Today I'm going to give you a simple tutorial on my workflow for building light on location for a portrait. This is actually a quite simple two light set up but can be an incredibly useful tool in the box when you've got limited space and limited time with your subject and need to get the job done.
This image is a portrait of my friend Sean that I took as he was packing up and preparing to move from San Francisco to Chicago.
The first step was to nail down the ambient exposure. For this image, I wanted to have the windows be slightly blown out but still keep some degree of detail in the buildings across the street. The key things with this are to keep your shutter speed locked under your flash sync speed (for me this is 1/160th). Especially when working with strobes, I always try to keep my ISO at 100. This left me with just my aperture to play with until I got the exposure I wanted. In this case, it ended up at f/5.6 which luckily gave me a fairly deep DOF that I tend to prefer.
The next step was to illuminate the room. There are a million ways to go about this but I'm a firm believer in starting with the most simple. In this case, I put a speedlight on a stand, set it to its widest zoom, and simply bounced it off the white ceiling. I manually adjusted the power until I got an exposure I was looking for. This brought in a very soft and even glow to the room and matched the directionality an overhead light naturally would have. It also had a nice fall off, adding a natural vignette to the image.
Next was to add the key light to highlight Sean. I wanted to keep this soft but still have some directionality. Could have used a soft box, could have used a beauty dish, but just went with an incredibly simple shoot through umbrella coming from just out of frame on camera left. Again, manually adjusting power on a speedlight until I got the right exposure, just a tad brighter than the fill light.
Finally we pop in our subject and have fun knocking out some frames. Again, this was an incredibly basic execution. Simply shot with just two very affordable speedlights, and a basic as it gets umbrella. One light simply filling in the scene and one key light to pop out the subject. Everything was transported in a back pack via a bicycle. Hopefully you were able to pick up some tips on building light and inspired to get out and shoot!