The Flashlight Photo Challenge [NSFW]

The Flashlight Photo Challenge [NSFW]

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This is your chance to participate in the Flashlight challenge, prove you can make an amazing photograph with any light source, and have your photograph featured in an Fstoppers article all about you!

Light is the medium in which photographers work, so naturally, we spend a lot of time talking about what kind of light we like, where to find it, and how best to use it. Because lighting ranges from natural sunlight to the newest, best, and highest-end gadgets, photographers often get overwhelmed with choice. We spend a butt-load of time searching out how many watt-seconds our strobes need to be, how two brands measure up, what recycle time we absolutely have to have, who has the newest and coolest sync system, and what modifiers our idols are using. We also spend a ton of money not only buying the equipment, but learning every trick and clever setup, before devoting hours arguing with other photographers about which light setup or source is ideal.

More often than not, we lose the forest for the trees and forget that a beautiful photograph doesn't require thousands of dollars in lighting gear or even for mother nature to bless us with a perfect evening. A fantastic photograph can be made with any light source as long as the photographer understands how light behaves and uses it with intention. To prove it, I've challenged myself and other photographers — and I'm challenging you — to light a fantastic photograph with one of the simplest light sources available: a flashlight.

Rules for the Flashlight Challenge

  • Take a great photograph using only a flashlight as your main/key light source.
  • The flashlight must be the most important light source in the image.
  • No additional non-ambient light sources can be added to the photo, so no flash, strobe, video lights, etc. If the sun is out or there is already light in a room, that's fine.
  • The light from the flashlight can be modified as you see fit, so reflection, diffusion, etc. is fine.
  • You must take a BTS photo showing the flashlight in use, because the winner will be asked to provide this for the article.
  • Submit your photos by uploading them to your Fstoppers profiles, then linking the photo in the comments section of this article, no later than Monday, October 29.
  • The winner will be required to provide a BTS shot showing the flashlight in use and a short paragraph explaining their process, so don't forget!

A winner will be chosen from the submissions linked in the comments and be featured in an original Fstoppers article showcasing the winning photo and explaining how the winner got the shot using nothing but a flashlight.

Obviously, in the course of each photography career, there will be different requirements, and this challenge isn't meant to imply that lighting gear isn't needed; I wouldn't expect you to shoot a wedding or advertising campaign with a flashlight. It is meant to help us prove to ourselves and each other that it's the mind behind the lens and the creativity a photographer shows in using light that are the most important part of making photographs, not what brand we prefer or what our favorite modifiers are. That, and to challenge ourselves and have a bit of fun in the process.

Here is the set of images I created using nothing but a flashlight. The first and most important thing to remember when lighting any scene is to create the image in your head first. If you have a strong mental picture, then all you need to do is manipulate the light to match it. If you don't know what you want from your light before you start working, there's no telling what you might end up with, but disappointed feelings are likely.

I knew I wanted to take these photographs at night, that I wanted the light to be have a fast fall-off to create mystery, that the model's face and torso would be the main focus of each shot, and that the light for the series needed to have a mystical feel. I was inspired by the book "The Mists of Avalon" and a scene from the first episode of the TV show "Outlander." I created the lantern with a plastic juice bottle, a cardboard paper towel roll, cheesecloth, hot glue, plastic leaves, and twine. The flashlight was placed inside the lantern and the light diffused through the plastic and cheese cloth, which softened it just enough. This resulted in exactly the kind of light I was looking for, as if the viewer might have happened across a magical ceremony in the woods at night. 

Below, you'll find photographs from other photographers like Fstoppers writer Gabrielle Colton, as well as other industry professionals: Laura Sheridan, Jason Kruppa, and Zach Alan. These photographers used techniques like light painting, diffusion, and breaking the light with prisms to achieve their end results. Use them as inspiration when you're planning how to create your own Flashlight Challenge photographs! 

Here are some behind the scenes photos from the contributing photographers to give you an idea of how they created each shot. Remember that for the ones where a photographer is light painting or when the flashlight is in the shot, there won't be much to show in a BTS image, but these awesome photographers included them anyway.

Laura Sheridan even shared a BTS video of her Flashlight Challenge shoot! You can see it on her blog.

Now that you've seen some examples of what can be created with such a simple light source, one you've probably got in your own garage, grab a flashlight and go makes some magic! Don't forget to submit your Flashlight Challenge photos before October 29 by uploading them to your own Fstoppers profile, then linking them in the comments below this article for your chance to win an original Fstoppers article featuring you and your winning shot! Good luck!

