Home / Authors / On Location Lighting With Speedlites Part 1 – Portraits

On Location Lighting With Speedlites Part 1 – Portraits

I like to travel light. Maybe it’s because I spent many years working without an assistant. Also, as I grow older, I don’t really like carrying a lot of equipment. You know what I mean, right? Aches and pains aren’t fun. So, instead of hauling hundreds of pounds of studio lighting equipment I decided that I would create a system for using my speedlites whenever I had to go on location – whether it’s for weddings, portraits, headshots, or fashion shoots.

Here’s what I use on my shoots:

• Speedlite (or two, depending on the size of the group or if you want a rim light)
• Wireless Trigger (I use a Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5)
• Light Modifier (beauty dish, softbox, umbrella, etc.)
• Light Stand (or even just a monopod). I have even held the flash away from the camera with one hand in a pinch. The most important thing is to get the flash OFF the camera!

A speedlite is like a shotgun unless you modify the light somehow. Trust me – your speedlight will just throw light everywhere. That’s why you need a light modifier. You’ll want to shape the light on and around your subject. Experiment, play and test a few types of light modifiers. Find the type of light modifier that works for you – one that creates the effect you want, and is consistent with your style.

Right now, you may be saying, “Casey, I’m a natural light photographer. I don’t need to use my flash!” Oh, trust me. I prefer to use natural light as well, but Mother Nature is not always helpful. You might be shooting headshots at noon in July and you don’t have a reflector…yikes! That’s why we’re talking about off camera lights. They’re a lifesaver in certain situations. Like this headshot:

© Casey Fatchett Photography - www.fatchett.com

Or, what would you do in this situation? You’re photographing a bride and groom on a rooftop in New York City and you want to separate the couple from the background of the skyline…here’s how we can do it:

© Casey Fatchett Photography - 2011 - www.fatchett.com

My modifier of choice for portraits is most often a beauty dish, but if I want a softer, broader light, I use a softbox or shoot-through umbrella. Or, I’ll just fire the flash through a handheld diffuser.


I photographed this entire fashion spread using primarily one speedlight on a monopod – occasionally throwing in a second speedlite behind the model to add a rim light. Check out the results:


You can view more photos from this shoot by clicking HERE.

Experiment, play and practice until you find the combinations that suit your style. Practice! Practice! PRACTICE! That way, when you’re working with a paying client, you aren’t fumbling around trying to figure it out. Know the equipment. Know the situation. Know exactly how to handle anything that Mother Natures throws at you!

In Part Two of this series, I’ll discuss using wireless speedlites at events. Can’t wait. In the meantime, please leave your feedback, thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

casey-fatchettNew York based wedding photographer Casey Fatchett has spent more than a decade capturing  images of couples on their big day. In that time, his work has been published in numerous wedding  and photography magazines, blogs, and even international art publications. He considers himself very lucky to do something that he loves for a living and when he is not taking pictures, he can be found either entertaining his wife with bad dance moves or walking his dog through the streets of New York.

His upcoming workshop for photographers, “Aim to Thrill, Shoot to Please,” is scheduled for October 2013 in New York. LEARN MORE HERE.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!