How to take better portraits on a budget

With any genre of photography, it’s easy to get distracted by gear and spend thousands of pounds on lighting and light modifiers or shapers, but without knowledge and practice the outcomes can be frustrating. Portrait photography is no different and it deserves bearing in mind that you can take fantastic pictures on a budget plan
better portraits on a budget
Ian Pack guides us through the procedure of producing effective pictures for less with gear that is both affordable and quickly readily available in-store and online.

How to shoot much better pictures on a budget.

For this post, I used a Canon full-frame DSLR, a 50mm prime lens and inexpensive Speedlites. The 50mm lens I used is very popular and readily available for around ₤ 130/$ 125 brand-new but it’s worth seeking out utilized deals. A 50mm prime is perfect because it provides portraits a natural feel without producing distance between the photographer and model.

Inspect this out for more of the very best 50mm prime lenses you can purchase today, which you can obtain from as low as ₤ 109.
portrait photography on a budget
Photo credit: Ian Pack.

In terms of flash lighting, the Speedlite, hot shoe flash, small flash or off-camera flash– they are referred to by different names by various photographers and producers– are available, flexible and affordable. One of the Speedlites utilized for this post, the Kenro Speedflash, costs ₤ 95 ( and at the moment you can get it for an affordable cost of ₤ 79.99 from the Kenro site).

The main image on this page (see listed below) was photographed with the Speedlite installed on the cam hot shoe with a homemade bounce card to spread out and soften the hard light from a direct Speedlite.
take better portraits for less
Photo credit: Ian Pack.

The image is essentially straight out-of-camera with a few post-processing tweaks to the raw file and conversion to black and white utilizing the most recent version of DxO Nik Collection Colour Efex Pro 4 Dynamic Skin Softener and Silver Efex 3 Ilford Pan F 50 film emulation.

To darken the background relative to the model, I set the electronic camera to aperture priority mode and set the flash to TTL automated. I utilized the electronic camera direct exposure compensation to underexpose the ambient light by about one stop. The video camera managed the exposure for the background whilst the design was lit by the flash.

As a general guideline when working with flash the lens aperture works with the flash exposure and the shutter speed manages the ambient light.

Ian utilized a white shoot-through umbrella with a white foam core V-flat to bounce light back into his subject’s face. Canon EOS R, 50mm, 1/160sec at f/5.6, ISO 320. Photo credit: Ian Pack.

Flash and shutter speed

DSLR, mirrorless and other system electronic cameras will have a suggested maximum shutter speed to trigger the flash. This is known as the flash sync speed and the fastest shutter speed at which your flash will fire when not using high-speed sync in TTL mode. If you use a greater or much shorter duration shutter speed when not using high-speed TTL mode, you will notice a black band across your pictures.

Many Speedlites allow you to soar to 1/8000 sec. permitting you to utilize a large lens aperture in intense light conditions, supplied that your flash is effective enough. Speedlites average around 60Ws output. The watt-second is the energy equivalent to the power of one Watt sustained for one second. Generally, the greater the Ws value, the more effective your flash.

Gear for shooting much better portraits

Shooting through a white umbrella
Shoot-through white umbrella

The shoot-through or translucent umbrella is economical and flexible. They can be used to soften tough direct flashes for portraits or spread out light for space interiors.

Shooting through a white umbrella


Kenro Speedflash KFL101

Most likely the best-value Speedlite available in the UK, priced around ₤ 95. Compatible with both Canon e-TTL and Nikon i-TTL metering with a high flash sync shutter speed of 1/8000th second.
Kenro Speedflash
Kenro Speedflash

Godox S2 Bracket

Godox Flash Bracket
The perfect way to fit your Speedlite to a lighting stand. The Godox S2 enables you to use umbrellas and a series of Bowens S-Type light modifiers.

Godox Flash Bracket

Flash triggers
Flash radio trigger
Wireless triggers use a longer variety from your flash and the capability to fire numerous flashes, while a cable is cheaper and does not require much experience to get you photographing.

Flash radio trigger


Lastolite Joe McNally Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 Plus

While not inexpensive, this is a helpful piece of set functioning as a little crucial light, accent or background light. Folds flat for portability.
Lastolite Joe McNally Ezybox Speedlite

Lastolite Joe McNally Ezybox Speedlite

Bounce cards

The bounce card is one of the least costly ways to customize the light from your small flash. Bounce cards depend on bouncing light forward and ceiling bounce, assuming that you’re working inside. Both make the relative size of your flash larger and can be shaped to bounce the light when there’s no ceiling or if the ceiling is a colour other than white.

The light reflected from either is equivalent from the other. There is one significant distinction in between these two bounce cards– rate. The commercially offered bounce card expenses over ₤ 30, and the DIY version is less than ₤ 5!

DIY Bounce Card on speedlite


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