Creating natural lighting on location with speed lights.

During the recent snowy spell in Cambridge I went out with a warm flask of tea and some small Nikon speed lights to try and capture a natural looking environmental portrait.

The sun was low and behind my subject and was casting sun beams through the pine foliage, I wanted to shoot my subject as though some of this sun light penetrating through the forest was providing the illumination on my subject. I also wanted to keep the background low key so that the dark depth of the forest was retained while keeping detail in the areas light by the ambient light.

Two Nikon SB800’s were used off camera and synced with pocket wizards. I used a white umbrella and soft box umbrella both placed camera right about 45 degrees in front and behind the subject. My working aperture of f/11 determined the final camera settings:  iso 400 1/80s @ f/11  I wanted to have a reasonable depth of field to retain depth and clarity of the sun beams in the background. In hindsight a third light placed high up and without a modifier to create the effect of sunlight falling on the surrounding forest floor would have have added more realism perhaps or possibly placing my subject nearer to where light was hitting the forest floor could have added something. However at the time I wanted a muted, low contrast image with a broody tone and the focus to be on the subject and background. The whole effect is aided by the snowy conditions acting like a giant fill reflector. In the end this was achieved. Lighting diagram below.

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