Create Dramatic Lighting with Two Speedlights: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

In this video I create some dramatic moody lighting using just two speed lights. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers and once again you join me in my small home studio for something that feels a bit more like a photo challenge. Because recently I was chatting to a fellow photographer, who said when I’ve got a small home studio, but I don’t do portraits because for lights, all I’ve got are just two basic speed lights and surely you need more things for a creative photo shoot. Well I disagree, in fact I think it can be extremely creative using nothing more than basic speed lights and that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this video. Now to be clear, I am just going to use two flashpoint speed lights. Well, two is better than one I guess, however I do have a big advantage that my studio walls are painted white and the ceiling is white, and I have got a bit of an idea of where I’m going to head with this shoot so let’s get a model in, let’s get shooting! So once again I’ve been joined in the studio by Fern, who’s going to reprise her role as Red Riding Hood for this shoot. Now let’s talk about a lighting. I’ve got the two speedlights at either side of Fern and they are equally spaced and also right in line with her shoulders. Now this is going to give a very specific sort of lighting. It’s very edgy, it’s very contrasty, quite heroic sort of light. Before I take the pictures however I need to check the power. So I want the lights to be equally spaced but also exactly the same amount of light hitting both sides of Fern. So let’s see what we’ve got. Let’s do this side first of all. And I’m getting F4. Okay, F4 sounds like a good number to shoot at. What about this one? F5.6 so I’m getting more light this side than the other if I reduce the power of the lights using the remote control I’m getting F4 equally both sides. Okay let’s take a picture like that see how it looks. That looks very edgy, very contrasty, very dramatic lighting. But what if you don’t want that really edgy hard shadowy lighting. Is it possible to get softer? Well actually yes it is and we can use the fact we’re in a small home studio to our advantage because rather than having the lights pointing straight at Fern let’s spin them around. So if I spin them around so they face the wall what’s going to happen is the light will bounce off the wall. It’ll spread and give much softer lights onto Fern like it’s a small reflective umbrella without actually using one. However if you change the direction of the lights, you’re going to change the power, so let’s re-meter see what we’ve got. So I’m back down to F2. Wow, lost two stops. F4 there we go, so the same thing applies to this one let’s check the the power of this light. Also F2. And back to F4. So again same power either side. Let’s take a picture of Fern, see how that looks. So this time we have much softer lighting. The shadows are there but they’ve pretty much disappeared, and it does look like we just used a couple of big soft umbrellas. However it’s not just the spread of lights that’s going to make a difference it’s also the height of the light. So these speed lights are roughly the same height as Fern’s shoulders but if I get the same lights, and I drop them right down low, let’s spin them back as well so they’re no longer soft, we’ll go back to the hard lighting. This is going to have an effect on the shot too now it’s worth saying that if you move the lights in this way, I’ve got to re-meter once again So out with the flash meter. Let’s check see what we got, let’s bring it back down to F4. And with both lights now at F4 again let’s take the same shot. Lighting from below gives a very distinctive look It’s sinister, it’s more edgy, it’s scary, it’s very cinematic in it’s appearance. However it still has that kind of hard edge fill so wouldn’t it be good if we could get that low slightly scary looking light but still get the softness from the other shot well we can again using the fact we’re in a small home studio What I’m going to do is going to get exactly the same lights but this time I’m going to bounce them off the ceiling. So with this angle of light the light is going to come up bounce off the ceiling and come down, but because it’s still down low, some of that light is still going to come and hit Fern in the face and give us that edgy look that we’re after, so there should be a combination of