10 Tips for Taking Portraits at Night w/ Off Camera Flash (OCF) – Samples & BTS Photos – w/ TTL


Hey guys! My name is Francisco Hernandez and today I’m going to be giving you ten tips for shooting portraits at night with flash. Since you’re gonna be shooting at night getting the focus on your subject is going to be a bit of a challenge. Unless you have night vision and really good eyesight for manually focusing you’re gonna want to use something like a flashlight and luckily enough most of our phones nowadays have a flashlight. one… two… three. *click* If you tend to shoot alone you’ll want to see if you have or might want to invest in transmitters like these where they have the auto focus assist beams so that you can get the focus on your subject. Yeah, I like it. That pose. Okay. Alright, one… two… The key thing that you’ll be aiming for when shooting portraits at night is bringing up those ambient light levels so that your subject isn’t in complete darkness. and one way you can do that is widening the aperture. The lenses you have determine how wide of an aperture you can go to. Some are limited to something like f/3.5 while others can go as wide as f/1.2 You’re also going to have to slow your shutter a bit to bring up the ambient light even further. So if you can use a tripod, unless your have some really steady hands, to avoid camera shake. I took this shot at a slow shutter speed and although I did nail the focus on the first try I did mess up the focus on the second and the third try. Some cameras and lenses even have built in stabilization to help reduce camera shake at slower shutter speeds. I bought the Sony a6500 not too long ago because it has built in stabilization and that was something important to me because every now and then I do kind of get shaky hands. Depending on the scene you’re in slowing the shutter might not be enough so you may also want to consider raising the ISO. If your camera can’t handle high ISO levels then you’ll want to bring it to the highest that it can go to before the grain starts to overtake the image and slow the shutter more. Noise reduction is something you can also consider just in case you absolutely need to shoot at those higher ISO levels. At night you won’t need that much power at all so I definitely recommend a speedlite like this as opposed to something like a strobe. You should also see which of the speedlites you have can go to the lowest output. Nowadays there’s even mini versions of speedlites like this little guy right here that have a little bit more than half the power of a normal speedlite so something like this is gonna be you’re best bet for shooting at night. In the case that your light is still too strong at the lowest power you’ll want to diffuse it. Let’s say you started the shoot with a bare flash. If you have a diffusion cap like this you’ll want to put it on so you can bring the intensity of the light down. I personally use an octabox and the octabox has two diffusion panels which is really helpful because each panel of diffusion cuts the light down one stop. If you’re still experiencing an overexposed shot then what you can then do is move the light further away. Depending on how much the shot is overexposed will determine how far away you’ll move the light. It’s important to note that the quality of the light will change when you move it further away. When shooting in the daytime you’ll have the sun as a secondary light source to separate your subject from dark backgrounds that might be around them. At night you won’t have that sun so you’ll need to have a second light or find lights in the area to create that separation. If your subject has dark hair or clothing it can easily blend into the night and you’ll want to avoid that. Right now I have a light that is separating my hair from the background. Once I turn it off you’ll see how my hair just kinda just blends into it. Unless you want to aim for that look you’ll need to create some sort of separation. Going back to when I suggested you should use a flashlight to get the focus I wanted to add that once you get the focus down you’ll want to ask the person that’s helping you to move the light off the subject before you take the shot. Depending on the settings the flashlight might cause an overexposure. You don’t want to experience that and mess up your whole setup when all you had to do was just remove the light. If you have multiple lights on your subject you might get an odd color if the color temperatures aren’t the same. This can create a look that you may or may not want. For this reason I recommend putting your subject in a scene where there’s little to no light on the front of them. In this shot I did have some light on my face so once I slowed down the shutter too much the light began to look too saturated on my face creating a look that I didn’t really like. In addition to being careful about the color temperatures of the ambient light sources you should also keep in mind how you want those ambient light sources to look. Let’s say for example in this shot I took I wanted the ambient light behind her to be less orange. In order to make that happen I could have just put a half CTO, that’s color temperature Orange, gel on the light. If you guys are interested in seeing a video based on gels hit the like button to let me know and I’ll definitely work on that. If you have a speedlite with TTL, definitely use it. Not many people realize this, but using TTL on your speedlite can help your speedlite go lower than it normally can. It’s able to do this because TTL itself uses a pre-flash and that pre-flash uses power so when you use TTL you’re able to go about 2-3 stops below what your speedlite normally can without TTL. So if you have two speedlites that are the same power, but one has TTL that’s the one you’re gonna want to use. That mini speedlite I mentioned earlier actually has TTL so it’s a pretty good option for shooting portraits at night. Alright, thank you guys so much for watching I really do hope this helps and you get some great night portraits after seeing this video. If you haven’t already done so please hit that like button and/or subscribe if you found this video helpful at all. Also feel free to comment to let me know what you guys want to see from me so I can make that content for you guys. I’m totally open to suggestions. Alright, take care and I’ll see you guys in the next one.=) Ryan! One, two, three! See? Ryan: Yeah. Look up there at the camera. See? Cheeeese! Okay *grunts* okay.

100 Replies to “10 Tips for Taking Portraits at Night w/ Off Camera Flash (OCF) – Samples & BTS Photos – w/ TTL

  1. When I watched your video about 1.5 months ago. I only have one speedlight. Now I have 2 strobes and 2 speedlights. Love your TIPs.

