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You might be doing this wrong, or how to use speedlight outdoors

You might be doing this wrong, or how to use speedlight outdoors

How to use speedlight outdoors?

Most common mistakes and how to avoid them

Scenario 1

I have seen far too many photographers using their speedlights in ways that are nothing less than ‘extraordinary’; and I mean that not in a good way. I firmly advocate turning the head of a speedlite e.g., when you are indoors (I’ll explain why); but when you are outdoors, there is really no reason why you would want to do that.

Here are some of the seemingly futile exercises that I have seen photographers undertake. If you are doing these currently I urge you to stop and use your speedlight the proper way to maximize its potential.

Scenario 2

I have seen photographers stick out that small reflector from the top of their speedlight with the speedlight head aimed at an angle of 45 ˚, or even 90 ˚ or completely turned away from the subject.

Things you are doing wrong with your speedlight

These does absolutely nothing to add any light to the scene. You might not as well use the speedlight. All you are doing is wasting the power in your batteries.

Scenario 3

Finally, I have also seen photographers use a tiny white diffuses – the sort of that fits snugly over the speedlight. These are used for the purpose of diffusing the intensity of the light. There is really no reason why you would want to use that, when shooting outdoors.

Things you are doing wrong with your speedlight

Indoors, these diffusers do have a role to play as they can diffuse the intensity of the light. That in itself takes care of harsh shadows and creates a flattering look such as for portrait work. But outdoors they rarely have a role to play. This is because with this tiny plug-in type diffuser, almost half of the light goes sideways. Only the other half reaches the subject.

Most photographers are expectedly using TTL (or E-TTL). This method lets the flash decide how much light to emit in order for the correct exposure based on the exposure parameters dialed in by you. Using a diffuser only makes thing more difficult for the flash in that sense.

Evidently, the problem stems from the incorrect approach that photographers take when shooting with a speedlight.

The Solution

If reading all these puts you to the point of despair – please don’t. There is a perfectly good solution to the problem / incorrect approach that you have been facing / using. The solution is in using a specialized diffuser.

This diffuser is a generic one. Find one that matches your speedlight make and model. Strap one to the speedlight head as demonstrated above. And you are ready to go.

These diffusers increase the surface off which light emanates and therefore produces a much smoother light. They make a big difference when you use them outside to shoot.

Essentially, this diffuser acts as a softbox producing a smoother and more flattering light than the natural light source or the bare speedlight.

How to use a Speedlite outdoors

If you have slapped a speedlight to your camera’s hotshoe, that is for a purpose. That purpose is to throw some light on to the subject, whether to use it as the key light or for filling in the shadows by bouncing light off of a surface. That approach will work in indoor photography quite well, where you have walls and ceilings against which you can bounce the light off. However, when shooting outdoors, bouncing light off of a surface does not work. Cause, there is none to begin with.

Plus, if you are shooting in a low light outdoor situation (or otherwise) the only light that will hit your subject is the light emitted from your speedlight. Any tool that does not enhance the quality (and quantity) of that light is meaningless to use

3 responses on "You might be doing this wrong, or how to use speedlight outdoors"

  1. Guilty as charged! ;-) lol Can you please tell me the name/brand of that Speedlite diffuser and where I can buy it? I think I only heard you say something about F-stoppers. Thanks!

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