looks. Let’s meter that out because of course now, that light has further to travel it is going to be less powerful. And once again we’re back to F4 for both lights let’s take that shot. And there you have it soft lighting but with a sinister edge that works really nicely and I reckon that’s the light we’re going to do when we do our shoot. So Fern are you ready? Okay let’s take some pictures. So there we go we’ve got some really great shots of Fern there. These do look superb straight out of camera but of course there’s always room for a bit of Photoshop, so let’s get one of these into Photoshop and we’ll do a quick edit right now. Bouncing light around a small white studio is never going to be the best way to give control and direction to your light, however, I can fix some of that using post-processing tricks. So I could do this in Lightroom I’m going to use Photoshop Camera Raw and we’ll get to exactly the same end result. So here’s the picture I want to edit. Looking at it I can see clearly the top is brighter than the bottom which makes sense because the light was bounced off the ceiling and it’s also a bit brighter in the corners than I’d like as well, and that’s really because the lights work closer to the edges. So to fix both of those problems I’m going to come over to the local adjustment radial filter right here. Now the radial filter is a great way of adding a sort of vignette to your image. Before I use it I’ll make sure that it is set to outside which it is and then I’m just going to change the exposure. So I’m going to come to a little minus button here and just press it a few times till I get to minus two exposure that might be right, it might not be, let’s come into the middle and I’m going to click in the center of the image and just sort of drag out just like that, and that gives me a lovely vignette. Now I can move it around by clicking and dragging and it probably wants to go somewhere around about there. That looks pretty good, okay, maybe minus two is a tiny bit strong, let’s just bring that back a little bit like that. Okay that looks pretty good, there are other local adjustment tools, as well including the adjustment brush. Now with the adjustment brush I can choose something like clarity, I like a bit of clarity. Let’s increase that to plus 100 I’m going to paint some clarity, hopefully just onto the background, and a little bit onto Fern around the edges like that. Now it’s going to bring up all of the texture in the shot. I think that looks really good with this image, and background combination. However I want to make sure that I don’t get any on Fern’s face because in fact I want to soften that slightly by coming up to the adjustment brush and choosing the new option, and then going down to clarity, and using the minus button all the way down to minus 100, and with a smaller brush we can just make sure we remove any clarity and soften Fern’s face a little bit. Now that looks really good so far, but what about the axe that she’s holding now that’s a really important prop for this shoot and lighting effect to come together, and I really want to emphasise that. So I’m going to add a little bit more detail to the head of the axe. So once again it’s a job for the adjustment brush and once again I’m going to come to the to the new option here, and then I’m going to increase the clarity just to really push some some contrast into the head of the axe, and also while I’m here I’ll increase the shadows in that area too. Now if you’re going to increase the shadows, it’s worth remembering you might bring up some noise so I’ll add in a touch of noise reduction. Right let’s come over to the head of the axe, and we’ll just paint on that and you can see how that just brings up a little bit of detail there, and maybe with the same settings we’ll just do a little bit of these shadowy areas like that to add a bit of extra detail in there. Okay with a few other little tweaks and adjustments, there it is there’s my final picture completed. And I really enjoyed that challenge and yes with just two bare speed lights, a bit of planning and a bit of post-processing it is possible to create some amazing portraits. Now if you’d like to take up this challenge yourself, brilliant. Don’t forget to leave me a comment below, let me know how you get on. Even better of course if you want to see more videos from myself and the other amazing presenters right here on AdoramaTV you need to be clicking on the subscribe button. I’m Gavin Hoey, thanks for watching.


