Daniel McQuillan Photography | A Modern Approach Daniel McQuillan Photography | A Modern Approach

Technique // Effective Use of Speedlites & Gels for Creative Portraits

Welcome to 'I Have No Idea What I'm Doing'.  

A series created to give both photographers and those who are interested an inside, informal look into what goes into a photoshoot and the making of an image.  I'll also be posting cool behind the scenes material, lighting diagrams, test shoots, and anything else that might be interestingly awesome.


Effective Use of Speedlites & Gel


Shot 1:


For the first image, I wanted to create something straight forward, simple and powerful.   To do this I used a 48" octabox on a Elinchrom Quadra strobe - See diagram below. 

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 28mm  f/: 7.1  Shutter: 1/125  Camera: Nikon D610 Lens: Nikon 24-70 2.8 


I made sure we were far enough away from the back of our space we were shooting in because I wanted there to be both focal and light fall off.  Normally I would have used ND filters along with my strobes to allow myself to open up the aperture a little more, however because I did not have them on hand, I was forced to used a pretty high aperture but I was still able to created some awesome contrast in the subject and back round.

One  of the biggest challenges to this shot was including the guitar and trying to create a natural pose while both showing it off but not having it overtake the focal point of the image (Cole).    


Shot 2:

For the second image, I wanted something a little more aggressive and dynamic.  I used a 3 light setup including a 12" Octabox w/ Elinchrom Quadra Strobe and 2 Nikon SB-600's - See diagram below

ISO: 100  Focal Length: 24mm  f/:13  Shutter Speed: 1/125  Camera: Nikon D610 Lens: Nikon 24-70 2.8

Although I used a wider focal length for this shot, I came in a lot closer to my subject to take the photo.  I wasn't worried so much about getting the environment as opposed to getting much subject in the centre of the frame.  I also moved the key light to create a Rembrandt style setup, which created some interesting shadows on Cole's face.  The pose really did it for me in this one as well.  It was caught totally organically, which lead us to trying to recreate it multiple times, however, the original pose was the best.   The tension in the hand on the body of the guitar and the movement in the hand on the neck created a lot feeling in the image.

To spice things up I threw a couple speedlites behind Cole on the ground with some gels on them.  Because I was using such a small aperture, I was able to capture the rich colours of the lights.


Shot 3:

I switched things up and made Cole ditch the guitar for some portraits in a shirt he wasn't the biggest fan of (he was overruled by photographer and more importantly, his girlfriend).  I used a 3 light setup with the same gear as the previous shot - See diagram below


ISO: 100  Focal Length: 32mm  f/: 8  Shutter: 1/125  Camera: Nikon D610 Lens: Nikon 24-70 2.8

One of my favourite things to do is Rembrandt lighting, but creating a dynamic angle to the face and lighting the side farther from the camera.  I find this creates an interesting dynamic as the side of the face that is closer to the camera is actually shaded.  On the speedlite used to create a rim light on Cole's shoulders and hair I used a red/orange gel and on the speedlite used to light the backround behind Cole, I used an orange gel.   The three lights together actually created a really cool ambiance in the space.  I mentioned the shirt earlier because I really liked the texture and contrasting colour it provided in the image as well.

Timelapse of Shoot:


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