Guest Post: Shooting portraits on location with tight budget by Andrey Mikhaylov

5/11/2015 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

© Andrey Mikhaylov


Hi everyone!

In this article I’d like to share my thoughts about using relatively cheap light sources in your photography. It might be obvious suggestions for someone, but I hope many people will find it valuable.

Portrait on location could be so different. Someone shoots with natural light only, someone prefers strobes, someone mix all together. Location itself imposes a lot of restrictions. It would be quite hard to get sunny mood in basement without windows, so we have to always balance between what we want to get and what we have.

Let me show you few examples and how I deal with them.



This show was done first in the whole series. I always trying to keep things as simple as I can, so with no doubts I decided to use free available light source — sun. I didn’t have tough requirements for the shoot thats why I started experiments with natural light. It always nice and easy to operate with big light source (in this case it was large window) since it creates pleasant wrap light for the model. For image above I achived short light look (when the key light illuminate the side of the face that turned away from camera). As fill light I’ve used big white reflector. Nothing fancy, but sometimes we just don’t need crazy setup.




As sun was going down during the shoot, I decided to take one more shot with natural light and speedlite. White reflector didn’t work anymore as fill light because sun wasn’t shine so intense to give some light to the model. Instead of it I put Canon 580 EX II through white 80 cm umbrella.


I wanted to create a mood of setting sun so I didn’t try to match the color of sun. Usually CTO gels works fine if you want to compensate color difference between artificial and natural light. Another thing which you want to know is position of model’s head. Setting sun creates a harsh shadows on model’s face. I suggest to avoid those poses where model looks straight to the camera.




For this shot I’ve slightly changed position of umbrella. I put it higher and approximately at 45 degrees. As a kicker I used Canon 430 EX II with 8,8’’x36’’ stripbox. It’s kinda classical position for portraits, when key light and rim light are stands on one axis. As models stand relatively far from background we don’t see any shadows on the wall behind him.




To get a bit more dramatic lighting for this pose I turned away umbrella from the model and put it further away. Left side of his face became much darker than on previous example. By putting light source further away from the model we decrease relative size. It allows to create deeper shadows. If you want even more dramatic look I suggest you to change light modifier to small softbox.


Postproduction for this series wasn’t heavy. I’ve used standard techniques like dodging and burning, adjustment layers for correction skin tones and overall contrast. Also I removed some dots on the wall behind the model since they were very distracting and grabbed a lot of attention.


Evenatually you don’t have to use Canon’s speedlites or other AAA brands, cheap flash like Yongnuo will work the same way. In relatively dark environment you don’t have to fight with sun (I mean overpower it). Diffused light which comes from large window even at midday usually doesn’t so intense.


Umbrellas are the most common light modifiers on the market which you can buy. S-type bracket mount holder also does great job in terms of support speelite. I strongly recommend this thing for every how shoots with umbrellas and umbrella type soft boxes.


Thanks for reading let me know if you have some thoughts about your experience about on location shoots.

NOTE: Thanks a ton Andrey for your help and support. Visit his website andym.ru or follow him on Facebook



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