It's usually all about that sweet, soft light. Many of us portrait photographers probably would never even consider using a harsh, bare light without something to diffuse it, but Profoto and Pye Jirsa with SLR Lounge show you there is a time and place in this video tutorial that includes three step-by-step scenarios that teach you how to create dramatic photos with a single naked and unmodified strobe.
Photography is totally about the light, and we photographers need to bend, shape, and mold it to our will through the use of an endless and, let's face it, potentially ridiculously expensive assortment of tools, like umbrellas, beauty dishes, parabolic reflectors, softboxes, scrims, and bounce cards. A bare flash is usually equated to using the built-in on-axis flash from a cell phone or consumer point and shoot, which typically produces flat and brutally harsh results that accentuate sweat and every skin imperfection a human can posses.
Jirsa with Lin & Jirsa Photography shows us that it's not always the case. The key to making harsh light work is getting the light off the camera.
So, why hard light? He says:
Hard light can be a little bit cumbersome to work with: you have very hard highlights, very deep shadows, not a lot of transition, and so you really have to work with posing. But the cool thing about hard light is that it can really chisel out your subjects in scenes that are very complex.
With that, watch the video and see what he is able to do with a single light. Now, it bears mentioning that in this case, he's using the game-changing Profoto B2 portable strobes with the matching Air Remote TTL trigger. That gives you upwards of 1000 feet of wireless workspace to pound out 250w/s of power. Yes, you can do this with regular speedlights, but keep in mind you many need upwards of 3 or 4 of them to achieve the amount of power required at normal light-to-subject distances. There are ways around that using flash composite techniques, but that's a story for a different day.