Combining flash and natural light on outdoor portraits.

Hey guys,

I said that I'd write something about combining flash photography with natural light when shooting portraits on outdoor locations, so now that I had a little bit time I got to do it finally.

Couple of times we've been shooting portraits outdoors with Katariina Cozmei who's a horseback archer and she's also teaching archery with her husband.
First time when we shot portraits with Katariina and her beautiful horse Alma, it was awesome autumn evening when the sun was setting down on horizon.

Katariina and Alma

I arrived to their ranch we they live and where the horses are also with them. I got there early so we could have some time to prepare everything before photoshoot. Katariina and her husband Mihai got the horses ready and Mihai also was the one who helped Katariina during the photoshoot. Katariina's horse Alma was pretty calm and she were just standing there like we wanted to - even thou she got bored and it shows a little bit on photos.

Okay, so when everything was ready for the photoshoot we took the horse on the field. I shot few photos so I could see how I'll get good exposure for background.
Then we took Katariina and Alma on photos and because the photo was backlit by sun they appeared as silhouette of course in the photo. Then my assistant Viivi took the Godox AD360 Witstro battery powered flash where we wanted to and we started to raise the flashes power until we were happy with the exposure. I don't use lighting meters to get correct exposure, I just take few test shots and raise the power from the lowest setting till I'm satisfied with it.

The gear and setup we used wasn't anything big, because I like to keep everything simple. When I don't have too much gear and the setup is simple it is always easier to work.  And of course when you have also a horse add to that equation there are pretty many things that can change. Camera that I was using was Canon 6D and the lens was a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 OS II HSM. Flash that we were using was Godox AD360 Witstro triggered with Godox FT-16 radio trigger. We used small 50cm (about 20 inches) Godox AD-S7 umbrella octabox to modify the light. The box is small but it still gave us nice light for photos. I made a lighting diagram for you guys so you can see the flash position and all the camera specs from there too:


The shutter speed I used was 1/125 sec. at ISO800 and f/2.8. It was getting darker pretty fast so we had to raise the ISO so we could get the background exposed well also. I shot the photos with aperture wide open at f/2.8 to get shallower depth of field and used ND filter to prevent the over-exposing sun and background. This combination worked very nicely. This time I used 'Shadow' as white balance setting so we got a warmer feeling to photos instead of Flash that would have given us much colder feeling. I wanted to keep the warm look on the photos because it was warm autumn sunset when we were shooting and it just fitted nicely to the colors of our photos.


We also shot some Viking themed photos later with Katariina, MMA fighter Hannan Housmand and Katariina's other horses. The lighting was similar one light setup at both photoshoots. Here you can see the Viking themed photos as well...


These Viking themed portraits were all the a composite photos, as I changed the background of the photos in post prossessing. I combined also these together as a one photo 'cos they just looked that they would fit nicely together. And they did. I just love the result.



I hope this helps you to take your flashes out and shoot photos where you can combine flash with natural light or at least gives you some inspiration to up coming photoshoots.

You can always give me feedback or tell me what you would like me to write about.
You can e-mail me at lauri (at) or DM me via Instagram: @lauri_majamaa. Lighting diagrams and other stuff is also found at our Facebook page at: You can of course send messages to our inbox at Facebook.

Best Regards,
Lauri Majamaa