Off-Camera Lighting for Superior Portraits

Welcome to my Off-Camera Lighting Page where I'm going to suggest a great starting point for taking your Portrait Photography to the next level.  The choices are endless and it can be a little confusing.

The key with off-camera lighting is to become a long-term student, develop your own style and KEEP IT SIMPLE.  This was my own beginnings after a lot of (ongoing) training with some of the best-of-the-best and constant study and research, but you can of course go off in a completely different direction.

My personal opinion is that one can get as complicated as they like, but the results won't necessarily be better.  And, also, I find that keeping it simple frees me up for maximizing my creative potential.  

I REALLY like the Godox AD200 as a main light and when using an umbrella at the traditional 45 degrees up and over as a starting point; and may or may not use reflectors under and on the other side. 

The XPro-C trigger is also very easy.  The owner's manuals are pretty informative.  Combine that with viewing as many YouTube videos as you can find and you'll be surprised with your progress.

The XPro-C is the Canon-compatible trigger.  Other camera brands will have a different Godox trigger.

You may be wondering about softboxes and they are great, but I prefer the ease-of-use of umbrellas.  Softboxes may be "better", but understanding light and what it does, constantly educating yourself/evolving and knowing how to use what you have is even better than that.

And then being able to seamlessly function through a shoot without being bogged down by gear is even better than "better".  Probably the main reason (among others) why I prefer umbrellas.

Also, please note that the camera that I suggested for beginners on the Gear Page is not compatible with the Godox XPro.  Most other cameras are.  I'm hoping that the Canon SL4 will be so I apologize, but I have to stick with that recommendation for beginners.  If you're on this Page you're probably not a beginner so it wouldn't matter, or, if you have the SL3 you'll just need a different system.  

The SL3 is that good as is Godox, but nothing's ever perfect.

Another option is to consider the wonderful Canon 77D (on the bottom of the Gear Page) and yet another is to go all-in with your camera and lenses with my personal choices at the bottom of this Page.

To kick things off check out this video discussing on-camera vs. off-camera flash.

Also please note the bonus "Wish-List" content (at the bottom) of 3 lenses that I shouldn't buy.

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43" White Satin Umbrella


A great option to keep it super simple.  Shoot through for single person portaits and place the umbrella close to the subject.  You can also use this to bounce for groups or larger areas.  Use the mount that comes with the AD200.

45" Convertible Umbrella


Great for bouncing the strobe or flash.  Having this and the white-only one is a little redundant, but less to mess with when deciding.  Some prefer silver, but I personally generally prefer white.  Here's a 60 incher for large groups.

32" Convertible Umbrella


Not entirely necessary, but I just like a smaller umbrella for when outside.  Easier to handle and possibly less opportunity for the wind to blow it away.  Bounce would normally be the way to go with a small umbrella like this.

Godox XPro-C Trigger


The on-camera controls for your off-camera strobe/flash.  Is very user-friendly once you internalize the operation.  Requires 2 AA Batteries.  Consider this video to learn your way around (plus the manual).

Godox AD200 Pro


The word for this is "amazing".  Comes with a speedlight head and a bulb, battery/charger and umbrella mount.  Probably all that most will ever need and priced ridiculously low for what you get.  Highest recommendation.

Bowens S-Type Bracket


The Godox S-Type Speedlite Bracket for Bowens is going to be a little bit better than the mount that comes with the AD200.  Either way, it's a good idea to have a backup.  There's a hole for the umbrella and the light clamps in place.

Impact HD Light Stand


This heavy duty light stand has a minimum height of 3.6' and extends to 13'.  There are "better"/heavier stands, but this may end up serving you well for years to come.  And a single 15 pound sandbag is a good idea regardless.

Reflector Holder


This telescopic reflector holder attaches to a light stand to clamp any type of collapsible or foam board reflector to.  I use it to mount 2 foam boards vertically next to the subject on the side opposite of the light.

20x30 White Foam Boards


This is a very useful 10-pack of 20"x30" white foam boards.  A great way to reflect light for portraits and you can make a box for product photography.  White is my default reflective surface (in most cases).

Canon 6D MK II


This is my choice for best all-around camera.  Moderately compact and all of the features that I'll ever need.  Full-frame for better high-ISO performance and depth-of-field advantages; plus better image quality.

Canon 135mm f/2.0


135mm for the natural/flattering perspective win.  It's one of Canon's best and helps to produce that special look that will set you apart from the rest.  1/160 is my typical shutter speed to reduce/eliminate camera shake.  

Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS


This is my everyday/landscape lens and what I use for portraits when 135mm is too long (because of available room and/or for larger group shots).  The quality is outstanding and f/4 is usually enough; and the IS doesn't hurt.  

Bonus Wish-List Content - Three Non-Essential Lenses

Here's my other lens choices.  They won't necessarily be yours, but it may be interesting to discuss the rationale.  Being a minimalist I tend to favor less; even though the following aren't overly essential.

First of all, many tend to like the 16-35mm f/4 IS lens a lot.  I like my 24-70 a lot more; to include the image quality produced.  Plus, if I'm going to go wide why not just go for it with a nice 14mm prime lens.

The 180mm Macro is a unique beast so my thought on a macro lens was to be different and great.  The 100mm version might be more versatile (to include being a great portrait lens), but the 180mm Macro Lens is simply phenomenal.  Yet another option is the 100mm Macro without image stabilization.  The image quality is virtually the same as the "L" model above, but you'll just have to be more steady with a sufficiently fast shutter speed (1/125 to 1/160+ or so) or be on a tripod.  For a crop-sensor camera I would definitely 100% without a doubt go with the 60mm Macro - one of Canon's unsung heroes.  

And, finally, the 100-400mm telephoto zoom which really just speaks for itself.

Canon 14mm f/2.8 II


For if I become a renowned Real Estate Photographer.  Also great for creative landscapes (to exaggerate the foreground), architecture and astrophotography.  There are much cheaper options, but what the heck.

Canon 180mm Macro


Remarkable detail and I'll be getting this for my next significant Product Photography shoot.  GREAT for nature, interesting for portraits and a thought for dental photography.  Requires a tripod or a fast-enough shutter speed.

Canon 100-400mm II


This is an outdoor sports and wildlife lens of the highest quality.  Rented one for the big Alaskan trip and it's firmly on the wish-list.  Very versatile for the above uses, but also events and far-away landscapes, etc.  A top choice.