Using an Extra Speedlight to Illuminate Your Setting

Using an Extra Speedlight to Illuminate Your Setting

Have you ever framed a shot that you thought you'd be happy with only to snap an image that doesn’t quite live up to what you had in mind? Perhaps using that extra speedlight in your bag could help you capture the image you were after.

Quick confession: I’m not sports guy in most traditional aspects. In fact, I’ve been a part of this Fstoppers team of writers longer than I have spent as a part of any sports team. That confession aside, I’ve seen "Friday Night Lights" before. I loved Samuel L. Jackson in "Coach Carter," and I’m pretty sure white men can’t jump.

With the extensive amount of sports knowledge I’ve gathered throughout the years, I’ve come to develop a pretty good sense of the look sought after in films and sports advertisements, so the other night while shooting senior portraits at a local football field, I stopped for one last image before calling it quits. I placed my subject right where I wanted him in a way that didn’t allow any unpleasant distractions to enter the frame, but still included the field's scoreboard which was something identifiable and significant that caught my eye.

Why Isn't This Working for Me?

I snapped a few images to help place my subject where I wanted him in the frame and while doing so, I suddenly became less excited about the picture. For some reason the scoreboard just wasn’t doing its job. Obviously, there was no power to the board (which would have been great), but what could I do to bring it to life?

It didn’t take long before I shouted from across the field to my incredible wife/assistant: “Hey, grab that extra speedlight!” I usually bring along more than I need, but this time, I didn’t bring an extra radio to trigger the additional light — no biggy because the optical slave built into my old SB-700 was plenty sensitive to the flash being produced from my main light. This extra speedlight would prove to be just enough at full power to light up the scoreboard and bring it into the picture as something more than just a silhouette. Ah, now this is what I was after. 

Oftentimes I find myself seeing a given environment in a way that needs a little help to be recognized in a still image. Using speedlights to help illuminate your setting can have a dramatic effect on your final image. Taking into consideration the low price of speedlights these days, there really is no reason not to light up your setting in a way that makes it more appealing and representative of the time and place.

Check out a few of these moderately priced and rather handy tools that can help you add some flare to your sets:

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1 Comment

William Howell's picture

I watched Tony Corbell and he said if you have one light you have no light, it takes at least two lights to make a picture. Now he did say you can use the sun as a light, as in a rim light. So it is good advice to take two speed lights with you.