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How to Use 1 Off-Camera Flash to Make 3 Different Portraits

Welcome back to 'Introduction to Flash Photography'. This lesson is going to be a little bit different than the rest of our lessons, because you're actually going to watch me on a shoot. The model today is Matt, who is a model who needs to update his portfolio.

I want to get some close-up headshots, some three-quarter length shots of his body, and then I want to get a couple of full length photos, so we're going to go through that process and get the best shots we can for Matt. Keep in mind, all of the photos that you'll see here are straight out of the camera, without any processing done.

For this whole shoot, we're only going to be using one light, but in a couple of different ways.

Modelling Headshot

The first thing we're going to do is take a headshot of our model.

We'll make our frame the head and shoulders, and get up really close to him. The light modifier is 18" soft box, and the flash is the Yongnuo YN 563 flash. This give us a pretty soft light, but not too soft. 

We're going to start by put the light about a foot and a half away, 45 degrees from where Matt is facing, and about a foot above him. 

I'm also using the Yongnuo radio flash, model RF-603C II. This is the trigger that works directly with the Yongnuo flash, so there's actually no receiver, the flash has a radio trigger built into it.

Let's begin by taking a test shot to see how our light is looking.

I'm pretty happy already! I'm going to have Matt take a little half step closer, and then we're going to increase our flash output by a third of a stop. Let's take another test shot.

Almost there. We're just going to move our flash and softbox an inch to our left. One more test shot:

Perfect. That's exactly what I'm looking for. Now that I know that my light is set and that I have my model in just the right position, I can work away. I can change my position since the light isn't going to, move and I can shoot different looks as long as the model doesn't move too much from his position in relation to the light.

Let's take a few different poses with this setup and see what we get.

One thing I want to do is move the softbox a little bit closer to Matt for a little bit more of a soft light. When we move a light closer to our subject, the apparent size of the light gets bigger and so the light itself is softer. However since I'm moving in light closer, it also makes it stronger, so I'm going to turn down my flash output just a little bit.

Let's take another.

All right. Now we're looking really good.

3/4 Portrait

One of the reasons I want to use the umbrella is because now I'm going to making a full length shot. The softbox was lighting just the upper part of his body while the lower half of his body was going to dark. Switching to a shoot-through umbrella is actually going to give us more light, going down and going out. It's going to gives us more light all around, thus illuminating more of his body.

This is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm going to try to create a little more of a dramatic look by moving the flash around to the side just a little bit.

Bouncing Light

Now I'm going to show you a little trick that you can use if you have only one off camera flash, but you want to get light going from another direction.

This is very similar to the last set up that we had. The softbox is coming across the subject's face which is going to give us pretty harsh shadows and pretty contrasty shadows.

Let's take a photo.

As you can see, the left side of Matt's face is extremely dark, so what we want to do is to bring in a little bit of light on the left side so that we can still see a little bit of information. I have these giant silver styrofoam insulation panels.

All we're going to do is hold it out here and get it in a position to bounce some of the light that's coming across Matt's face and back. Let's see how our shot looks with the flash and the reflector.

It's working perfectly. Let's come in a little closer on our subject's face and see how this looks.

Alright! I think we got some great photos of Matt today. 

In our next lesson, we're going to take the shots from Matt's shoot, and I'm going to show you the steps that I take in post production to get these photos just the way I want them. Then you will have see the final steps that a flash photo goes through before it's finished.

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