• M Team

5 Hacks To Mastering Your Speed-Light

Create masterful shots with these simple speed-light tricks

My speed-light was the first piece of lighting-equipment I owned. I needed a bit of extra light in darker wedding venues, and it was the lighting I could afford at the time. Over the years I started using it in unexpected ways to get the results I wanted in my images - not always having the ideal lighting on-hand that I needed to pull-off the shot. To this day, finally having access to all the studio lights I need, I still use this nifty light and those unexpected techniques in certain scenarios as my first choice of lighting. These 5 hacks will tell you why:


Back-lighting creates a silver light-edge around the silhouette of your subject. Apart from making your image look more dynamic, this can also help separate your subject from the background. If I’m photographing a bride with dark hair against a dark background, I will place my Nikon SB-910 speed-light on a trigger and have my assistant aim it at the back of her head from a high angle. The rim of light will carve her out of the background, as well as light up some of her hair detail which is often lost on black hair.

Back-lighting can be effective on location too, as it illuminates anything semi-transparent in your frame such as rain drops or a veil, creating a far more dramatic image.


Speed-lights tend to give off a very hard light which is great for an edgy shot, but perhaps you want a softer look in certain images. Firing your speed-light through a hand-held scrim can diffuse your light drastically and create a soft, feathered effect. When using this method, you want to hold the scrim as close to your subject as possible without coming into frame, and put a bit of distance between it and your speed-light. This will ensure your light is as diffused as possible. *TIP: Be sure not to hold your speed-light too far from the scrim as you want to ensure all of the discharged light passes through the scrim. You can control your light-beam spread with a small detachable honeycomb or by adjusting the focal length setting on the flash you’re using.


Coloured light can impact the mood of an image really effectively. By purchasing coloured cellophane and using an elastic band or tape to secure it over the flash of your speed-light, you can adjust the colour of your light’s output.

Place your cellophaned speed-light on a stand and fire it at the background of your shot. As long as you’re using a white wall, your coloured cellophane will change the wall colour in your photograph. If you don’t want the background colour to leak onto your subject, make sure you have the subject stand a few paces away from your background.

Using cellophane on your speed-lights also works really well when back-lighting. If you want to take it to another level, you can cover two speed-lights with different colour cellophanes. Use the first to light the face of your subject and another as an edge-light. I find colours like blue and red, or pink and purple pair together well.


Lens flares make an image feel surreal and romantic, but sometimes the weather doesn’t play along. When you’re back-lighting a couple from directly behind them, ask your assistant to lift the speed-light until it peeks up at you from between the couple and is only just visible to your camera. The flash fired directly at your lens will produce that stunning flare you wanted, and warming up your colour-balance later will help create that balmy sunset-mood you were going for.


Vignettes are a great way to lead the eye inwards, towards the subject of your shot. This can be achieved in post-production but if you like achieving your effects in-camera like me, then this one is for you:

Place your speed-light on the ground aimed upwards at your background directly behind your subject. This will allow you to produce a beautiful gradient of light on the backdrop that creates a bright halo around your subject and darkens outwards towards the edge of the frame. Remember to have your subject stand a pace or two away from the background so you have better control over the light falling onto the subject.

We hope you’ll find one of these hacks helpful during your next shoot. Tag us in your images and let us know which hack you used and we’ll share your awesome work.

Do you use any speed-light hacks that we didn’t mention? Tell us which hacks you use in the comments below.

Happy Shooting!


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