Like most photographers, one can feel like you need the latest and greatest equipment. For years I have been using one light; my Canon Speedlite 580EX II. Combined with a shoot through umbrella, a transmitter, and reflectors, I can capture images with an array of effects.
The beauty of a speedlite is that you can use it on the camera, with an umbrella, or alone or bounce the light off a ceiling or reflector.
Just last week, I used an array of lighting techniques, to capturing photos with my friend Kristin. She is an amazing model with tons of tattoos and she was up for anything. Behind my apartment complex in Atlanta, Georgia is a wall of ivy. She wasn't available to model until evening and with it getting dark at 5:30pm I knew my Speedlite was needed.
I started out with a simple set up. I positioned the umbrella above and behind me, with two reflectors on either side of her. You can read where the light was located by the by the shadow under her chin. The result was a nice even light that made her skin glow.
I then decided to play around and experimented with taking off the umbrella and positioning my speedlite behind her and placing the reflectors in front of her on either side with just enough space for me to stand. The result is was the halo effect of the light wrapping around her and hitting the reflectors, producing a nice soft light bouncing back onto her.
I loved the effect that this created that I changed my aperture from f/5.0 to f/8.0 to cut back the light to let the ivy become dark to focus on her tattoos. By decreasing the exposure, the result produced a beautiful image that looks as though it was taken in a dark room, not outside.
My final play with lighting fun was to place the speedlite and umbrella to the left side just behind her, so that if faced my camera just slightly. I then put a reflector beside her to add some fill. I wanted the effect to be a soft, angelic effect with a little light flare front the umbrella.
So there you have it. Four very different images, with only very simple lighting equipment. Don't let your equipment hold you back, or feel it must dictate how you shoot with it. Experiment with your lighting and don't be afraid to make mistakes, because most of the time, its never a mistake if you learn and grow from them!
DISCLAIMER and TIP: It was pitch black outside and I had a hard time focusing on her. I had her hold an iPhone flashlight up to her face to focus. I should have had her do this periodically, though I didn't and in the end some of the images are not as sharp as I would have liked. Though, if images are not as sharp, retouch the photos to add some clarity with a high pass layer, or even go with the mistakes and amplify the softness to create an angelic feel to the photos. Break the rules sometimes- thats ok!