Today's Guest Blogger: Tim Breaseale


Thank you, Rick, for the opportunity to be a guest blogger! It's good to be here.

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Have you ever wanted your images to stand out? Have you ever wondered how to light a person and get that dramatic look?  One of the best ways to answer these questions is to take that flash off your camera.


Once you move your flash off camera, your portraits will start to pop. Controlling the flash output and working with the ambient light (the light around you), you will be able to create a naturally lit portrait or a dramatic lit portrait.  


To get your flash off camera, you will need a simple radio trigger set to fire the flash.  There are many on the market, but be sure your equipment is compatible with the radio system you choose.  Now you will need a way to hold that flash off to the side.  I use two methods--handhold  the flash to the side or mount the flash on a small light stand.  Most of my speedlite portraits happen at public events.  If I know it will be very crowded with not much space to work, then I will handhold the flash.  If I know there will be a little more room, like an outdoor event, then I will use a small light stand.  The diagram shows the basic placement of the light to camera position.  It does not matter whether it’s placed on your right or left side.  

A general flash position will be about a 45 degree angle from the camera position.  For a more dramatic effect, try a 90 degree position.  The height of the flash will vary depending on the look you are trying to achieve. 


My secret formula: I will use the camera’s evaluative meter system and underexpose up to a stop and a half.  This underexposing depends on how dramatic I want the portrait to be with the amount of ambient light in the area.  I then set the flash on the manual setting and dial the power to reach the f-stop and distance I want.  I start with a setting of about f/5.6 for 5-6 feet.  I will move the flash closer or further away from the subject depending on how much light I need or to compensate with the background (like when shooting on a bright sunny day and having the subject in a very dark shadow area, you balance the light for the subject to match the background for proper exposure).  

My camera will be in the manual setting--that way I have total control.  The ISO is usually set between 100-400.  The shutter and f/stop varies.  I like to stay around f/2.8, but the shutter speed is dependent on the sync of the flash, which will help determine the f/stop.  Most of these images shown are shot around 1/8th to 1/30h of a second, because I was either indoors(dimly lit) or outdoors(night time) during an event.  Shooting events at dark or indoors is usually easier, because I’m not worried about the flash sync.  These images shown were also shot in RAW and processed with Lightroom to tweak color, contrast and add a vignette.  If you shoot faster than the flash sync, then black bars will show up within your image, which is actually the shutter being captured.


Lately, I have been using the Radio Popper JrX radio triggering system.  It is easy to use and also has the ability to control your flash from camera position (works with newer Canon and Nikon flashes).  Being able to control your flash from the camera makes it so much faster to work in busy, crowded areas.  You don’t have to move your flash back and forth to compensate the light, just adjust the power from the transmitter on the camera.  If you want to get a little more control from your flash, then try using a Strobies grid attachment.  The Strobie grid will focus the flash into a beam of concentrated light.  I use these quite often for macro work.

Now here is a big tip: practice, practice, practice.  Practice on family members and get comfortable with the way your flash works in different lighting conditions.  Another tip: learn your equipment.  You should know the limitations for your camera and flash combination.  Last tip: most people are shy about going up to strangers and asking to take their photograph.  If you attend special events where people dress up, this is an open invitation to help build confidence by approaching other people to ask to take their picture.

Blue skies,
Tim Breaseale

To see more of my work or to see what I am up to, check out my sites:  Web