On Location PhotographySubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2011-01-20 10:23

Having a one-light-stand, in the hotel...

… on the floor. Now why doing it on the floor when hotels are usually known for their comfortable king-sized double beds? Because this time, we wanted the photographs to look like studio photos. We manufactured a black floor by covering the floor with the black covers of my two collapsible reflectors. This gave us nearly 4 square meters of black ground. Sounds too small? Well, then let’s use the American way of saying it: Nearly 45 square feet of black floor - sounds much better :-)

As you might guess, in order to light such a spacious “arena” one speedlight... is plenty - an easy one light setup.
See yourself:

Here’s the lighting diagram and some example photos of the shoot:

Model: Ajiao
Styling: Maomao

I wish you good light!
-- Michael


Excellent shadow play, nice curves!

As a person new to photography and just starting out, the information you supply is priceless, Thank you very much.
With your great diagrams could you please explain how you actually connect and communicate to the off camera flash units. When you use TTL are you using a TTL cable to a master? and then the master is driving the rest or does your camera communicate TTL vie infared? I have started to build my off camera flash starting kit and it would be great to understand the detail.

Thaks again for the time and effort you are putting into sharing this information.


Hi Neil,
my master flash is always ontop of my camera. It is simply set to "Master". All other flashes are set to "Slave". No cable needed. The slaves will always follow the master. So if I set the master to TTL, all the slaves will go into TTL. When I set it to "Manual", then all the slaves will go to "Manual".
Does this help or does it sound like Chinese to you?

I shoot with my units set to optical slave. I then use an old canon flash unit as my master but no fancy TTL via infrared for me.

Infrared? Brrrr, don't scare the models. We don't use that! All we use is pure, white 5600K daylight flash light. The red thing is just an autofocus help, nothing that sends out any control signals.

Excellent info as usual, Michael. Thanks for your many great posts!

Thanks a lot, cousin Frank!

Looks good. Looks fine. Looks easy. Wonderful!

Hola Pedro! Thanks a lot! Gosh - I think I owe you an email answer since a couple of weeks or so! You will hear from me soon!

i love u work , you helped a lot

I'm quite new to photography and your tutorials are a great source of inspiration.
I was wondering if you could share some tips on what kind of post-processing you do in Photoshop on these pictures. Thank you!

I've been following your post like bible!! Great info and diagrams.
Only 1 questions, where do you get your endless beautiful supply of models and how much do they cost?
Care to share?

Great Video Michael. I really learn alot from your videos. I own only one 580EXII and this video is great. What really got me was I did not know in Manual on the 580EXII you could set your Zoom. For this shoot you had your set to 28mm to help cover a large area. If you would oneday please do a video about setting your zone on a Speedlite. Show the different results you can get from just changing your zoom setting. Once again thanks for all the great video. You're the best

What an easy light setting! How impressing the "curve shooting" (spec. in B/W).
Thank you for this inspiration.
P.S.: It seems like I may becoming one of your greatest fans - as you are so much different from other communicators/tutors/trainers.
You just do it differently starting from your approach and thus ending at least with surprising results.


I really love how you make things simple, thank you for that.

I'd love if I would make a whole lot other things a whole lot simpler, too! :-)

You have shared a nice blog. I really want ot say you thanks for sharing this nice article with us. This one is enlightened blog post. Thanks a lot for sharing your valuable views through this blog. I bared so recurrent fascinating stuff in blog.

Thanks a lot for watching, cousin Mathew

I am about to try some of this body scaping photography and you make it seem so simple but before I do I would like to ask a few questions?

1. In the B&W images you have a nice wrap around light except for the front of the image near the floor, was this intentional or in your experience would it be good to bounce some light back in with a reflector?

2. The angle of the shot seems to be quite steep down onto your model is there a reason for this, is it the best angle and is so why?

I thank you for any light you can shed on these points

Yes, it's intentional to let the front sink into black. I felt that if I would fill it with light, the model would get much to "heavy" in front. It would not be that charming :-)

Regarding the angle, I feel like you could make more interesting photos from a lower angle. But you'd need a bigger room or a studio to do that. Our black backdrop was just the piece of black material on the floor. This did not leave a lot of freedom for me regarding the choice of angle.

I knew everybody must say is same things, but I only think that put it in a way that All could understand. I disturb a lot and never seem to take of something finished.

I got a quote for you, cousin Mathew:

Focus you must.
- Yoda, Star Wars -

I tell everyone about You cousin Michael. You are zee best teacher on the tube. seriously.

Thank you soooooooo much!

Hi Michael
A fantastic and inspiring blog you have!
Could you please tell us which brand your large double sided (black & white) reflectors,you use as nice backgrounds, are?
Good light to you.

Hi cousin Wolf!
I looked it up, but I am afraid there is no brand printed on the reflectors. I am buying this sort of stuff on the various photography markets in Beijing. Alternatively I am buying it on Taobao (the Chinese ebay) when I am in Germany. Either way it's much cheaper than buying it from a western dealer.

