How to Use Flash for Night Portraits

Photographers must deal with natural light disappearing by 4pm or earlier. The possibility of cool natural lit portraits becomes less and less likely. Still yet, the portrait photographers must go on. Here is a technique for FLASH-lit portraits, inside or outside, after the natural light has all but gone.


DSLR, and 1-2 Speed lights.

Step 1: Set Your Camera
You want to shoot on TV with your shutter speed at 1/10-1/30, and your ISO set to somewhere between 200-400. If you have Canon speed lights on ETTL, your flash will automatically adjust itself for the light necessary to compensate for the lack of exposure as set by your camera.

For example:

  • The first image was shot with no flash. It was set to ISO 200 at 1/10th of a second. Its horribly lit and blurry.
  • For the second image, same camera settings but one front flash was added . The slow shutter speed has enabled the use of ambient light in the scene and this evens out the lighting in the entire image. The flash also “froze” the subject to avoid  worrying about camera shake.

Step 2: Determine the Look of Your Image

  • The direction of your flash will determine much about the outcome of your image. For example, in the previous image there was one flash that lit the subject from the front. You can discern this by attention to the direction of the shadows that extend behind the subject.
  • When the flash comes behind the subject, as in this image, it creates a rim-light halo affect.

Step 3: Set up Your Flash

  • Play with the angles of your flash. Your flash can be “behind to the right” of your subject, or “directly behind” your subject, and both angles will completely change the look and feel of your portrait.

Your end result will be fun glamour style night portraits! Don’t be afraid to play around with your flash and your settings. Many creative solutions come from discoveries. Let yourself have fun and relax. When studied and properly used, flash can tend to help achieve fantastic images!

Join The Mailing List To Recieve Free Updates!

Back Next