Posted July 24, 2017 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

Dramatic lighting with just two speedlights

So you only have two bare speedlights and you want to shoot some creative portraits. That’s the challenge I faced recently after discussing how a fellow photographer could get started in portrait photography without spending too much on new equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, bare speedlights will obviously limit how you can light your subject and won’t beat better strobes and a choice of light modifiers but I figured that if I can generate the initial excitement for shooting portraits with basic kit, the rest will grow in time.

So with a bit of help from model Fern we dusted down the Red Riding Hood cape and set to work.

I started by putting the two lights either side of Fern, at 90 degrees to the camera and in line with her shoulders. I carefully made sure they were evenly spaced and that Fern was evenly lit. The end result was a bit too much contrast but very dramatic.


Next I spun the lights around and pointed them at the white walls of my studio. The light was bouncing off the walls which simulated the look of light coming from a source much bigger then a small speedlight. Bigger means softer when it comes to light but it also means more spread and sure enough the photo looked much flatter.


I turned the light back around. If you want a sinister look, put the lights low. It’s not a lighting position I regularly use but in this case it felt right. However the direct light from the bare flashes still looked a bit too harsh for my taste.


To soften the light a little on Ferns face I kept the lights low but angled them up to the ceiling. The result was a mixture of hard light and soft light that worked perfectly for the look we were going for.

For more information on the shoot and the post processing, check out the video below

Gavin Hoey