Using Strobes to Enhance the Sun in Portraiture

Strobes are the best for so many reasons.

So many photographers out there rely heavily on natural light for their outdoor and indoor portraits, but many of you also make use of external lighting sources like strobes or speedlights. One great way to make use of both methods of thought is to use a strobe or speedlight as a fill light in your natural light portraits instead of something reflective, like a 5 in 1 reflector.

Danial Norton’s OnSet segment over on Adorama TV’s Youtube channel is an excellent resource for photographers looking to get nice, bite-sized pieces of knowledge to try on a regular basis. In the episode we are featuring here today, Norton demonstrates how to use a strobe as a fill light when shooting outdoor portraits with the sun as your key light.

Now, obviously, Norton is using Profoto lights, which many of you are probably scoffing at due to the cost. But really, this technique could easily be used with any other lights, strobes or speedlights. Especially since he is using manual power settings, not TTL, this is even truer.

But as you can see in the video, Norton utilizes a light meter (yes, people still use those) to meter his shot for the ambient sunlight, and then takes another reading to help match up the light to adequately fill in his model’s face. The results are clear – in the all-natural shot there are ugly shadows (which could be mitigated if the model was positioned elsewhere), but that would involve moving the model and likely changing the background.

By using a fill light, vs moving the model, Norton is able to make use of the background he wants without having to worry about bad shadows on the face and poor light quality. You can try this yourself at home too! So grab your speedlight and triggers, and go out and give it a test!

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.