The reflectors I use are comparable to stuff I've seen from Walimex. The quality is fine, but they are not particularly posh or something. It's not comparable to Sunbounce reflectors or anything. However, the reason why I always use those is because they are light and they fit into the suitecase that I check in when traveling. I don't have to pay for extra luggage for the reflectors.

Can you do more tutorials with one flash? You are best tutorial master:)

Yes, cousin. Good point. I will do some more one-light videos. That's fun.

When new tutorials are coming?:D


I hope in a couple of weeks we find the time again to start blogging.
Last weekend Emily and I did live nude workshops on the birthday party of fotocommunity. It was in Germany at Koeln Messe. That was fun as well. Unfortunatly it would not be a good tutorial for the blog.

Hello my friends,
Just joined the gang. Hope to have great time here.


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just discovered you and your videos are really helpful...i just shot in a hotel and really wished i had watched this before.
I always hope for more info on the lighting and the angles etc but you have given me a great starting point

Thank you for watching, cousin JP. If you are successful with a particular angle, then how about you post a link to the result over there. I am curious.

I love your video on tips sir!

Thank you so much, cousin!

Hey there. Im a new viewer, and usually dont do alot of flash stuff. After seeing your vid´s im gonna use them alot more, really insperational.

1. When i use my 580ex II as master, i cant seem to hit my slaves (430ex II) becase of the umbrellas being in the way. Looking at this video i see you use a really similar setup as i do. How to you get your master flash to hit the flash under the umbrella?

2. Do you know if i can use my 580ex II to work as a master but still not work as a flash?

I dont wanna buy expensive radio triggers if there is a workaround.

Hi cousin Elixx,

Yes, you can and should use your 580EX II as master, while it's exposure flash is turned off. I do it all the time. I think the instruction for that is on page 36 or so of the manual.

If you shoot at high ISO and you want to be sure, that even the trigger flash (very low intensity) does not contribute to the exposure, then in addition to turning off the flash do also tilt the head of your 580 away from your subject.

In 95% of all cases you won't need radio triggers. You will be better off using the build-in optical system. If you would like to know whether or not your slave will read the signal of your master: Imagine yourself as a 3 inch tall dwarf, standing next to your 430 looking into the direction which it's optical sensor (behind the red plastic) is looking to. Can you then still see when your master flashing? Even through umbrellas? At least just a bit of master flash light bouncing off a white wall or the ceiling? If you are able to clearly see when your master is flashing, then your 430 will be able to see that too.

Is that too strange of an explanation or does it make sense?

hey there fella,

got to say your stuff is simply AMAZING, although only downside is, im deaf in both ears and find following speech rather difficult, just wondering if there was anywhere i could find captions to your videos or simply tutorials? if not then no worries and cheers for reading.

many thanks for your great tutorials :-)

Captions would be awesome. I think Youtube has a nice feature for adding them. And I have a transcript of most videos. However, I am afraid it would take me ages to fill in the captions on Youtube. Maybe I can find someone who can do that for affordable money.

ahh thank you for your output :-) hopefully i'll see them on youtube in the future, thank you for replying :-)

Wow, great video. I'm in Saudi Arabia and I must keep a filter on my lens at all times. What filter do you recommend? UV, Skylight...? Also, what are you using to white balance your images?

Hi cousin Donald,

why do you want to keep a filter in front of your lens? I see a lot of disadvantages with that, but not a single advantage. If you really need, then a UV filter is your best option.

For exact white balancing I shoot a photos with a little Color Spider Cube in them. This cube is a gray target with spots of complete black (a black ight trap hole) and points of pure white (reflective silver ball). You could also use something like a color checker passport - that's good as well.
If I have to, then I adjust the white balance in Lightroom after importing the photos.

However, I often shoot with speedlights. Their color temperature is known. I set my camera to "cloudy" or "flash" and the photos come out with the correct white balance even without any fine tuning.

Michael, thank you for the response. I must keep a filter on my lens at all times because here is Saudi it is really dusty and I sure don't want to get scratches on my lens. Today I will order a few white shoot through umbrellas, is there a certain brand and size you recommend?

Michael, sorry I did not ask this in my response a few minutes ago, but do you feather your umbrellas or do you have them pointed straight at your models?

Hi cousin Donald,
did you hear from other photographers that their lenses suffered from the dust? Usually the front glass element of your lens is hardened glass. I cannot imagine that sand and dust can do the slightest harm to this material. But then again, I have not been in your region yet.

As for the umbrellas: I don't have a special brand. For traveling double-fold umbrellas are handy (Phottix got them), but for every day life all of them are fine. Buy bigger ones rather than smaller.

As far as I can recall in this shoot I had the umbrellas pointing directly at the model. It's the case in the vast majority of my setups. I seldomly feather umbrellas. What I feather from time to time is hard direct kicker light without modifiers.

Michael, thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to more of your great videos.

Hello Michael, greetz from Munich , i have tryed out my first step with bodyscapes thx to your video !! did made some great results ....

Hi Tuanis! That awesome! If you ever put those results online, I'd love if you can post a link to them over here. I am curious.


not sure if you can see them ......

