Building an Off-Camera Flash Portrait: A Step-by-Step Look

When it comes to online educational content, there aren’t many photographers out there willing to share their mistakes when trying to create a photo. I think it’s fair to say that there are easily far more who only share their best work online and for good reason; as educators, you want to create an image of a photographer who makes little to no mistakes at all.

However, I also believe this to have created an unintentional misconception among aspiring newcomers to the photo industry. They might see the work of a renown photographer and think they could never take a bad image.

It was for this reason that I recently started to create tutorials that break down the image-taking process for photos I’ve taken myself using off-camera flash, highlighting my mistakes and the trial and error involved.

Using off-camera flash can be very intimidating and each shoot definitely has its own challenges, so it was not too hard to find images on my computer that could demonstrate this to anyone looking to learn. In these tutorials, I not only show the process but explain the steps as well and go over how I overcame the issues that occurred during the shoot.

I also wanted to show each shot unedited straight out of camera for each step to show just how effective lighting can be in getting great images.

This next set of images offer a glimpse of what I do at each session.

Expose for the background.

Add flash – The light was too strong here so I reduce it.

Flash is still a tad strong.

I get closer while adjusting my settings to get a darker background

Increase the flash output.

Move back and lower angle to avoid umbrellas showing in the background.

Move close so softbox doesn’t appear.

Adjust the pose and we’re done!

Actually, a little editing never hurt. Now we’re done.

Over the past couple of years I have shown what cheap off-camera flash could create and also explained how I set up a shoot from start to finish, so I wanted to help out even further by explaining what really happens during one of my off-camera flash sessions.

If you’re interested in seeing a full explanation of everything that went through my head during this shoot, be sure to watch the video tutorial at the top of this post.

You can also find my other tutorials on my Instagram and my YouTube channel where I explain how I created some of my favorite images!

About the author: Francisco Joel Hernandez is a photographer and Sony ambassador based in South Texas. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Hernandez’s work on his website, YouTube, Facebook, 500px, Twitter, and Instagram.