Contributing photographers: Laura Sheridan, Gabrielle Colton, Zach Allan, and Jason Kruppa, images used with permission.

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29 Comments

That scene from Outlander is exactly what came to my mind when I saw those pictures ! Well done. The only thing I would nitpick on his the fake leaves. With that light it's obvious they're made of plastic and in my opinion it brakes the illusion a bit. What kind of flashlight did you use to have this bright pillar of light ?

Nicole York's picture

Yeah, sometimes you have to work with what you've got :(
It's a Bushnell, but that's all I really know about it. I want to say it's 1500 lumens but I can't remember for sure.

Jan Kruize's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/294516

This is my contribution, There are backstage pictures do i have to provide them now? It was taken with a 120cm deep octa in the front of the model. The flash was a bowens gemini500 pro.

Bill Peppas's picture

flashlight not flash/speedlight/monolight man...

Jan Kruize's picture

Ohh i’m sorry that my english not as good as your dutch man.

Bill Peppas's picture

Goedemorgen Jan, no worries and no offense, I just pointed it out for you :)

Nicole York's picture

It's a beautiful image, but the only added light has to be from a flashlight, the kind you'd use when the power is out. It's lovely work so I hope you still participate! BTS will only be required for the winner.

Nicole York's picture

I look forward to seeing it!

Jerome Brill's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/294531

This was an easy setup. I took a small LED flashlight and put it in a small ziplock bag so it wouldn't get wet.I then put the light in a white coffee mug and ran my keurig coffee machine to get the coffee stream. Placed a Lego stormtrooper on the ledge overlooking the coffee.

Nicole York's picture

This is so fun and creative!!

Charles Siegel's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/294602

Taken in about 20ft of water at dusk using a blacklight flashlight.

Dennis Qualls's picture

Interesting - I’m down like a clown Charlie Brown :)

https://fstoppers.com/photo/294992

I took this a while back but I can recreate a BTS. Also The Mists of Avalon is my favorite book :)

Jan Kruize photo is the only keeper on this page....

Jan Kruize's picture

Ok..... i'm sorry for the previous one, i really thought i could use a studio flashlight. So this afternoon i had a shoot with a beautiful model and in about ten minutes we made this shot. I really used one flashlight and she's holding it. And because a real phoographer only uses a mirrorless camera with two cardslots we used one without a cardslot. Just a simple iphone :-) Was fun to do :-) https://fstoppers.com/photo/295625

Studio 403's picture

Here I go, working with one bushnell light

Dennis Berka's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/298089

The only light source for all parts of this shot was flashlight with a super fast strobe and a blue flashlight for the background. No ambient light, no editing in post, everything as it came out of the camera (apart from some contrast and converting to jpeg).

I used a simple bargain LED flashlight shining through a kitchen colander. I love the way the shadow of this antique bottle falls into the light pattern. This challenge seems like a great equalizer because I don't have much equipment.

Nicole York's picture

Way to get creative, Lydia!
I like that this shot is ALL about the light.

Felix Hernandez's picture

This image is far away of being perfect, but I saw the flashlight challenge and wanted to share with you all how much you can achive with just a simple LED flashlight.

The image was done in one shot. Lightpainted, 90 seconds for long exposure. Besides of the lightpainting (where the source of light is not shown in the frame), in the same exposure, I covered the flashlight with my finger doing horizontal rapid movements pointing strait to the camera to achive the effect of the magenta clouds in the background.

If you know the kind of work that I do, I'm pretty sure you will guess how the scene was setup.

Without thinking about the challenge, normally I do these kind of shots combining studio strobes with light painting, making several shots at different focus points for focus stacking... Also I would have cleaned the model and insert a first plane digitaly.

Later I will share a small bts video showing the lightpainting process.

https://fstoppers.com/photo/300003

Jeff Goe's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/169041

My entry for the flashlight challenge, took this with a flashlight shining through a white reflector with a piece of plexi glass, sprayed water on it to get the water droplets affect.

Krystyn Slack's picture

https://fstoppers.com/photo/300419

My entry for the flashlight challenge. Lit with one 10W LED miniature flashlight with a dark blue gel. I had lots to choose from, from this set, but this one is one of my favorites. Thanks for hosting a challenge that totally put me outside my comfort zone.

My entry. Hope it makes it.

Nicole York's picture

Clever way to diffuse the light!

Thanks Nicole. And if you squish the sponge in your hand you get to control the light output too. It's the ultimate poor man's continuous light haha.