One Light Outdoor Portraits with Nick Roush

One of the challenges of shooting outdoors is the lack of control. Time of day, weather, sun, and shade all change what sort of light you have to deal with. Adding just one light to your kit gives you back some of that control.

My Process

When working with a strobe outdoors you have to remember that you’re working with two lights. Natural and artificial light. It’s important to find the balance between these two sources.

I often use natural light as my fill and strobe as my key light.

I want my lighting to augment and blend with natural light. Not battle it.

I start by underexposing my natural light image. Then, I'll use my strobe to bring up the exposure on my subject. This extra exposure on the subject helps draw the viewer's attention. You also get to control the quality of the light that falls on your subject.

nick roush portrait photographer

Photo credit: Nick Roush 

I like to use smaller lighting ratios so the artificial light in my images isn’t obvious. I want the viewer to be drawn to the image as a whole without the lighting being a distraction. Your lighting ratio is going to be determined by how much you underexpose your natural light. I normally shoot for .3 - 1.5 stops of underexposure.

My Gear

I use strobes in my kit because you can get a lot of power out of a small package compared to constant lighting. When you’re trying to use big modifiers in full sun you need that power. I also make sure I have some ND filters with me. Which allow me to open up my aperture to a wide f-stop. I generally like to shoot around F/1.2 - F/2.

nick roush photo of backpacker

Photo credit: Nick Roush 

Another trick I use when the natural light is harsh is to shield my subject from the sun with the modifier I’m using. This works great with big octobanks.

My One-Light Kit

Keep the Lighting Simple

I find one light is a good balance between control, creativity, and freedom. I don't want so much gear that I'm bogged down with the technical aspects of the shoot. One light allows me to quickly dial in my balance of strobe and natural light so I can focus more on the creative.

nick roush one light setup

Behind the Scenes | Nick Roush's One Light Setup

Get to Know Nick: 

nick roush headshot

Nick Roush is a commercial and headshot photographer in Salt Lake City. You can see more of his work on his website or Instagram.


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