top of page

Indoors Flash Photography – Off-Camera Flash

I have already shown you how to take pictures with your pop-up flash and use it as a commander to trigger other remote units. A detailed Nikon Speedlight Comparison has also been posted for those who are looking into buying a flash. This time, I want to show you how you can create some amazing portraits indoors, using a Nikon Speedlight in an off-camera configuration with an umbrella.

1) Getting Started

No matter what flash system you are using, if you want to be able to take great portraits, you want to soften the light that comes out of your flash. Direct light creates harsh shadows, similar to how the sun does when you take a picture at noon. While I have already shown you how to soften the light by bouncing it off ceilings and walls, the light does not always look very natural due to its angle. In addition, bouncing the light off very large surfaces typically does not yield nice-looking catch lights in your subjects’ eyes. There are a couple of solutions to this problem, which require some investment and a little bit of extra effort.

One method I would like to talk about, is to use an umbrella on a dedicated stand to soften the light from your flash – a very inexpensive way to soften the light and instantly improve your images. Lola and I use this method a lot for some of our commercial photography and the results do not disappoint. Let’s talk about the gear you will need to accomplish this:

  1. A DSLR camera with a built-in flash that supports master/commander mode and an external flash that can be configured as a slave/remote. For example, Nikon D90 and Nikon SB-600 Speedlight or Canon 7D and Canon 580EX II. If your DSLR does not have a built-in flash or the built-in flash cannot be used as a commander, then you will need two flashes with one that can be used as a master/commander and another as a slave/remote. For example, Nikon SB-700 and Nikon SB-600 or Canon 580EX II and Canon 430EX II. You do not need to buy radio triggers for indoors flash photography when using an umbrella – infrared works great for most situations.

  2. A light stand to mount an external flash and an umbrella. The Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand is one of the lightest and cheapest light stands you can find. When collapsed, it takes up very little space, making it a great candidate to take it with you when travelling or shooting outside.

  3. An umbrella adapter to mount on top of the light stand. I personally use the