It’s really no big secret that the best lighting to bring along with you is none other than sunlight. Good sunlight gives all round lighting, brings out contrast, and just plain makes everything look livelier in the picture. But there are times when you are faced with a situation that sunlight isn’t enough. It’s during these times that you will find having one speedlight and one light stand with you comes in very handy indeed.

Imagine these situations, you are shooting the model with the sun directly in front of you – the model is backlit and you want to bring out the shadow details without overexposing the environment. Or you could just be shooting in a shaded area. These are the common scenarios that I face when I’m shooting outdoors for Hypertune magazine. Most of the time I have no choice in regards to the time of the shoot due to the availability of the car owner and the model. And so I have to make most of the situation with just one trusty speedlight.

I use the YongNou 565 EXII flash along with a Manfrotto light stand. To trigger the flash I use the Yongnuo YN-622C flash controller and transceiver. A set of this costs around RM 400 on Shashinki.

The distance where you place your flash varies depending on the situation. The samples below are shot at ISO 800, 1/2500 shutter speed and between f4 to f5.6. I placed it between 5-8 feet from the model, enough distance so that it doesn’t appear in the frame, and not too far that I had to use full power on the flash. The settings on the flash were about 1/4 power, good enough for fast recycling. This was shot with the sun as backlight and in an open area. If it was any brighter I would have to probably shoot at full power. And the reason for the high shutter speed is for me to reduce the chance of camera shake and to freeze any movement from the model.

The YongNou 565 EXII with the YN-622C flash controller are capable of high-speed sync; so since I got it I might as well use it. If it was shot using my old Phottix transceiver set I would be shooting at around 1/160 shutter speed and between f8-f11, varying the ISO speed.

In most situations I find that one speedlight is enough. If you are using modifiers like a diffuser or softbox, you would need to set the speedlight to higher output as modifiers will cut down the output by a considerable amount. The only time I need to use a lot of lights is when I want to have additional effects like giving the model some back light, or to have more fill-in effect for the entire car.

Editing in Lightroom
Just by changing the basic settings in Lightroom (brightness etc) the picture will stand out a bit more, with better fill light and color saturation. Of course this isn’t possible if I didn’t use the flash in the first place. It’ll take too much time to edit to get back the same effect.

The same effects can be done in Photoshop with the Adobe Camera RAW plugin.

Further processing in Photoshop
Right after the basic editing is done in Lightroom I’ll export the file as a PSD rather than JPEG. I like to retain as much quality as possible – however I export it as SRGB rather than Adobe RGB due to space constrains and also the fact that the monitors I use don’t display the full color gamut of Adobe RGB.

As usual I’ll just remove the skin blemishes, smoothen the skin a bit more, and then just add in some highlights and shadows. The picture is then sharpened accordingly and a layer of noise is used to have the picture look as natural as possible. So this is my secret – a scene lighted with just one speedlight on a stand, set to about the height of the model, and some quick adjustments in Lightroom before final touch-up in Photoshop. What’s does your workflow involve?

For more information and ideas consider visiting or read more about off-camera flash basics at Behind the Shutter. Alternately you can watch this spicy video by Michael Zelbel for some ideas.

Lastly there’s a different way of mounting your speedlight on a lightstand, courtesy of Damien Lovegrove. Zack Arias does a variation of this by using a super clamp on normal lightstand with a monopod used as a boom arm instead.

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