  2. Why are speedlights better than strobes at night and why do you say that you need little power at night? I can see that you first advised to bring the ambient up by opening up the aperture and ISO

  3. AHHHHHHH this was my next video I wanted to do hahahaha great minds think alike.

  4. Great video. Picking up so much from you guys! Okay Francisco, here is my question. In one example you are using a Buff 5 Ft Octa, the next a Fotodiox 5 Foot OCta and then another a glow parapop. What softbox would you recommend? Getting ready to purchase some lighting equipment and although the lights are easy, the boxes are not. Help if you have a second!

  5. Awesome video, like always! Many thanks for all your effort that you put into making these. A gel video and an AD200 and AD600 comparison would be hot.

  6. Hey, i suggested your channel to a friend who is starting up and after going thru a couple of videos, he kinda mentioned that it seems your gear is all high end. Can you do some videos with entry level gear. like Crop camera and "Not So Wide Aperture lenses" to kinda show your composition and thought process for guys like us what can't afford such premium glass and gear. would kinda be nice. Thanks in Advance.

  7. great!I have a question regarding which external flash to buy for my nikon dslr..?Which has ttl and manual mode in it with hss..:)

  8. SIR, i HAVE A CANON 430eX III SPEEDLIGHT ,I WANT TO USE IT AS OFF CAMERA FLASH WITH HSS, CAN YOU SUGGEST ANY WIRELESS TRIGGERING SYSTEM FOR THIS SPEEDLIGHT ?

  9. great video !! how to get ride of the tungsten light if im shooting in tungsten indoor ? im using godox ad200 with phottix para softbox

  10. Thank you very much Francisco… great video, btw could you confirm me joining your fb group..(request sent)

  11. Hi Francisco! I've noticed you have used your Canon 6D for low light photos in this video. Does the 6D focus better in such conditions over the Sony A7? Thanks for sharing your wisdom mate. As always looking forward to more videos.

  12. Dude your videos and your work are so inspiring to me as an up and coming strobist photographer. I love your style and your post processing. keep it up Francisco!

  13. Loved the way you showed your lighting setups with labels at the end of the video. You rarely see photographers do this. Well executed and great video

  14. Very helpful video, thanks a lot! 🙂 I have shot an event last weekend in bad light conditions and was struggling to get sharp, well lit photos.. next time I'll use these tips.

  15. sup man. just picked up a a6300 myself as a second camera. picked up that sigma adapter too. looking forward to testing it out here soon. thanks.

  16. Great tips! Thanks!
    Yes, a vid on temperature balancing flash with ambient light would be much appreciated. I find that when using speed lights, that the light from the speed lights is too "flashy" and doesn't mix well with the ambient color temperature.

  17. Hello FJH…im a fan of yours…i just wanna ask what apperture is best for night portrait since i am using Sony a7ii + Sony 85mm 1.8…btw I'm a newbie…thanx in advance…

  18. Thank you for this great video and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    I would love to see a video on how you position your lights in relation to the subject to get different effects and shadows – thanks!

  19. I would love to know what the colour gels are for an how to use them, from a very beginners point of view, details are most important things when teaching people these things. I dont think there is any point in taking things for granted, that other people probably dont know but you do so thye are just bypassed….please tell me all on the gels 🙂 thanks

  20. Can you please share what trigger/receivers you use that has the assist beams? I cannot find it in your links. Thanks!

  21. Great tips! what transmitter is the one you are using? do you know if its compatible with the canon 600ex-tx? would they work? thank you.

  22. thanks for the awesome tips. Btw, which lenses do you recommend for nighttime portraits? I shoot with a old canon 5d Mark ii.

  23. Nice work, great videos,but….you talk SO FAST, even the C.C…… have no time to catch with you, and the C.C. rushing as well.You gt me !!!???? BRAVISSIMO !!!!

  24. Nice video keep filming and you actually making very good nights portraits! You inspiring me go out and shoot!!😎📸

  25. Pleaseeee . . Next time slow down the samples section, is the best part. It's self-explaning. Very instructional video for amateurs like me. Thanks!!!

  26. Отличный формат видео. Интересные съемки, шикарные фото. Заинтересовало Оборудование.

  27. i just realized that the ad200 godox ttl does not work the same as those ttl speedlight do. and its not that accurate though… a bit disappointed..

  28. Francisco, your suggestion are very good. On the other hand, I agree with some of the people here who have commented that you talk too fast. Slow down a little bit and doing so will improve your videos greatly.

  29. I would also add that regardless of how informative and well done your video's are…you speak 'way' to fast my friend! So much so that it sometimes is difficult to fully catch everything your saying. Other than that, keep up the good work young man.

  30. Great job man, one of the better tutorials on flash photography at night! I'm currently using an a6500 too with an 18-35 Sigma.

    A quick question, how would you have your speedlight angled if you're photographing an outdoor party at night with no ceilings or walls to bounce off? I've always heard it's not recommended to face it directly at a subject. With no other alternatives i'm thinking if flash caps and weakening the flash output to like 1/64. Not looking to purchase a transmitter to have off camera angled lighting just yet.

    Any advice appreciated, cheers!

  31. This was awesome. I couldn’t figure out that one thing that I was doing wrong. Lowering the shutter speed was my missing price for the ambient light

  32. I do find if I use a very wide aperture. A small shake in the camera can throw the focus off. I hate it when the eyes look blurry. I see you used a tripod…. probably something to do with the wide aperture???

  33. Most underrated Youtubers in the photography category: "Nightscape Images"( Nightscape photography), "Mark Smith" (Wildlife and landscape), FJH Photography (Portrait & Flash photography). Youtube, you should highlight these amazing talents in your upcoming rewind video

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