Off-Camera Flash in Daylight  

Whatcha Got?

Perfect lighting

A little to the left


The right light

Ya gotta get wet

Who cares about the water

Lets see

Flash the Cadillac


This past weekend I lead another workshop for photographers about using off-camera flash when photographing portraits outside in bright light. As with past lighting workshops my goal was to help participants understand how to use flash in different environments during daylight, and gain techniques that I hoped would help them transform the harsh daylight of outdoor portraits into beautiful light.

I was fortunate to have a great rural location where participants began in the morning photographing our model using a speedlight and a diffusion panel in a bright meadow, then moved to a large, well lit, open barn with two-flash lighting using a shoot-through umbrella and softbox until lunchtime.

After a healthy lunch provided by Versatile Studio we set up by a small tree covered stream, getting both our feet and our model’s feet wet. We finally finished the day photographing the model posing beside an old 1970s Cadillac in a nearby field.

I enjoy guiding serious photographers through their first attempts to use flash as a tool to create better photos, I want them to think of the flash being more than an uncontrollable device perched on top of the camera when it’s too dark in a room to take the photo.

I have been offering off-camera flash courses since the early 1980’s, and still believe they are an important segment of a portrait photographer’s education.

So much has changed in photography, and yet here I am 35 years later, still helping photographers learn how to use off-camera flash. Modern cameras are amazing with sensors that are so much better at capturing light than film was. But just as 30 years ago, serious photographers realize how much more flattering off-camera flash is on someone’s face than just harsh daylight.

Off-camera flash gives a photographer the ability to choose the best direction of light.

There are times when I am forced to photograph a person without using a flash. I think “forced” is the best word, because I will always use flash if I can, and as those that have taken my advice have learned, in most instances using flash for portrait photography indoors or outdoors is better than not using a flash.

Those attending last weekend’s workshop began to get comfortable using flash.

David Hobby, lighting guru and founder of the blog,, wrote,

“Learning how to light is incremental, creative and fun. There is almost no math involved, nor any difficult technical know-how. In fact, good lighting is less like math and more like cooking. It’s like, you taste the soup and if it needs more salt you add some salt. You’ll see that when we learn to balance a flash with the existing, ambient light.”

“Controlling harsh natural light – one of the most important things to know as a shooter is how to use bad light well. Taking hard, nasty daylight and turning it into beautiful light is actually pretty easy.”

18 responses to “Off-Camera Flash in Daylight  

    • Using flash is like learning anything else in photography fragg… Expensive equipment? First look for a used flash. For example, the one we were using for the stream shots I posted cost me $50. The Stand: $79. and I think what you called a “megaphone” is actually a Softbox. That sells for $69. And each of the participating photographers had a Wireless Sender on their camera. A Wireless Receiver was attached to the flash. The Sender/Receiver kit cost $69.00 The Total for that equipment: $317.00
      That black “Megaphone looking device” is a Softbox. A softbox is used to direct and soften the light.


  1. I was asked to do some outdoor grad shots for a friend’s daughter. I hate the way my photos don’t have the right lighting indoors or out. I guess it is time to look into costs for an extenal flash. Do you have anything in your shop that will work with my Canon T3i? And what ARE the prices?


    • Oops, I just saw your comments to another reader regarding costs. But yeah, if you have anything under $100 to help improve my lighting for the grad shoot on Thursday, I will plan a soon trip to Loops.


      • For whatever reason, I cannot seem to absorb any of the information on what the numbers on lenses translate to as far as what they will do for my photography. I wish there were a store where I could buy a lens with a week to try it out and if it doesn’t do what I am wanting it to do (and I will know once I take some pictures with it), I can take it back for a full refund or exchange for a different lens.


      • You would benefit by take my beginning photograph classes in August.
        Regarding your thoughts on buying and returning lenses. The lenses I sell are used and consigned. Loaning them out would be unfair to owners. I suggest you check out London Drugs. They sell new lenses and will refund/exchange. Of course their prices are much higher because of that, but that might be the best way for you to make a selection.


      • Yes, for sure such an idea as loaning or renting out equipment would not work with a consignment store. Perhaps in a bigger city, a camera rental business might exist.

        London Drugs is an option to explore.

        What day and time is your photography class? I took a beginner’s course in 2011 when I first got my T3i, but the lens numbers went over my head, as they continue to do when anyone tries to explain them. Maybe someday they will click.


      • There is a camera rental in Kamloops, Studio five O. You could check out what they have.
        I haven’t set a date yet. I usually have them on Saturday mornings, but I have had requests to have a day-long workshop style session. That idea seems like fun.
        Just stop by sometime and we can discuss what confuses you.


      • Well, weather and time did not permit me to do ANYthing camera-related. My truck without a/c makes 28° in Kamloops a tad uncomfortable so I took care of the urgent stuff and left. Hopefully next time I am in town it will be with a/c.


      • Well, weather and time did not permit me to do ANYthing camera-related. My truck without a/c makes 28° in Kamloops a tad uncomfortable so I took care of the urgent stuff and left. Hopefully next time I am in town it will be with a/c.


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