Dramatic Portraits Lit Using Only a Mobile Phone Flashlight

If you've ever found yourself in an impromptu situation where you knew you could get a really cool shot if you just had a little bit of extra light, the techniques in this video might knock your socks off with their simplicity and creativity.

In this debut episode of the new series, “Back to Basics,” Pye and Shivani from SLR Lounge wander around the city streets in search of interesting locations in which to capture gorgeous, dramatic portraits that are beautifully lit using nothing but a cell phone flashlight. The ideas are simple, and the results are pretty phenomenal.

I was interested in seeing their techniques for myself, because I, too, have found myself in many situations where I've unexpectedly needed some off camera light where there was none. Be it one last shot before all the natural light was gone, or a group photo at a Christmas party, I've enlisted many a friend to light someone up with one or many cell phones for an impromptu portrait where the existing lighting was just not cutting it.

Pye, shooting here with the Canon EOS R, discusses using the cell phone flashlight in several different ways, including light painting, so you'll want to check this video out to see the interesting effects and the unique ways he uses both location and lightning.

Have you ever had the circumstance to whip out a cell phone to light your image? Discuss in the comments below.

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Pye Jirsa's picture

Thanks for sharing! We had a blast making this video and would love ideas/feedback for the next episodes in this "Back to the Basics" Series.

Jenny Edwards's picture

Looking forward to seeing more. Great content, as always!

Tim Gallo's picture

I dont know if you interested, here is a series shot at night, half of it in the rain with just the iphone light :).


Btw, snoot on the iphone light is sounds like fun idea, but the harsh shadows are very hard to use on ladies (also if pictures are over-retouched - than why you need harsh light? just put her in a brighter place) :) also guys from dslr lounge has still looots of room for improvement in working with environmental lights, plus add a reflector :) (just a piece of white paper would work)

but back to the subject, i think if going back to basics - have on led light.
if you have space to bring eos r in a bag, you have enough space for a small led light that works on lithium batteries (sold everywhere) - that is easier to control, has much more nicer spill, if properly diffused (talking about impromptu, i once used a white cellophane bag that you can get in any 7-eleven store (in tokyo) to diffuse it, works like a charm).

to prove my point here is a series that shot with one small lpl-led light (except maybe one shot where i used medium size led also)


Pye Jirsa's picture

I do have a lot to improve on for sure.

Images weren't retouched beyond some simple healing.

Thanks for your comment.

Jay Jay's picture

Using a cell phone flashlight works best at parties with your friends to provide a nicely lit fill for selfies, i.e one person lighting up a group as they take a photo. For the video above, i'm guessing the author wanted to prove that a phone flashlight can be a viable source of lighting. But if you have the time to set up a tripod, a speedlight flash either bounced or off camera by way of remote trigger would be much better, of course. Those $5 led flashlights from Amazon with zoomable beam will give you more power and spread than a cell phone. And there are apps that lets you adjust the light power of said cell phone, to make it easier to match ambient or overpower it.