Fashion Photography on Location Using Speedlights

Learn how to create stunning fashion shots on location without loads of expensive equipment as Karl demonstrates a simple fashion shoot in Joshua Tree National Park in the US using just speedlights and umbrellas.

Combining natural light and strobes, Karl uses the setting sun behind his model to create beautiful rim lighting, which he combines with speedlights to make his subject stand out against the backdrop of the desert.

You’ll learn about his lighting setup and camera settings as he demonstrates how the simple technique of adding speedlights to light the subject can make a big difference.

In this class:

  • How to do a fashion shoot on location
  • Fashion lighting setup using speedlights
  • Camera settings for fashion photography
  • How to backlight the subject to create rim lighting
  • Using speedlights with natural light


  1. One of your best shots using humble “normal” real world lights. It would have been nice to have more detail in the sky. When I do this I use a light meter to get a base line exposure for the ambient light and the flash. Then choose a aperture to shoot at and adjust the power setting on the flash accordingly or vary the distance.

  2. Also, how would different sized umbrellas impact how many speed lights are needed? Particularly curious about a 65” deep sparkly silver umbrella.

    1. Hi, a deep silver umbrella would be particullarly good at capturing the light from a speed light and bouncing it back as not much of the speedlite light would escape past the umbrella so most of it would be used and bounced back. You would still need quite a powerful speedlite though to compare it to a studio light of say 800J. 2 decent speedlites might get you in the ballpark.

  3. Hi Karl,
    Im trying to figure out how to navigate understanding the power differences between battery powered strobes and speed lights. Do you happen to know how a Godox TT600 would compare to the lights you used here? I was also watching the video where you shot backlit in mid day light and was wondering if my speed light would work for that type of shot as well.

    1. Hi, it’s easy to quantify the power of studio lights as they are all listed in Joules or Watts/second so for example 800J or 800W which is pretty much the same thing. So if you see a 400J lamp that has half the power of an 800J light. For speedlites it’s not so easy as they don’t have the modifiers such as a standard reflector and although you can have a Joules measurement for a speedlite it’s not going to give the same output because the light is just coming straight out the front of the speedlite and not being directed by a reflector or modifier. So the only way you could know for sure is to put a speedlite 2m from your subject and a studio light 2m from your subject and measure each separately with a light meter. In simple terms though most speed-lites are much weaker than studio lights.

    1. Hi Adam, the first thing is to ensure you use a lens hood. Then flare comes down to the glass in the lens and the arrangements of the lens elements, quality of the glass and it’s anti-reflective coatings etc. You may have 2 lenses the same focal length and one is better than the other at reducing flare. I often also hold my hand up as an extra shield against the sun and in the studio I’ll use additional flare blockers such as prices of black card to block lighting.

  4. I was hoping for something a little simpler…like just two total lights as opposed to six.

  5. Outdoor umbrellas are better then soft box? And is possible to have same result with not so many speedlights ?

    1. Hi, Umbrellas are generally easier to handle on location (if there’s no wind) because they are quick to assemble. They also reflect more light (depending on the shape) so you get more juice out of your speedlite. How many speedlites you need simply depends on how much power they can put out. If a speedlite has double the power then you only need one instead of two pointing into the umbrella. These days though I’d recommend actual studio/location lights, they have much more power and some of them are about the same price as speedlites.

  6. Hi Karl, another great tutorial. I was wondering what brand/model the speedlights were and how powerful they are?

  7. Hi Karl. This is fantastic, however, how many of us have 6 speedlites to hand I wonder? Can I ask why you used the reflectors? Would I get a similar result if I used the two speedlites I have directed straight at the subject on full – 3/4 power?

    Really am enjoying your tutorials and come back to them all time. Think I might have to invest in some good quality strobe lights for future as speedlites are very fiddly.

  8. Hi Karl, I noticed that there was no use of light metres or colour checker in these shots unless it was done off camera and, I wondered if you use these or not for this type of shoot. I never go anywhere without my light metre and colour checker.

  9. I have noticed you use a polarizing filter frequently on your fashion images. I understand the use of the grad filters but what does the polarizer do in non-reflective environments?
    Really enjoying your videos.

    1. Hi Martin, it removes reflections from leaves and foliage or often increases saturation. It can also increase the saturation in blue skies and increase the contrast between sky and clouds as well as increase saturation and clothes. Even skin can look different with a polarizer. I’d encourage you to experiment with them at various times of day and with various subjects. Cheers Karl.

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