Side lighting

Look at this picture, of a photographer student I shall call “Rapper MA” (although he is not a rapper of course – it is just the look and the light and the hat!):

Edge-lit Photographer (Photo: Michael Willems)

Edge-lit Photographer

This was made in bright sunny daylight.

How did I light it?

  • Camera on manual
  • 100 ISO, 1/160th second.
  • Now set aperture to expose for the background. In this case f/13.
  • Use two flashes, left and right, slightly behind the subject.
  • Flashes on stands, aimed at subject.
  • Connected to Pocketwizards via Flashzebra cables.
  • Pocketwizard on the camera.
  • Set power to that aperture (using the light meter). Adjust shutter/aperture as needed.

That’s how.

Here’s one more illustration with a bit more background:

Edge-lit Photographer (Photo: Michael Willems)

Edge-lit Photographer

Small speedlites can overpower the sun. That is why this site is called “speedlighter”. Have fun with your speedlights!

5 thoughts on “Side lighting

  1. Hi Michael,

    How would you compare this to “fast flash” (not sure if that’s the correct terminology) techniques? That is where you set your flash to a very rapid firing speed (i.e. 1/4000th of a second) and move in close on your subject, thus illuminating them/it but not much else. It gives the appearance of shooting in the evening even though the shot was made in the middle of the day. But I’m sure you knew this already!

    • Mike,

      Usually high speed flash ([Auto] FP flash, for Nikonians), where the flash fires not all at once but pulses at a 40 kHz rate, is what you must use when you want to shoot at wide open apertures. Then you need fast shutter speeds which exceed your sync speed. Not quite the same: here I am shooting at a small aperture so I do not need to exceed 1/200th second.

      Fast flash needs you to be close because the power decreases.

      But you have the right idea: underexpose the background, and light your subject.

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