Studio lights are expensive, not to mention big and difficult to carry around. When I need to get the ‘studio lit’ look for clients I use remotely fired flashguns. All you need is a flashgun capable of being controlled remotely. From the Nikon D90 up all Nikon cameras have an inbuilt function to do this. For Canon you need to own a 7D or a wireless transmitter, at the time of writing still the old Canon ST-E2. This allows you to fire your flashgun/s off the camera.
Flashguns don’t have the power output to match studio lights, but they can produce impressive results…
You can spot where the light is coming from by the little lights – ‘catchlights’ – in the subject’s eyes. Here the main light was above the subject on her right. The main thing to remember is to set your camera and flash to manual mode. ETTL – a flashgun’s automatic mode is good, but can be inconsistent. Switch your camera to manual mode, and experiment with the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and flash power output until you’re happy. It’s trial and error, and it always takes me several shots to get it right. I’m in no way an expert on off-camera flash, I only use it occasionally in my work. If you want some excellent tips and info from people who are much better at it than me, check out the Strobist blog online.
Here’s a shot lit by one flashgun from the left. I went for a moody, atmospheric look. A bit more photoshop work or a a bit more creativity would make it a much better shot – imagine the effect if I’d been lighting the subject through smoke! One of the great things about off camera flash is that it’s fun, and opens up lots more creative options.