I taught two studio/portrait courses at Vistek Toronto today. Great students, lot of fun. The take-home message: it’s not as complicated as it seems; in fact, it’s easy. Especially with the right equipment, I used a mix of studio strobes (two Elinchrom monolights) and speedlights (my Canon 430 EXII and 600EX speedlights, set manually, i.e. used as studio lights).

Here’s a couple of “standard” four light portraits (key light, fill light, edge light, background light), slightly desaturated in post:

That’s the standard. But you can do with less. Like here:

I happen to like that kind of drama in portraits a lot; it shows character and mood— and that’s just one studio light with an umbrella. Really? One light can do a character portrait? Yup. It can. F/5.6, 1/125 sec, 100 ISO)

And here’s a one-flash bounced portrait, shot at f/1.2 to get a blurred background. Yes, f/1.2! and you can call me courageous or mad, whichever you prefer.

(f/1.2 at 1/160 sec at ISO 100)

Bounced off the ceiling behind me, and using TTL (i.e. automatic flash) with an on camera flash. Simpler isn’t possible, and yet you can do great portraits.

The message: make lots of portraits. Set yourself challenges, and one challenge should be: show mood and character. See how many flashes you need. Note the techniques that work best. Often, as one student today noted, “less is more”.

And on that subject, I finish this quick inspirational post with one more picture taken with jkust one flash; this time again of my granddaughter, just a few hours old:

(1/125, f/3.5 at ISO 1000).

That’s a storytelling photo. And a character photo, I suppose: Addison is showing character at only a few hours old.  Also one bounced-behind-me flash.


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