Natural Outdoor Portraits with Off Camera Flash

Off Camera Flash Portrait

When you move the flash off the camera, it's easy to create natural-looking outdoor portraits. I like this technique because it lets me use the sun for rim lighting while I get to control the illumination of the face with my strobe.

In this example, I used a Canon Speedlite 580EX on a light stand triggered by a Canon STE2 Speedlite Transmitter that was mounted in the hotshoe of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 70-200mm f/2.8 L zoom. I dialed the flash exposure back to -1.5 and the ambient exposure to -1.

Senior portrait shot on location using only the sun and a single off-camera flash for lighting. Click on image for larger version. Photo by Derrick Story.

I didn't use any diffusers on the flash itself, although I do angle it slightly upward and pull up the bounce flash card to slightly modify the light. I kept the 5D Mark II on a tripod so I could interact easily with my subject. The great thing about this set up is that I can work the shoot by myself without requiring assistants to hold reflectors, etc.

If you want to learn more about getting pro results from a single flash, be sure to check out my Off Camera Flash title on I show you all sorts of helpful lighting techniques that are especially good for portraits.

More Off Camera Flash Tutorials

Off Camera Flash - Basic Techniques for Pro Results

Light Modifiers for Off Camera Flash

Off Camera Flash - The Single Light Portrait

"More Off Camera Flash" - Digital Photography Podcast 233

twitter.jpg Follow me on Twitter


Wow! Great tip. Thanks. :)

Hey Derrick, great tip.

I got the Olympus E-PL1 a couple of months ago, mostly from your recommendation, and my insane loyalty to the 4/3 and M4/3 standards...

I've been wanting to try out some more off-camera flash techniques, and with your help and camera recommendations, I'm becoming much more inspired!

By the way, you seem to have missed a word at the end of this sentence in the last paragraph:
"If you want to learn more about getting pro results from a single flash, be sure to check out my ."



The nice thing about single flash off camera portraits, is that you can do this with just about any system. As long as you can trigger the flash from the camera, you're set.

As for the missing end of the sentence, lian, it's there... it's a URL to my training:

For some reason, your browser isn't showing it.

Best, Derrick

What aperture do you normally use with this technique? You mentioned that you use the Canon transmitter - are you using ETTL? I'll be using Pocket Wizards so I'll have to do manual adjustments. Any tips for this?