Shooting Portraits with One Speedlight

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  • Published on:  Sunday, May 19, 2019
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    I think the assumption is that to get into shooting portraits with strobes, it's going to be a very expensive and technical pursuit. But in my experience you can actually achieve some great images with very little gear. In this video I share how you can create dramatic portraits using only one speedlight and a cheap modifier.

    Share this video on if you found it helpful.

    #portrait #strobe #speedlight
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  • Sean Tucker

    Sean Tucker

     8 months ago +270

    Some of you have pointed out that I mentioned changing exposure with shutter speed, and the fact there is a rough rule that aperture controls your flash exposure, and shutter speed controls your ambient exposure. This is technically correct, but not absolute, and often varies when using the longer flash durations of HSS with different shutter speeds, as well as the fact that aperture obviously increases both your ambient and flash exposure to some extent, so you still need to be careful when following this rule (for those who don't understand the rule I will get into it in future videos, especially an upcoming video on mixing strobe and ambient light). What I should have said to be more accurate in this demo is that I was trying to balance the exposure and using the shutter speed to make sure that no ambient light influenced the exposure in the shot, and then using the flash power to get the correct exposure for the portrait. Those settings ended up being ISO 100, F2.8... then 1/200 meant that I had no ambient light in the shot, and I then turned the flash power up to 1/16 power for a correct exposure from the flash only. I hope that clears things up.

  • TheDrAntoon


     31 minutes ago

    This video is one of the best tutorials I've ever seen on YouTube or anywhere else, period. I subscribed and I hope you will make many more photography tutorials explained in such a clear way, using gear that doesn't break the bank. Respect !

  • Prosenjit Poddar

    Prosenjit Poddar

     3 hours ago

    useful, thanks.

  • SilverDragonCloud64


     4 hours ago

    😂😅 that was me once with a big reflector struggling to close it 😂 so thanks for sharing that small trick ....genius.

  • WhirlOmar


     10 hours ago

    Do you recommend not using a crop sensor cameras?

  • Joyce Vollmer

    Joyce Vollmer

     yesterday +1

    BEST TIPS EVER! This is well worth watching and has helped me immensely!

  • Darryl Davey

    Darryl Davey

     yesterday +1

    Thanks Sean!
    In 2016, I watched a similar video on the use of lights and as if by magic, my images went from flat, lifeless ones, to OMG ones! I don't use anything fancy; a D7000, a Neewer (manual) flash and cheap Chinese flash trigger(s - I always carry a back up!), and home made modifiers, absolutely transforms simple photo's of flowers and landscapes (exposing for the sky, and using the flash to light some plants in the foreground) has my girlfriend saying it looks like a magazine photo! But really! Using a flash for us, now is essential rather than a novelty.
    When we shoot portraits out of doors, the subject holds the flash set to 1/16th power. The shooter composes the shot; fill the frame, expose for the speedlight (160th sec., f9) - if it needs adjusting, just do it! There's nothing to be afraid of!

    Product photography is a breeze! We use reflectors to fill in the very dark shadows.

    But the icing on the cake has to be Headshots! My daughter's old room was transformed into a studio, I bought 2 softboxes, another flash, etc, and a backdrop! Job done! Simplicity is overstating it!

    We shoot in Manual mode & RAW format, and develop the files into monochrome!

    You don't need to spend a fortune to transform your images. Your most powerful asset is your imagination! And let failure be your kindest master! Failing in itself is not a problem; failing to learn from failure is!

    Now there's no turning back! LIGHT IT UP!
    A Great Vid, Sean! Keep up the good work and good luck everyone!

    Ilonka and Daz x

  • tododetodo



    So much bla bla bla.

  • Ralph Mayhew

    Ralph Mayhew

     yesterday +1

    Love your work Sean. Quick question. When you shoot speedlight you have the flash as your only source of light. How do you do that with a mirrorless camera (given the LCD would be black and unable to see the subject to focus)?

  • tbadoo


     yesterday +1

    You’re brilliant. I’m watching so many youtubers but you just beat the system. Awesome. I just sub you 💪

  • Jarbas Saint-Claire

    Jarbas Saint-Claire

     2 days ago +1

    Very useful and informative video. Thanks man

  • Masthera 95

    Masthera 95

     2 days ago +1

    sending love from South Africa.

  • hello Jennifer

    hello Jennifer

     2 days ago

    I love your videos Sean. So talented and so easy to understand. Thank you I have the same set up and desperate to see how the godox and Sony would work together as I’m that person whose scared to use flash and want to do some portraits so this is perfect set up thanks . However I have an 85 and can’t afford to get another lens (55) not yet anyway. Have you sold all your canon gear now and Fuji?
    I followed you so much now on and off and love you work.

  • Joost Mak

    Joost Mak

     3 days ago +1

    Thanks for this great video!!!

  • Make or Break Media

    Make or Break Media

     3 days ago

    fantastic info..thank you!

  • Palomita Cru

    Palomita Cru

     4 days ago

    I have the same falsh and wireless trigger. But I can't bring it to work to flash with 1/1 as you mentioned. I have M 1/1 on my sender and Slave M1/1 on my flash. But when I press the shutter it still behaves like TTL, 1/128 flash. I've read the manual but no success :/ Can someone help me pls?

  • Wonita Christine Network

    Wonita Christine Network

     5 days ago


  • Wonita Christine Network

    Wonita Christine Network

     5 days ago


  • Tracy Richardson

    Tracy Richardson

     5 days ago +1

    Excellent. And encouraging. Perfect. Thank you.

  • Rub Calbat

    Rub Calbat

     6 days ago

    This is a very nice and informative video. The tips are grate and the video footage hit it out of the park. One question though. Why most of the photographers doing portraiture like putting the lights of soft-lights on one side of the model face, leaving the other side in the dark, with less light. I do not really find that a good thing at all. Don't get me wrong, it is not a criticism. It's just something I don't understand and I would like to have an explanation on that. Your video content and footage have such a huge quality that I had to subscribe. Thank you.