How to create natural light with flash | Profoto (UK)

How to create natural light with flash

18 June, 2017

Written by: Fredrik Franzén

Lifestyle photographer Adam Angelides’ portfolio is a mix of images shot with flash and images shot with ambient light only. But they all look and feel equally natural. Keep reading to learn how he does it.

Sometimes the ambient light is just perfect. But usually it’s not. It’s too bright. It’s too dark. It’s the middle of the day when you want a glowing sunset.

That’s why we use flash. With flash you’re in full control. If it’s too bright you use it to overpower the sun. If it’s too dark you light up your subject. If it’s the wrong time of day you add an orange color gel and create your own sunset.

The trick is to make it look natural. People should pay attention to the image, not the technique behind it.


Adam Angelides knows this just as much as anyone. His portfolio is a mix of images shot with flash and images shot with ambient light only, but they all have an equally natural look and feel to them. So what’s his secret?

“There are a few things to look out for,” says Adam. “As a general rule, you want to keep the lighting ratio between your available light and your flash well balanced. Not underexposing the available light will also help produce a more natural looking image. You should also pay attention to light direction. For example, if you have the sun showing to the left in an image and you add an equally powerful light source to the right, it will not look real. Naturally, every scene and concept is different. But if it doesn’t look real, it more than likely is not real.”



A recent assignment brought Adam and two young athletes to a disused airfield close to Norwich in the east of England. The harsh, derelict location was just right for what Adam wanted to achieve.

“I wanted to produce a series of images that showed movement, action, reality and life,” says Adam. “I wanted to create images that not only looked real but felt real.”

The weather, on the other hand, was exactly what you expect in early spring in the British countryside – cold, grey and windy. It didn’t quite fit the look and feel Adam was going for. So he had to create his own light.

To do so he brought a B1 Location Kit, the Umbrella Deep L Silver and the new OCF Gels. The tools were used in different ways depending on where Adam and his team were shooting and how the available light played along.




At one point, Adam shot outdoors on the airfield runway with the strong midday sun shining straight into his camera. Here he used Profoto High-Speed Sync to shoot at shutter speeds exceeding the maximum flash sync speed of his Canon camera, which in turn allowed him to control the strong sunlight. Using High-Speed Sync also helped him freeze the action. A prime example is the shot of the female athlete jumping. As fill, he used a single B1 equipped with the Umbrella Deep L Silver.




Needless to say, the lighting conditions were very different when shooting indoors. It was quite murky in the derelict buildings, meaning that Adam had to use his flash to simulate sunlight that wasn’t there.

The most striking example is probably the shots of the female athlete where it looks as if she was shot during sunset. She was not. There was no sun. The light you see was created using a B1 equipped with a full stop CTO gel from the OCF Color Gel Starter Kit. The B1 with the gel was positioned outside the building, flashing through a narrow set of windows, and remotely synced and controlled directly from Adam’s camera using the Air Remote TTL-C.

“If I had to pick just one favorite from the shoot, this would probably be it,” says Adam. “I just love the movement, narrative and lighting which all come together in great harmony.”



Last but not least, there was also a situation in which Adam used the B1 to create a flare in the image. The flare can be seen in the outdoor portraits of the male athlete, wearing a blue jacket while standing next to a concrete wall.

“At this point, the available light was just flat,” says Adam. “So I wanted to create a flare to warm up the image and reinforce the outdoor feel. To create this, I placed one B1 on a stand and positioned it high above the subject, making sure the light hit the lens. I used a full stop CT0 gel to create that sun look and warm up the light. With everything set up, I simply shot a series of images while maneuvering around, trying to catch different amounts of flare.”


All in all, Adam is very happy with the outcome of his day at the airfield. When pressed to say something he would do differently next time, he doesn’t know what to reply.

“Honestly, I can’t think of anything,” laughs Adam. “It might sound silly, but it’s the truth.”

The gear

1 x B1 Off-Camera Flash
1 x OCF Color Gel Starter Kit
1 x Umbrella Deep Silver L
1 x Umbrella L Diffuser
1 x Air Remote TTL-C











Written by: Fredrik Franzén