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 first set-up was one light with a softbox off to the side in front, a reflector on the opposite side and a reflector underneath.  I'd often put the reflector underneath on the floor angled up towards the subject.

I REALLY like the Godox AD200 as a main light and when using a softbox or umbrella I always use the bulb.  It may be as professional as you'll ever need.  The XPro-C trigger is also very easy.  Prior to beginning I had a mental block on how this all works, but a thorough reading of the owner's manuals and viewing every YouTube video ever made on these two devices cleared up a lot of confusion.  

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

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.

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Shoot-Through Umbrella


A great option to start with if you'd like to get one modifier and keep it super simple.  Shoot through for single person portaits and place the umbrella close to the subject.  Use the mount that the AD200 comes with.

45" Bounce Umbrella


This would be the umbrella to consider for groups.  You would use it to bounce the strobe/flash into the umbrella vs. shooting through it.  Bouncing like this nicely spreads the light out.  Some use two for large groups.

Angler 36" Softbox


This is a phenomenal softbox.  Has 2 diffusers plus a deflector plate (to eliminate hot-spots).  Is very easy to transport and set up and is priced remarkably well.  You would use with the S-Type Bracket for Bowens Mount.

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.

Bracket for Bowen's Mount


You'll use this S-Type Bracket for Bowen's Mount from Godox to attach the AD200 to the softbox.  Sits on top of the stand with the strobe clamped in place and then attached to the softbox.  Adjustable angle as well. 

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 the cost of this makes it the go-to starter stand that may end up serving you well for years to come. 

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


My primary lens for portraits.  Produces a unique look that no other lens can.  And, in my humble opinion, prime lenses are superior for portraits.  Keep your shutter speed at 1/125 or faster to minimize camera shake.

Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS


This is my "everyday" lens and what I use when I don't have enough room for the 135.  You can consider THE 85mm lens if you want to (or THE zoom), but you'll likely use the 135 a lot more and you'll have this for when in a pinch. 

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 and try to avoid overlap.  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.

And, finally, the 400mm f/5.6.  The 100-400 is much more handy, but the image quality of this lens is noticeably better.  I've used both 100-400s and like them a lot.  They produced very nice and sharp pictures, but it's not always about sharpness.  The first time I put the 400 5.6 on my camera I said "Oh yes."  Plus, a 100-400 is often used at 400 anyway and the 400 is a lot less expensive. 

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.  Requires a tripod or a fast-enough shutter speed.

Canon 400mm f/5.6


This is a phenomenal outdoor sports lens and ideal for photographing runners during a race (so they don't see you and ruin the picture by waving at the camera).  Also OUTSTANDING for wildlife and birds-in-flight.  A top choice.