Using Portable Lighting to Bring the Studio Outdoors

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: June 20, 2017

Category: Photography

I know this sounds obvious but as a Photographer the BEST gift is a Photograph; let me explain what I mean…

Below is a picture I took a few days ago when down in Devon spending time with two of our closest friends, Sean and Ashley…and of course Duke in the back garden of their beautiful home.

Giving a photograph is and really should be more that just “That’s nice” … it should, and yeah we hear this a lot, tell a story an man does this one tell a story!

Glyn Dewis Photography

So happy to have taken this for them both because it means so much more than just being a picture. For a good while Sean and Ashley have had their fare share of life’s troubles and worry; troubles that could have quite easily broken them but thankfully they’ve come through it all and now can get on with living. This picture to me is a BIG F&*K YOU! to the naysayers they had to endure and those who brought worry, upset and doubt into their lives and also to those who faked friendship but on the inside were wishing for a fall! Well…they fought on and have won! They can hold their heads high and concentrate on what’s important to them…each other!

So with that said, let’s take a quick look at how I put this together…

The lighting set up was incredibly simple and for those of you that have followed this blog for a while won’ be surprised to see that I used my trusty Elinchrom 135cm (50″) Rotaulx Octa Softbox and into this was the Elinchrom ELB 400.

Glyn Dewis Photography

Now at the time of taking this the weather was absolutely glorious; beautiful blue skies, sun and pushing 30 degrees celsius; perfect for lounging around but not so for taking photographs….my style at least as I prefer a softer light as opposed to a hard light.

Now there were occasional clouds in the sky so with that and waiting for the sun to go lower in the sky we managed to pull this one out of the bag with pretty much settings I would use in the studio: ISO 100, 1/125 second and f/5.6

When it comes to lighting my own preference is to try to make it look natural; certainly was the idea in this picture so the power of the light and the settings in the camera were used to create a ‘real life’ picture if that makes sense.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it but from time to time you’ll see pictures where the light used outdoors is much stronger than the environment and kind of spotlights the subject/s. This you tend to see used as an effect in Wedding Photography more than most and like I said there’s nothing wrong with it. For me though when I look at a picture I always seem to approach it with the thought of “So why is the lighting like that?”

Here’s what I mean…

In A you can see what I mean about spotlighting a subject and in B you can see where I’ve tried to give the lighting a much more natural and realistic look…

Glyn Dewis Photography

Glyn Dewis Photography

Actually, before we did the picture with their house behind them we made use of the time when the sun was just too harsh and decided to bring the studio outdoors and set up some individual shots and a few of them together with my grey background.

Now in the studio I’d be looking to shoot at around 1/125sec shutter speed but that was just too slow and way too much of the ambient light was getting into the shot; especially as I was shooting at around f/4.0.

So the solution here was to use a much faster shutter speed which meant using Elinchrom’s Hi Sync. This is different to High Speed Sync that we hear mentioned a lot these days (although that would work in this case as I wasn’t going for a full length shot) and allowed me to shoot using flash with a shutter speed much higher than the usual sync speed but instead at 1/1000sec. Being able to do this and use even higher shutter speeds if necessary (up to 1/8000sec) gives us so many creative possibilities and also allows us to get so much more out of less powerful lighting packs.

By the way, I’ll be doing a video to give a brief explanation in the two in the next week or so going over the difference between Elinchrom’s Hi Sync and the usual High Speed Sync.

Glyn Dewis Photography

So the lighting set up again was kept simple and classic going for the Rembrandt style of lighting with light on one side of the face and shadow on the other albeit for a pattern of light on the cheek and under the eye.

Here’s one of the results with Sean and Ashley using a different piece of garden furniture…

Glyn Dewis Photography

As we were in bright sunlight I used this great pop up tent type contraption called an iCap that I can put my laptop in to shade it and see the screen clearly. Oh and of course shooting tethered…

Glyn Dewis Photography

Couldn’t resist an outtake; just wish I could remember what I’d said 🙂

Glyn Dewis Photography

As always if you have any questions / comments then make use of the comments section below and I’ll definitely get back to you.

Catch you next time,

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  1. Gareth

    Hi Glyn,

    Thanks again for your on-going generosity of spirit in sharing your expertise; it’s much appreciated.

    Can you recommend an economy backdrop that will give good results without costing the earth? I’m an amateur so it won’t get regular use but equally I wouldn’t want it to look like a bag of spanners. I’d like to do full-length too – so one that can be stood or with a train would be great.

    • Glyn Dewis

      Hey Gareth…just get yourself a roll of Grey Seamless Paper from your favourite camera supplies store. In the UK I use WEX and buy their Storm Grey. This works a treat and comes in a variety of widths, and can be used for just the background and even rolled out so it can be on the floor too. I then add texture to make it look like an expensive canvas background in Photoshop.

      Hope this helps

  2. marycd

    What a lovely couple. And that dog – so sweet.
    That Elinchrom is on my wish list. For now i am using continuous lighting. I like the control. Have you ever used continuous lighting?
    Do you have any opinions about it? Is it the lazy way out? Tell the truth – i can take it.

    • Glyn Dewis

      You’re not wrong…such a great couple…great friend and yeah Duke is a Star 🙂
      As for continuous lighting I’ve not really played with it all that much. It definitely has it’s place but for what I do I need to be able to control the environment and continuous lighting won’t allow that…if that makes sense

  3. Patver Manvill MV

    Hi, I love your concept. I just want to know about your post process, I really like the tone of the skin.


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