Awesome. I'd probably adjust the curves a bite in order to lift the brightness of highlights and midtones.

Ok thx i gonna try that but with pics from a new shooting, that was my first step and for the second i will remember your words when i fix them in Lightroom/Silver efex pro......
for me its important that i get better every shooting i make ...greetz from Munich !!

are there more videos coming?:)


Sure cousin Risto. Is there a particular topic, that you would like to see covered over here? Any special photo that you would like to know how to recreate it?

jee,i like to see one light videos more:) Are you gonna make some more videos ?

Cousin Risto.

Hi Michael, I'm about to try the one light setup tomorrow. I understand the setting of your off camera flash, but I'm not as clear on the setting of your on camera flash. I believe you have it set to "Master", but is it set to manual and at 1/8 power, the same as your off camera flash? Also, is your off camera flash lined up with the center of your umbrealla? With all the adapters I've found, I can't get my flash unit centered in the umbrella, they all sit above the center.

> I believe you have it set to "Master"
yes, it is

> is it set to manual and at 1/8 power
exactly. Because the "Master" tells the slave what to do. If I set the master to "manual, 1/8", then this is what my slave will do. As I also told the master to not contribute to the exposure, the only flash going off at 1/8 during the exposure is the slave. The masters job is to trigger this but not to expose the image.

> lined up with the center of your umbrella

I can't recall, but I guess not. The thing is that only my more sophisticated swivels are designed so that the angle between flash head and umbrella leads to a centered illumination. When travelling, I usually use the smaller, lighter, less sophisticated ones. And like you observed, they are far from being centered.

However, should you care? I think not. In order to find out please make a photo of your exposed umbrella. Is it completely white on the photo? Is the amount of light at least somehow evenly distributed? Or is just half of the umbrella illuminated? Make a few test photos zooming your flash head to 50mm, 28mm, 14mm. Check what delivers the most evenly exposed umbrella for your particular umbrella and swivel. Most probably, you will end up at 28mm or something. Use that setting, don't care about centering the beam perfectly, it's not worth it.

More one light setups? Yes, that sounds doable.

Michael, more one light set-ups would be very nice. Thank you.

Hey there,
I feel pretty stupid asking this but how do you prevent the master flash washing out the image too much. I have just purchased a 2nd hand 20D and looking at the great simple setups you use. I can see you use the flash on the camera and the slave flash also, I assume somehow you have limited the power of the master flash or suppressed the intensity of it in some form? I am sure this is a fundamental question but it will help me understand how you achieve the results you do.


Hi cousin Steven,
good questions! Are you using an EX580 as master? If so, then just disable the master firing during exposure (in the manual around page 36 or so).

If you use a third party flash, then simply dial the power of the master waaaaaaayy down. Got to the lowest available setting (1/128th or so). This way it does not really contribute to the overall exposure, while it is still strong enough so that the signal is picked up by the slaves.

In any case it is a good idea to turn the flash head away from your subject.

If you are in doubt, then try it out. Switch off your slaves and shoot a frame with the master only. If the result is pretty darn black, then you are good to go.

I would love yo use this on male models. do you have anything like that in your tutorials?

nice basic results

thk u for sharing the idea Mike...really usefull

Incredible man. Simply incredible.

Hard to get my thick German accent? Here's the transcript!

Hey fellow photographer, how is it going? In this video I am going to show you or we are going to show you how to make a light which is dramatic for the body shape. I have got with me Model Ajiao who has got a fantastic body and she will pose for us over here on the ground and we will make the lights which comes from the back and goes just over her body and this is a light you have for body scapes. If your subjects have got a really good body shape or let us say if your subjects are really fine with her or his body then the slide is good, it will amplify whatever the body shape is. If the subject is not sure about their body and then this is no good light to try out then, then don’t do it because it will amplify whatever is there, it will amplify it by carving the body even more. The lighting set up is just quite easy, we just have some light through an umbrella from over here, just opposite to the camera and we put a reflector coating onto the group which make for black ground which is usually is color choice for this body scapes. All right let’s try that out. But first let us have a look at the details of our lighting set up. We made a black ground by using 2 large covers of reflectors to black covers, just put it behind each other onto the ground and we are posing the model pretty much at the edge of the first reflector, so that there is a lot of room behind her into the room which eventually makes it into the frame and a looks like a large black probably seamless backdrop or ground and yes since is it is a one light set up there is one speedlight, it is a 580 EX on 1/8 of its power and it is zoomed to 28 mm in order to fill the big shoot through umbrellas and this whole construction is pointing down to the model from the edge of the that last black cover, pointing down to the model at the height of 4 feet or 120 centimeter. The camera is on a 1/200s just sync nicely with what the speedlight. And it is on f/9 and ISO200 that is all it takes. All right as you have seen this light is really amplified the curves and the shapes this is why I say do it only if your subject is really comfortable with her body and it is also,you know, it is a quite intimate shooting situations such as the subject is posing on the ground and you’r close with the camera on the same level, so this is a set up which needs a trust but if you have got trust and the body shape is great, then that is really cool. All right that is it for today; see you on the next video, until then good light.

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