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How to Use Flash for Night Portraits

Night Portraits can be tricky and generally require experimenting with artificial lighting. In this post Christina from ChristinaNichole Photography shares some tips on using Flash for Night Portraits.

As many of us approach the dead of winter, we photographers must deal with our natural light disappearing by 4pm or earlier. The possibility of cool natural lit portraits becomes less and less likely. Still yet, the portrait photographers must go on. Here is a technique for FLASH-lit portraits, inside or outside, after the natural light has all but gone.


SLR, and 1-2 Speed lights.

Step 1: Set Your Camera

You want to shoot on TV with your shutter speed at 1/10-1/30, and your ISO set to somewhere between 200-400. If you have Canon speed lights on ETTL, your flash will automatically adjust itself for the light necessary to compensate for the lack of exposure as set by your camera.

For example:

night flash-portraits-1.jpg

night flash-portraits-2.jpg

  • The first image is no flash. I was set to ISO 200 at 1/10th of a second. Its horribly lit and blurry.
  • For the second image I have retained the same camera settings, I simply have added one front flash. The slow shutter speed has enabled me to use the ambient light in the scene and this evens out the lighting in the entire image. The flash also “froze” my subject so I don’t have to worry about camera shake.

Step 2: Determine the Look of Your Image

  • The direction of your flash will determine much about the outcome of your image. For example, in the previous image there was one flash that lit my subject from the front. You can discern this by attention to the direction of the shadows that extend behind our subject.
  • When the flash comes behind our subject, as in this image, it creates a rim-light halo affect.

night flash-portraits-3.jpg

Step 3: Set up Your Flash

  • Play with the angles of your flash. Your flash can be “behind to the right” of your subject, or “directly behind” your subject, and both angles will completely change the look and feel of your portrait.

night flash-portraits-4.jpg

Your end result will be fun glamour style night portraits!

Don’t be afraid to play around with your flash and your settings. Many creative solutions come from discoveries. Let yourself have fun and relax. When studied and properly used, flash can tend to some fantastic images!

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Christina N Dickson
Christina N Dickson

is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography www.BrideInspired.com and leadership with www.RevMediaBlog.com.

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