isn’t going to happen. You can balance the camera to a single light source with no problems, but there is no easy way of doing this when there are multiple light sources. If there are multiple light sources you need to get the lights to the same colour temperature, which involves gelling one of the sources, which is not only time consuming but also a real faff. Rather than gelling different light sources you are better off turning all the lights off and using light sources emitting light at the same temperature, which in flash portrait photography is obviously the flash.
In my flash portrait photography shoots I block out the sunlight wherever I can (it’s not needed since the flash provides all the light I need) and turn off all other lights. I then set the white balance on my Canon 6d (it is my go to camera of choice for flash portrait photography) to flash and start snapping away safe in the knowledge there aren’t going to be any horrible colour casts.
Sometimes I will use continuous lights as well for my flash portrait photography shoots, and when I do this I use lights with daylight balanced bulbs. These are the same colour temperature as my flash therefore I get a little extra light I can use to be creative and still not have to worry about colour casts or gelling and balancing different light sources.
There will be times when it is not possible to turn off the lights (I am thinking indoor party or corporate event here) and in these situations there is no choice but to gel the flash to get it to the same colour temperature as the ambient lights. Interior lights are typically tungsten or fluorescent so as long as you have the flash gels for this you will be covered.
If you want to instantly transform your flash portrait photography shots stick to one light source and don’t try to mix them!
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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