Practical: Off-camera flash

As mentioned earlier, I avoided using photographic lighting for years as I had an irrational fear of how complicated it would be. I was one of those who would say “I’m a natural light shooter…” when really I meant that I just didn’t know how to use photographic lighting.

So I decided to bite the bullet and get to grips with off-camera flash.

I already had two books on lighting: one that lots of people recommend, Light, Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver & Fuqua (2012) and one that I presume I just picked up in a bookshop on a whim, Photographic Lighting by Harrington (2013). The former talks about the science a lot and the latter talks about the gear a lot… I re-read both these as a refresher, but still felt that I had only skimmed the surface and unless I actually got some kit and tried out the techniques then the knowledge would evaporate as quickly as it had before.

I asked other students for sources of help and one website kept coming up: Strobist. I’d heard of the site and am a Twitter follower of David Hobby who runs it – but had never actually got stuck into any of the content.

The Strobist Lighting 101 starts by telling you what kit you need – and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t very much, and it wasn’t very expensive. Two of my fears about off-camera flash had been put to rest straight away. I already had a hotshoe flash so was just missing:

  • A light stand
  • A swivel head
  • A shoot-through umbrella
  • A radio trigger

I ordered these (total: £32.18) and did more reading while I awaited the delivery. I also borrowed a Girl’s World to act as a model to save bothering my wife too much :-)

Very basic lighting kit

Once I had all the kit set up I started following the examples given in the Strobist tutorial, first with flash only, then mixing flash with ambient light. And the breakthrough came… this stuff is MUCH simpler than I’d thought!

Lighting tests.png
Lighting tests

I should also credit an excellent video tutorial from The Slanted Lens that covered five basic lighting styles achievable with a single off-camera flash:

  • Rembrandt
  • Split
  • Broad
  • Butterfly
  • Loop

I tried some of these and could see the difference effects they achieved.

The breakthrough I achieved through this reading and practice gave me the confidence to then tackle the ‘A studio portrait‘ exercise.


Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2015) Light, Science and Magic: An introduction to photographic lighting. 4th ed. Waltham, MA: Taylor & Francis.

Harrington, R. (2013) Photographic Lighting. UK: Ammonite Press.

Strobist Lighting 101 (accessed 07/06/2016)

Portrait Lighting for Photography and Video (accessed 07/06/2016)


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