If you’re just starting out with a speedlight and portrait photography, the lighting can be a little tricky. Especially outdoors when you’re trying to get the correct exposure for everything, the sky, your model’s face, the foreground, the background, etc.

Good outdoor controlled portrait lighting is all about the settings of your camera and the light itself.

Perfectly exposed outdoor portrait with Speedlight

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting of a perfectly exposed image

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting of a perfectly exposed image

For most of my pictures I use a Nikon D3200 since it’s what I’ve had for years. This time though I used a full-frame Nikon — don’t ask me what kind because I did not pay attention. My settings for this shot were ISO 100, shutter speed 1/200 and f-stop f.5. since it was a cloudy day, my speedlight was set to a higher setting. This is something you’ll have to play with because it depends on the weather outside and how close the light is to the model.

One thing to also keep in mind when using a speedlight indoors AND outdoors is to change your white balance to flash so the portrait lighting doesn’t look fake!

 

Outdoor portrait exposed for the sky

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting of an imaged exposed for the sky

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting of an image exposed for the sky

Here I obviously didn’t use a speedlight, so I switched my white balance back to auto — that way it’s one less thing I have to worry about fiddling with. My settings for this shot were ISO 100, shutterspeed 1/250 and f-stop f.5. The background has enough exposure, but my model’s face does not. That’s how the speedlight can help with the controlled lighting portion of the portrait.

 

Outdoor portrait exposed for the model’s face

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting image exposed for the model's face

Outdoor controlled portrait lighting image exposed for the model’s face

In this image we have the exact opposite problem. My model’s face has great exposure, but this time the sky is blown out and doesn’t have the same rich color as the first shot. With a deeper depth of field, you might be able to get more details and color without a speedlight, but for a good, controlled portrait lighting image outdoors, a speedlight does wonders.