For me, the light created by a speedlite has 3 distinctive aspect. It comes in the amount of quantity, in the shape of quality and in the form of direction. All 3 aspects must be controlled and used with a purpose in each photo captured.
The quantity of light can be seen in 2 variations. The quantity can represent the power output but it can also mean the spread of the light (amount of coverage in size) Quantity is limited with speedlite but it can be pretty surprising also. Over powering the sun is possible with speedlite but you’ll need to have 3-4 speedlite to form one light source. A special bracket will allow you to attached 3 speedlite together. Everytime you add a speedlite to another flash you double it’s output quantity. (gain one stop of light) Distance between light and subject also has a great influence on the quantity of light. The farther the light source from the subject the less harsh the shadows will be and also the less powerful the light source will be.
This picture uses 4 speedlite; 1 direct with a grid on the SLDR logo (right),1 bounced on the ceiling for a softer (right), broader light source, 1 on the background (behind) and 1 direct to add dimension to the shaft(left)
The quality of light refers to the light being hard or soft. Hard light creates strong and pronounced shadows while creating very defined details. Soft light has less definition with softer gradation between light and shadow areas. The quality of light can be easily modified via light modifiers such has the Westcott Apollo Orb speed lite kit, Honl Photo speed grid, Rogue flash bender or even the Ray flash: The ring flash adapter. A pretty simple rule the bigger the diffuser, the softer the light. For a quick single or couple portrait, I love to use the Westcott Apollo Orb. The Octogone is deep and offer a very soft light. It’s also fast to put together and compact enough to bring everywhere. For more dramatic lighting, I use the flash with a simple grid. The grid allows me to control light spill (dispersion) to only light the subject that I desire. I use the Ray flash ring flash adapter during event photography to provide a different light compared to all the other photographers out there. One issue with the last diffuser is that the infrared AF beam is blocked by the adapter.
The direction of your light is very important. It can alter the mood of an image very easily be it from behind the subject, from it’s side, at a 45 degree angle to the subject. This direction can cause the subject to look good or bad. Direction of light also showcases the shapes of your subject. The depth and shape will vary on the direction of your light. The direction of your lighting also alters the quality of your light.
Rear light example
Now look at some of your favorite photographs and tried to see the direction of the light. Once you start seeing it, your photography will dramatically change since you will be making conscious decisions about your lighting.
all photographs copyrighted by Montreal wedding photographer – Sébastien D’Amour