A photo like this needs careful balancing: the TV, the room, and the outside.

  1. First, as always, set the ambient exposure. Set your camera to match the outside.
  2. See how the TV works with that. If not good, find a good point in between, where the TV looks good, even if the outside is a little bright, like here.
  3. Keep your shutter speed below 1/250 sec or 1/200 sec, depending on your camera.
  4. Now add flash; add the right amount to match the ambient exposure. Bounce the flash from a point behind you that gives equal brightness through the room.

And that’s all. Not that difficult if you approach it right!

A difficult shoot

A shoot Saturday. A club, with no good ceiling or wall to bounce from. And no light to focus. And an audience that did not stand still for a moment, meaning focus was even more difficult. Those were the three main problems.

And yet:

Wow, eh. 325 photos like that.

So what’s the secret?

Boiled down to a few bullets, it is:

  • Expose for a “–2 stops” background, as you know from my Flash courses.
  • Feel free to use high, or very high, ISO values. Use noise reduction in post-processing (e.g. in Lightroom).
  • Use prime lenses, or at least have them available.
  • Shoot a lot: as much as twice as much as you need.
  • Be within about two stops of perfect, and shoot RAW.
  • Take any portraits at least twice, in case focus is off, etc.
  • Look for “moments“, not just steady “grip and grin” images.
  • (Hence): do not be afraid to throw out half your pictures.
  • Be willing to do post work on many pictures.

In Saturday’s shoot I had over 700 pictures, and that boiled down to about 600 usable ones, of which I used 325 (Why? Well, if you have five pictures of a specific moment, you may want to use just one).

I shot the majority of my images at 6400 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/2, using a 35mm f/1,4 lens). And even then I had to push many of the images. 

But with a modern camera, it is doable, and even an impossible venue like Saturday’s can lead to a great shoot.

It’s all about the…


And I cannot over-emphasize that. It is all about the light.

Take this picture. It shows a wrinkled, tired, old-looking photographer:

Now take that same person and move his face into the light, so that the light comes from approximately 45 degrees up, right in front of him. Now we see a much better looking photographer:

The photographer (that would be me) took those yesterday, just a few seconds apart, with his iPhone.  Here they are, side by side:

Keep this in mind when doing any sort of photography: yes, it is all about the light, and yes, it makes a huge difference to any photo. When using a flash, bounce behind you, so you get the left-hand photo rather than the right-hand one. I teach this in my flash courses, of course. But until you take a course, at least keep this in mind. Please!


Light is everything.

Look at this corporate environmental portrait, made last week:

Without the light, this picture would have the following drawbacks:

  • Flat face, instead of the 3-D and “shaped” version we see here.
  • No emphasis on the subject
  • Way too much clutter.

The shot used my usual “one speedlight through an umbrella” setup. My camera and:

  • One light stand,
  • A mounting bracket,
  • An umbrella,
  • A flash, a Canon 580EX
  • One pocketwizard–to–hotshoe cable,
  • Two pocketwizards.

The key here is not to add light; the key is the light direction. And indeed “OCF”, off-camera flash, is… off camera.



I never say “posing”—instead, I say “positioning”. Instead of :”I am going to pose you differently”, it’s “I am going to position you differently”.

But we do pose. Models pose for a living, and they are good at it. My main model manages to position herself differently for every shot, even after we have done eight years of shooting together, and made tens of thousands of images.

Images like this, yesterday in an abandoned parking lot in Brantford:

(125 ISO, 1/250 sec, f/5.6; 24-70 lens; full-frame Canon 1Dx)

A good model turns toward the light (unless otherwise instructed by the photographer), and changes pose after every click. He or she seldom smiles (smiling causes laugh lines, a.k.a. “wrinkles”.

See the Rembrandt Lighting in the image above? One off-camera umbrella on our right, 45 degrees to the side of her face and 45 degrees up from her face.

Another note: as you see I am using deliberate flare in the image above. By shooting into the sun, basically. When you do this, you should probably remove any filters that you have on your lenses. If you can use a small aperture (e.g. f/16) you will get a starburst effect.

One of my favourites:

That soft shadow: beautiful. And the dark exposure beautifully shows the blue sky. And all I used is:

  • Camera,
  • A 24-70 f/2.8 lens,
  • Two Pocketwizard radio triggers,
  • A light stand,
  • A bracket on the light stand for the umbrella,
  • An umbrella,
  • A cable “from Pocketwizard to hotshoe”.

Easy to handhold and walk miles with. But I drove (remember: car parking lot?).

Flash outdoors rock, in case you have not picked that up yet from my writings.