Getting started with flash photography

Getting started with flash photography

If you are new to or wanting to get started in flash photography it can all be a little bit daunting.

How many lights do you need, which modifier should you use, how much power, and so it goes on.

The first thing you may be asking yourself, is why do I even need a flash that is off the camera if the camera already has a built in flash?

The main reason for this, is that the flash on the camera is directly above the lens, the light from this flash will hit your subject head on and bounce directly back at you.

Since we perceive depth by shadows / highlights and light fall off, if everything is illuminated at the same level, it leaves the image looking really flat and unappealing.

For this reason we try to move the light away from the camera, when the light does not fall directly onto your subject it will allow us to perceive greater depth and dimension within the image.

So now how many lights do you need? to answer that quickly, how much power do you need?

Well it depends on what you are shooting and the size of the area you need to cover.

If you are doing portrait or beauty shots of one person you could easily get away with 180-400w studio light or lights or even using speedlights if mobility is your objective, or if you are trying to keep your costs down.

On the cost subject if you buy non brand speedlights it will be cost effective but if you are buying branded ones and don’t need to be mobile then you are better off buying entry level studio lights, you will get more power and save money.

If you need to shoot larger groups or light bigger areas then you should be looking at 600-1200w strobe unit.

So now that we have the power out of the way, how many lights do you need.

For this it depends who you ask, but really with 3 lights you can do a lot already, anything more than 3 you are definitely past the getting started mark and wouldn’t need to be reading this post.

So what is the magic number with 3 and why do you need so many?

Well you don’t you can start with just 1 and a reflector and you can still get some amazing results.

The reason that you add more lights is to light specific area’s, so that you can create separation from the background or to light the hair, add color or what ever other creative ideas you may have.

These are all of course creative choices, but they can completely change the look and feel of your images.

See below lighting examples demonstrating the change as you add lights.

Light 1 only

Light 1 & 2, notice the top of the hair is now lit vs the first image

Light 1, 2 & 3, notice how the shadow on your left “her right” hand side of the face is now gone


The shot below uses just 1 light and a silver reflector and gets almost the same results, showing that you can get really good results with just one light.

There are many combinations that you can do with one light and a reflector ..

  • Andrew
    Posted at 18:28h, 18 November Reply

    Thanks, I found this pretty useful

    • Shane Devlin
      Posted at 21:26h, 07 August Reply

      Thanks Andrew, glad you found this useful

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