Using Flash for Street Portraits

  1. Street portrait photography
  2. Lighting techniques for street portraits
  3. Using flash for street portraits

When it comes to street portrait photography, flash is a tool that can be incredibly useful. It can help create dramatic, compelling images that can capture a moment of life as it happens. But it can also be difficult to master and use in the right way. In this article, we'll explore the different ways to use flash for street portraits, from balancing natural and artificial light to creating depth and dimension.

We'll also discuss the different types of flash and how to get the best results with each one. By the end, you'll have the knowledge and confidence to create amazing images with your flash. So let's get started!

Positioning Your Light

When shooting street portraits, it's important to get the lighting set up just right. While it's easy to just point a flash at your subject and call it a day, careful positioning of the light can make all the difference.

Here are some tips for getting the best results when positioning your light for street portrait photography.

Choose the Right Distance

- The distance between your light source and your subject will affect the quality of your image. For a softer look, choose a light that is farther away from your subject. For a more dramatic look, choose a light that is closer.

Control the Direction

- When placing your light source, make sure to adjust the direction of the light to achieve the look you want. Pointing the light straight at your subject will give a harsh, direct look.

Adjusting the angle of the light to one side or another will help create more depth and interest.

Experiment with Reflectors

- You can also experiment with using reflectors to change the intensity and direction of the light. Placing a reflector on one side of your subject can help fill in shadows and even out the light. You can also use a reflector behind your subject to create a rim light effect.

Try Different Shapes

- Finally, don't be afraid to experiment with different shapes when setting up your lights. A round softbox will give you a softer look, while an octabox will create more contrast.

Try different shapes to find the best one for your street portraits.

Choosing the Right Lighting Set-Up

When it comes to choosing the right lighting set-up for street portrait photography, there are several options available. The type of lighting set-up you choose will depend on the look and feel you are aiming for in your photos. The most common lighting set-ups used for street portrait photography are natural lighting, flash, and a combination of both.

Natural Lighting

Natural lighting is a great option for street portrait photography since it is free and easy to find. Using natural light for your portraits can give them a more natural look and feel, as well as create interesting shadows and highlights.

Additionally, natural light is often softer and more flattering than other lighting sources.


Using flash for street portraits can help create more dramatic and impactful images. Flash can be used to help create dramatic shadows and highlights, as well as provide a more even light throughout the image. However, it is important to be careful when using flash as it can result in harsh and unflattering images if not used correctly.

Combination of Both

Using a combination of natural light and flash can result in the best of both worlds. By combining the two lighting sources, you can create images that are both soft and dramatic.

Additionally, you can use the natural light to fill in any shadows created by the flash, resulting in a more even and balanced image. When choosing the right lighting set-up for your street portrait photography, it is important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Natural light is free and easy to find, however it can be difficult to control. Flash provides more control over the lighting, but it can be expensive and time consuming to set up. Using a combination of both natural light and flash can help you create the best results.

Working Around Challenges

Using flash for street portraits can be challenging, but with the right techniques, you can make your street portraits stand out.

Some of the challenges that may arise include:Light PollutionLight pollution can be a major issue when shooting street portraits. This can lead to your subjects being washed out or over-exposed. To work around this, try setting up your flash away from any lights and shoot at a time when there is less ambient light. You can also use a flag or other object to block out any unwanted light.

Sharp Shadows

When using flash for street portraits, you may find that the shadows are too harsh.

To work around this, try diffusing the light or bouncing it off a wall. This will help to soften the shadows and give your subject more natural looking lighting.

Subject Movement

When shooting street portraits, you may find that your subject is moving too quickly for the flash to keep up. To work around this, try using a higher ISO or faster shutter speed. This will help to capture your subject in sharper focus.

Weather Conditions

When shooting outdoors, you may find that the weather is not ideal for using flash.

To work around this, try using a reflector or umbrella to diffuse the light or shield it from any wind or rain. This will help to ensure that your subject is lit evenly and without any harsh shadows.}

Common Mistakes

Using flash for street portraits can be tricky, and if you're not careful, you can end up with less than desirable results. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when using flash for street portraits, and how to avoid them.

Forgetting to adjust the white balance

When you use flash, your camera may not always be able to accurately adjust the white balance. This can cause your photos to look unnatural and washed-out, which is not the look you want.

To avoid this, take the time to manually adjust your white balance in-camera, or use a white balance card. This will ensure that your photos have accurate colors.

Not paying attention to the ambient light

When shooting with flash, it's important to pay attention to the ambient light in your scene. If the ambient light is too bright, it can overpower your flash and wash out your subject. On the other hand, if the ambient light is too dark, it can create unflattering shadows on your subject.

In both cases, you'll want to adjust your flash power accordingly to get the desired look.

Neglecting the distance between the flash and subject

The distance between your flash and your subject can make a big difference in the quality of your photos. If you’re too close, your subject may be overexposed; if you’re too far away, they may be underexposed. To get good results, pay attention to the distance and adjust accordingly.

Using a direct flash

Using a direct flash can create harsh, unflattering shadows and give your photos an unnatural look. To avoid this, try bouncing your flash off of walls or ceilings for a softer, more natural look.

Not diffusing or softening the light

Diffusing or softening the light from your flash can make a world of difference in the quality of your photos.

Using a diffuser helps to spread out the light evenly and create a softer, more flattering effect. This will help your subjects stand out in an attractive way.

Camera Settings

When shooting street portraits, it's important to adjust your camera settings to get the best results. Here are some tips to help you:Shutter Speed:A fast shutter speed will help you capture sharp images with no motion blur. Aim for 1/250th of a second or faster.

If you need to shoot slower than this, use a tripod or brace the camera against a wall.


Using a wide aperture (low f-number) will help you create a shallow depth of field. This will keep the subject in focus while blurring the background. Aim for an aperture of f/2.8 or wider.


Choose a low ISO setting to keep the noise in your images to a minimum. Aim for an ISO of 100 or lower, and only increase it if necessary.

White Balance:

When shooting with flash, setting the white balance to ‘flash’ can help ensure accurate colors in your images.

If you're using daylight balance film, then set the white balance to ‘daylight’.To conclude, using flash for street portraits can be a great way to take your photos to the next level. With the right techniques and careful consideration of the lighting set-up, you can create stunning images that capture the moment in an interesting way. However, it's important to be aware of any challenges that may arise and know how to work around them. Lastly, remember to avoid common mistakes so you get the most out of your lighting set-up.

Using flash, street portraits, lighting set-up, challenges, and common mistakes are all important elements for creating successful street portrait photographs.

Jillian White
Jillian White

Photographer & Blogger. Beer enthusiast. Hipster-friendly vegan bacon specialist. Professional coffee lover. Wannabe food evangelist.