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This chapter is from the book

Back to Basics, Quickly

To begin, think about whether you want hard or soft shadows and how you want to use those shadows to reveal depth and texture in your portraits. Then settle on the job that you want your Speedlite to perform.

One Speedlite, So Many Jobs

A single Speedlite can serve one of four main purposes:

  • Key light—Provides the main light on your subject
  • Fill light—Adds light to the shadows so that the viewer can see details that would otherwise be hidden
  • Separation light—Lights your subject from behind so that the hair and shoulders will stand out from the background
  • Background light—Lights the background either to reveal details about the environment or, when very bright, to put your subject into silhouette

Location, Location, Location

The quality of light you get from your Speedlite is largely determined by its location. As I’ve said many times in the Handbook, “If you want to create interesting light, you have to create interesting shadows.” If you don’t know what this means, take a close look at the information in Part 1: Before Speedlites, There Was Light.

For the greatest range of lighting options, get your Speedlite off the top of the camera. Seriously, pretend as if your Speedlite cannot connect to the hotshoe on top of your camera. Check out Chapter 11: Triggers For Off-Camera Flash, if you need ideas on how to do this.

Figure 19.2

Figure 19.2 The difference between these two photos is the position of the flash and the setting of the zoom. This shot was made with the Speedlite bolted into the camera’s hotshoe. The zoom was set to Auto—resulting in a zoom of 35mm.

Figure 19.3

Figure 19.3 For this shot the Speedlite was manually zoomed to 105mm and held about 14″ straight above the camera. I had my assistant aim it directly at Kaitlin’s face. The vignette is created by the zoom of the Speedlite.

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