Since you asked…

Since some of you asked: a few more things about that type of flash portrait I talked about yesterday (and that David Honl and I showed some of you during Saturday’s workshop):

Photographer Michael Willems

Photographer Michael Willems, Self-portrait

Here’s how this shot was made:

  • It is lit with two speedlights with a grid (left and right)
  • …as well as a speedlight above and slightly off-centre in front, equipped with a Traveller 8 softbox.
  • I fired all three flashes with Pocketwizards.
  • The camera was set to my standard studio settings of 100 ISO, 1/125th sec, f/8.
  • Side lights have a grid fitted, and are overexposed by about a stop.
  • The fill light is underexposed by about a stop.
  • To achieve this, side lights were set to 1/16nd power.
  • And the front light to 1/32nd power. Why? They are all about the same distance away – why so high? Surely that should be lower, like 1/128th power? Ah – no. The softbox loses you a stop or more, so you need to increase power to compensate for that.
  • TIP: the flash in the softbox should have its “wide” adapter out.

This is done in my case by trial and error and experience, but you can of course meter the lights to get really accurate settings.

How did I manage to focus on myself? I focused on a light stand, then set focus to manual and used the 10 second self timer and while it was counting down, moved myself where the stand was.

Finally: in “post”, I used the HSL “saturation” setting to decrease orange saturation somewhat. That makes this into a “desat” portrait.

And now I am already preparing for the next few workshops: “The Art of Photographing Nudes” with Joseph Marranca on April 2, “Shooting Events” on April 3, and the last Mono workshop, “Advanced Creative Lighting”, also with Joseph, in Mono on April 23. Booking is open for all three, and they are all strictly limited in numbers.


One light can be enough.

Look at this great image. How was it made?

The answer is: one flash. Yes, that is all.

In this case it was a strobe, fired through an umbrella. But it could have been a speedlight.

The difference between those two options:

  • On a strobe, I measure the light with a light meter, and set my settings on the light and on the camera accordingly. And they are set for the entire shoot. So whatever the subject, the settings are the same. Done!
  • If I am using speedlights, however, the camera meters every shot. And it meters it by measuring light reflected off the subject. So the subject matters. A dark subject will fool the camera into overexposing, so you need to use negative exposure compensation. A very bright subject, the opposite – you will need positive exposure compensation.

Those are very essential differences. Read the above until you understand it, or ask me if you do not.

They have consequences:

  • If the subject distance will be static, use strobes/manual. If, however, the distance changes, then you should use TTL.
  • If the subject brightness changes from shot to shot, use strobes/manual. If, however, the subject brightness is the same between shots, TTL may be useable.

Confused yet? It is really very simple, once you know it. But then, the same applies to brain surgery.