  1. Scott Night79 July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Love Gavins videos, inspiring and fun

  2. James Harris July 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    If you do it in black & white and have Fern seated you might go for that Anthony Perkins final scene from "Psycho" – head down looking up with creepy smile. But then you might get creeped out and be uncomfortable around Fern from now on. 🙂

  3. Adrian Heffernan July 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    yet another great video, Mr Hoey you are truly inspiring!

  4. Michael Holland July 13, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    GavinHoe rides again!

  5. Frank Woodbery July 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Fern looks so evil! You need some fake blood to put on the axe.

  6. Limelight Multimedia July 13, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Wow Gavin I always learn a lot from your videos!!

  7. Tony Alpha July 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Excellent job again, Gavin. Cheers.

  8. Lou Monte July 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    outstanding video, so much info in under 10 minutes. Hat's off to you Sir!

  9. RS July 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Nice video.
    What angle did you set the speedlight lens (wide like 24mm or more towards the zoom range, about 100mm + , since you bounce the lights, 24 mm will light up the whole studio after the bounce)

  10. noblecatph July 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    as always amazing episode, a lot to learn! thank you. <3

  11. jimmyjawbreakr July 13, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Hands down i love this guy and his vids!

  12. jimmyjawbreakr July 13, 2017 at 3:30 pm new to photography and i can a canon t3i should i be more concern with the lens or the camera quality?

  13. opwave79 July 13, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Gavin, your home studio series is my favorite. Love how you explain everything very clearly while you are showing us how it's done. I've tried out several of your examples, with great results. Can't wait to see more!

  14. John Brake July 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Every time I see you've posted a tutorial I get excited knowing it's going to be fantastic. Always creative ! I think I may try a similar set up adding a small fan directed straight into the models face to blow the models hair a bit.

    Thanks again Gavin for GREAT tips and tricks

  15. HarshVardhanArt July 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Superb tricks! Love it! Thank you!

  16. Denis Duchesne July 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    very interesting again!

  17. György Pintér July 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Great video! Thank you!

  18. Lucky Kumar July 13, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    love u man

  19. Mark Thomas July 13, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Great video. Lots of good ideas are now bouncing around in my head.

  20. Kue Vue July 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I love it! Thank you so much!

  21. francisco rivera July 13, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    The backdrop? is it painted? if so what? -Thank you.

  22. Michael Davidson July 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    What format do you use to export your photos. I've been following you for some time now and have learned enormously. However my end result never has the quality of your end images. Do you use 8 bit, 16bit, What is that final touch you are applying to your images once you leave PS?
    Best, Mike – Houston Texas

  23. Antonio Ware July 13, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    love this guy would love to take a class with, just bought a camera usually styling shoots now I get the chance to look with a lense eye..I feel like I would learn a lot from him as a beginner.

  24. AgentThirteen July 13, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    This is a great series, thank you. What are the dimensions of this small studio you shoot in?

  25. 曼思攝影XRoPhoto July 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    great inspiration for always! my favorite channel and photographer!

  26. hawg427 July 13, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Isn't this the same model that did the Red Riding Hood shoot on an older video you did?

  27. Clau Lee July 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Gavin, I really love your works man…you Rock!!!!!

  28. Jon Ellis July 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Ahh add the clarity!

  29. Frank Zayas July 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Gavin, I always enjoy your videos.. I am on the lookout for a background pretty much exactly like the one in this video. Can you tell me where this one came from and where I can find one?

  30. Fujinta Photography July 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    What lens did you used on this shoot Gavin?

  31. Graham Culleton July 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Cracking vid as always Gavin.

  32. Ron Aguilar July 13, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Love your videos! Quick question tho–every time I try to meter my speedlights (canon 430 exii) with my sekonic meter (exact same one that you have in your video) i get incorrect measurements. usually it ends up being over exposed. i read somewhere that it's measuring the pre-flash and that's why i'm getting incorrect measurements. is there a proper setting i need to set on either my flash units or my sekonic so that it can meter? thanks!

  33. Francisco Javier Periñán July 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Great video, as always.

  34. Kundan Baruah July 13, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    You are really a great teacher, every time I sees a new video being uploaded, it is worth always watch it at that moment, without wasting any further time on clicking here n there.
    Thanks Gavin for being so informative and inspiring #Respect

  35. Ibrahim Jad July 13, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    Great video and brilliant ideas, thank you Gavin

  36. Ygam Retuta July 13, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    I was always wondering where'd you get that painted backdrop or can you recommend somewhere I can order it

  37. stefanborupable July 14, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I really would also like to know where you get your background. Does it have a name?

  38. Mike James July 14, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Another fun example, Gavin and Fern. Thank you!

  39. ANGEL CASTRO July 14, 2017 at 5:49 am

    Awesome video!!!

  40. GraphX Shop July 14, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Thanks for every video you ever made
    On the edge of my seat for the next one

    Regards, Rick

  41. Jason Mansouri July 14, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Brilliant as always Gavin , your a fantastic teacher , thank you for the great helpful videos you upload.

