Portrait Photography Challenge: Shoot with a Flashlight and Phone

There can be a lot of gear envy among photographers when they see other people with tons of expensive camera gear, lighting gear, and modifiers. It’s also all too easy to say you can’t be creative because you don’t have access to a particular light or equipment.

Usually, however, this mindset is unrelated to equipment and is actually justification for staying in the comfort zone. In the spirit of letting go of that comfort zone, I decided to make it my mission to try and capture creative fashion images with just a flashlight and an iPhone.

Everything is a source of light

It is quite common to believe that to maximize the use of light, photographers need dedicated strobes, and the more expensive these lights, the better the quality.

I remember a photographer who told me that he used Profoto because the light emitted had a different quality than other flashes. When I looked at how much Profoto lights cost, I almost fell into a photographic depression thinking that I would never become a good photographer because I couldn’t afford the “magic” Profoto lights.

The truth is that to say that a particular brand of light is special or better than another is incredibly ignorant. In fact, the light that comes out of any source is essentially the same thing: a bunch of photons. Without getting into the physical argument behind what light is, let’s agree that the only thing a flash does is pump out a charge of photons.

A flashlight can also pump photons.

With that in mind, I took a flashlight for a spin. If you are interested, my particular was called BitLighter, a device designed for photography and video, but you can use any flashlight with a light focusing lens.

Why flashlights are a great option


As you may or may not know, light behaves very differently when passing through glass lenses. Let me explain what I mean by that. Usually when you shine a light through a softbox, you make it fall in an inverted square pattern. This is not exactly an accurate way to calculate light attenuation.

We are used to the idea that to focus light we simply reduce the spread of light with grids. The grids are excellent, but they “eat” a lot of light. Depending on the angle of the grid, it can reduce the output by 0.5 to 2 stops of light. Naturally, this can have a negative effect on the creative possibilities available.

There is a much more efficient way to focus light, and that is with optics. The physics behind the optics and light is quite complex, and to be honest I can’t say I’m an expert on every little detail. But to my knowledge, the optics can make the light much more focused and significantly increase the range. If you’ve worked with optical snoots or Fresnels, you may have seen this in action. But both are rather expensive and can be hard to find for some brands.

So, the much cheaper approach to getting optical light modifiers for your lights would be to consider flashlights. Most of them come with some sort of lens that allows the beam to be focused from one beam to another. Even if they don’t, they will still come with a lens that will focus the beam to make the light more effective.

Light patterns

The reason I care so much about the flashlight focusing lens is that it can actually be used to produce amazing light patterns. If you’ve explored using everyday objects as light modifiers, you may have discovered the fun of foil. While using grids can be a way to get nice reflections from aluminum foil, a much better way to get them is to use optically focused light.

Since we are working with direct reflections with aluminum foil in this particular case, we will want to maximize the amount in order to create the desired effect. This is why a flashlight is ideal for this: it will direct the light forward and ensure that a narrow, directed beam hits the sheet. Here’s what it looks like:

Although not taken on an iPhone, this image is a perfect demonstration of the patterns a flashlight can create.

Freeze models

Another reason to use flashlights for your photography is because of the patterns you can create with gels. Again, being an optically focused beam, it will be quite easy to create fine patterns due to the light traveling in one direction. Working with gels might seem complicated at first, but I can assure you that it’s actually quite intuitive in this app.

What I’m talking about is creating line patterns with gels, for example, like in the image below:

The way I created this image was to cover some of the light with color gel, then I used barn doors to reduce light spread and illuminate the model with a small strip of light. You can use cinefoil or plain black paper to achieve the same effect.

Another idea would be to stack pieces of stained glass together and shine a beam through them. Although I didn’t do it myself this time, I think it will work because stained glass interacts with light the same way colored gels do.

Beam concentration and use of shutters

Finally, you can also use flashlights to focus the beams and create interesting points on your overall picture. As you can see in the image below, I focused the beam around the model’s face which added an extra dimension to the image.

In a different image, I used the flood feature to create a more even spread of light across the model. Another use of the flood feature is that it creates a pointed circle. If you place barn doors or just black paper in front of your flashlight, it will act as a gobo. In fact, you can even place a real gobo mask.

A word about image capture devices and phones

I did this photo shoot with the default camera app on my phone, almost in automatic mode. The images have not been retouched, only color adjusted to my liking. The thing is, anyone with a phone now has a camera, and for those looking to get a little more creative with them, it’s important to understand that you can use any light source to take pictures. creative pictures. Heck, you can even use your sunglasses!

Naturally there will be some limitations including image quality, default cropping, file size, or the ability to bring back overexposed or underexposed images, but there is still an overwhelming amount of work that can be captured using only a smartphone and good light.

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