Here’s an assignment for you all: Take a high-key portrait.
“High Key” means that the entire photo is bright. That means light background, good lighting and light clothing. This makes the subject’s face stand out beautifully as the obvious focus of attention, and it also gives the portrait a bright, cheerful look, as in this portrait of a few days ago:
Do you need two umbrellas on light stands, fired via E-TTL, as I was using here? And a backdrop? Or perhaps a few studio strobes? A background light?
Well – you could use all of the above. But you can also just use a small room with white walls, with an on-camera flash fired in a backward direction – i.e. behind you. That makes the entire room into a giant light box. Ask your subject to dress in light colours and put them in front of a white wall.
If you want to do it well, make sure your subject has a catch light in his or her eyes. The wall behind you, lit up by the flash, should take care of that, or else use a little flash bounce card to direct some light back into the eyes.
Do keep in mind that if you are using automatic metering (eTTL/iTTL), then you either need to spot meter your flash light off a grey card (or something similar), or you need to use Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) to increase your flash power. You may need +1 to +2 stops extra flash light.