  42. Jason Mansouri July 14, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Gavin please teach us how you made that backdrop in your studio

  43. Justin Foo July 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the videos, Gavin! Just a quick question. I'm setting up a little small studio space and I'm wondering what you're using for the floor in this video? What are those grey sheets? Are they hard or do they have some give in them?

  44. MrLolita011 July 14, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    like your videos, top

  45. Ian Cass July 14, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Anyone else hit "like" then watch the video?

  46. Juan Lopez July 14, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    You ROCK Gavin, love you videos and ideas, awesome!

  47. Conor Casey July 14, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Great stuff Gavin! Easily the best on YouTube for this kind of thing. keep making the videos. I've watched every bone so far!

  48. Frank Crispo July 14, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    It would be nice to see you get out of your studio and return to some out door shooting again. Haven't seen one in a long time.

  49. Hamood Sharaf July 15, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Great job mate
    Would love to see more of these speedlite tutorials
    Cause am kinda low in the budget and that's all what am using for my outdoor and indoor photos

  50. Serge Couvrette July 15, 2017 at 2:18 am

    thank you again for that AXCELLENT vidéo 😊

  51. Andre Alfred July 15, 2017 at 4:50 am

    Great Vids as usual. ..can you post a link to your background…..thx! !!!

  52. Dave Grenier July 15, 2017 at 5:02 am

    Absolutely fantastic! Thank you sir!

  53. Pasha Pahlavan July 15, 2017 at 5:19 am

    Hi gavin thanks for your amazing works and being an inspiration to us for photography, you're making photo shoots so easy and fun. I have a nikon 5300 with kit lense 18-55mm but I'm going to buy a 35mm nikon lense… Is this a good start for an enthusiast newbie me? Secondly speed flash, softbox , backdrop and reflector are must have tools or can I shoot in raw and learn how to edit it in photoshop? I'm interested in shooting portrait of my family and my little son at home.. Thanks a lot mate

  54. Tiberiovs July 15, 2017 at 8:38 am

    Gavin, you're a power house of inspiration; thank you and Adorama; Gavin out of every youtube channel you keep it basic; yet you pump out professional high standard work, and thank you Mrs Hoey for helping him to do just that! i look forward to each post!

  55. Peter Hayward July 15, 2017 at 9:34 am

    As always, a great video. Been watching you for years and years and years!

  56. Sid Bonkers July 15, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Great video as usual Gavin but why cant I read the replies to comments?
    Its very annoying…

  57. Eddie Tang July 16, 2017 at 3:02 am

    Another great tutorial Gavin!

  58. Ron Jobe July 16, 2017 at 5:48 am

    A remarkable instructor. Thanks Gavin!

  59. Zoram Thanga July 16, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    what is that dell monitor's model…plizz

  60. ANDREW L XIONG July 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing…always find your videos to be very informative. Just curious where can we find/buy that texture black backdrop you are using if you don't mind sharing, thanks!

  61. William Gracey July 17, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Wonderful lesson. Gavin is the best photography teacher on YouTube.

  62. Paul Bell July 19, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Excellent as always mate 😊

  63. Yaron Harel July 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    What I don't like in this episode is the line of shadow along her face as a result of the position of the 2 flashes. Is there a way to avoid that?

  64. Yellow2015 July 22, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    HI Gavin. Thanks for your another lesson 🙂 Please, can you tell how to make similar backdrop? Which material to use

  65. Fat Beets July 27, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Gavin. Been watching your new and old videos for a few months now. I concur with the comments here that you are a great teacher and asset to the photography community. I have noticed one thing that seems a bit lacking in these flash setup videos from you and others and I thought of it once you choose to bounce the flash off the ceiling. That is, what are the zoom settings. I'm visually in my mind assuming fairly wide (like 24mm) in order to still hit the subject. Can you help in your tutorials by specifying the flash zoom levels as well as all the other technicals? Thank you.

  66. Client Building July 27, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Thank you for all your great tutorials.

    What are the dimensions of your home studio? How far is the model from the wall and how far from her are you shooting? Ric

  67. Andre Alfred August 9, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Can you put a link for the background you use in your "Small Home Studio" I've inquired on several of your tutorials but there has been no response

  68. Michael Blackburn August 22, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Spiffing tutorials, as always, but a music question rather than a photography one. Who is the music by (just before you edit)? A funky piece to go with a great intuitive video. Cheers 👍

  69. Robin Saini September 4, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    Dear Master…i want to work with you

  70. Art Lopez September 4, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Now all I need is to convince a stranger to come to my house and dress like red riding hood w/ an axe. Perfect.

  71. R.E Folland September 6, 2017 at 2:39 pm


  72. James September 14, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Best presenter on Adorama! The reason I subscribed to their channel….and I love the way he says wall.

  73. reandor September 25, 2017 at 6:08 am

    All you need is a frikkin wall that someone can stand in front of, the rest can be easily solved. I dont have that wall unfortunately.

  74. Graeme Buckland October 25, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Gavin could you tell me what trigger you use to fire your flashes

  75. Shirish Shete December 25, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Superb, always love your videos very easy to follow. Tks

  76. Richard Campbell December 31, 2017 at 4:49 am

    It starts out a little quirky, but compared to most photography tutorials on You Tube it is really quite entertaining and to the point. I like the fact that you don't get hung up on the gadgets, or lecturing about things, but you show your own fun process. The best part is that you show how someone thinks through things… and that you are enjoying the process. Deceptively simple, but very educational!

  77. Andrew B. Richardson December 31, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    When you're metering the light for 'f4', does that mean you're also setting the camera to 'f4' and adjusting the shutter speed accordingly? Would this mean that if you metered for another value, you'd set the camera for that same aperture and simply adjust the shutter speed accordingly?

  78. steve atesh January 11, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    Really like your videos Gavin, thanks for this one some great ideas for somebody new to OCF like me!

  79. M. Sifflet January 13, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    You are an awesome artist my friend! … You work with the minimum of equipment and the result is incredible every time. Respect!

  80. T Asan February 15, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    min equipent awasome result thank you Gavin and Adorama

  81. Rudel23 February 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    You make in 9 min what others make in 30, great tutorial

  82. RSC3516 March 8, 2018 at 2:59 am

    always a pleasure….

  83. Trent Garverick April 12, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Very informative and inspirational video. Now, if you would just paint my home studio walls white for me..


  84. Rawl of the Dead May 29, 2018 at 3:59 am

    love all your videos .Always learn something new

  85. Two Masyutas June 2, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Simply Amazing.

  86. Mahi Patel July 17, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    thank u for this wonderful & Osm Video superb use of speedlight great,

  87. Tim Krause August 1, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    That's more like Lizzy Borden than Little Red Riding Hood! Great Video; keep 'em coming!

  88. Andreas Stenvall August 6, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Best tutorial guy on the internets.

  89. singhanagat September 26, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Great work Gavin 👍👍

  90. Rodrigo Viana Campos October 15, 2018 at 1:10 am

    Gavin, what is this background?

  91. Jeff Rendered December 7, 2018 at 2:44 am

    Is he wearing velvet pants?

  92. beverly basden January 5, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Thank you so much, you are so informative!

  93. Images By Lyrics Photography February 20, 2019 at 12:34 am

    I just would like to say how awesome your videos are. I enjoy watching every moment. You are a great photographer and teacher and I hope one day I meet you in person so we can converse photographer to photographer I think I can learn a lot from you. And by the way you are very entertaining

  94. Jim Mauch February 23, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Lighting looks like Alfried Krupp by Arnold Newman.

  95. Peter Adamsson April 27, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Great as usual, Gavin. But I´ve a Q. What are the zoom setup at the speedlights? I think you should mention that if it´s important. I think it is.

  96. LEO WANG April 29, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    great,great teacher you are:)

  97. Last Man Standing May 27, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Verne could be my model any time! Nice and informative piece of flashlight photography.

  98. Dan Pierre June 9, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    Gavin is the best, love his personality.

  99. Ahmed Mandour July 14, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    You are the best photography teacher I have ever seen, kindly create more tutorials with continuous light, Thanks in advance

  100. TCM photography October 11, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    nice work Gavin!

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