Shooting on the Beach with Two Speedlights and the Sun

This is a simple shoot that can have some very nice nuance as you work two speedlights into a shot with the sun as back/side light. Using two sources a bit apart can cause multiple shadows, so you have to be very careful to make sure they are not a problem.

For this shot we used the sun as a bright side/slightly back light. I added the light from two flashes to smooth out the light, seemingly creating a wider side light. I love shadows, and the shadow cast on the little building was very nice.

I had to find a way to attach the strobes quickly on this trip, and hit on a unique, fun and easy way to securely attach the strobes. After the link, I will show you how we did it.

But first a question for the readers. I have been wondering if this Blog setup is working as well as a web site would. Currently we are using WordPress, but I have been thinking about working with a web site with CMS so it could grow laterally as well as vertically. The site under current configuration seems a little less than user friendly. Your thoughts please.

Learn to Light with inexpensive tools at Lighting Essentials

Now let’s take a look at using the two strobes with the sun for a cool swimsuit shot on the tower on the beach.

The image above shows the placement of the strobes and the height we used to get the shot lit so it felt very much like the setting sun. Both strobes are set to 1/8 power and are about 5-6 feet from her. I have them mounted vertically because people are vertical and the light needed to be thrown in the shape of the subject.

We are using cheap wireless remotes for this shot. I decided to use a wide angle lens so the distance of the strobes can be a little closer due to the angle of the wide lens increasing the perceived distance between lights and subject.

I metered the sun and found a workable aperture that would also be within the shutterspeed allowable for sync. I decided that f-13 at 1/200 would work well… keeping the background underexposed enough to get some color, while allowing some nice subtle direct light on the subject. The aperture at f-13 allowed me to get the two strobes in close with less power than if I had shot at f-22 at a slower shutter speed. The image would have looked the same at f-18 at 1/100 but I would have had to boost the power of the strobes to account for the smaller aperture. And that would have been more power needed, 1/4 power, and that would have meant a slower recycle.

Lighting Diagram:

Using a cheap Home Depot clamp and two cheap bungee cords we can mount them on a stand easy enough. And keeping the bungees tight keeps the strobes in place very well. Easy, cheap and fast.

Here is a shot where the flashes didn’t fire. You can see what the sun alone would do with the shot. While it isn’t lit like the other shots, it is kind of cool n a dark, mysterious way.

Now one with the strobes firing.

I came in close as the birds were swooping over and caught a second shot. Having the flashes with a faster recycle, because they are at 1/8 power, means I was able to get a few of the shots with the birds.

I always try to get something different at every shoot. If I was shooting a wide angle far away, I will try to move in closer. If I am closer, I will move back from the subject to see what the shot can look like. It keeps the brain fresh and lets me try to get some dynamics to the shoot that would not be there if I settled for only one shot.

In this shoot I decided to come in close to get something fun of Bri looking angry at me. She growled and shouted and then burst into laughter. That’s when I got this.

Thanks for dropping by. I hope you enjoyed this shoot tutorial as much as I did shooting it.

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  1. I feel that the Blog looks alright. I am currently experimenting with a Static Site using Joomla. I find it easier to use than wordpress as well. You are on a good thing at the moment, only change if ya really want to IMO.

    Everyone brags about, this site is so much easier to understand. I have learnt more in a few hours here than I have in a few days at

    Keep the articles coming, no matter which format :)

  2. Your blog is great and works very well for me as I have subscribed to it via Google Reader. That way I always ‘see’ your new posts immediately. If you switch to a website you just need to provide a subscription service so that your faithful readers never miss one of your excellent posts!!!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

  3. Hello Don
    I like the blog and I like WordPress. Perhaps I am prejudice, I’ll go into that. Some time ago (I believe it was on the magazine) you wrote an article comparing a static website versus a blog. It hit me like a tonne of bricks. That got me looking into WordPress and really opened up my eyes. And I should also point out it was a direct inspiration (your article) to get busy an change the way I presented my stuff. To this day I am not the least bit sorry I did it and probably should thank you for writing that article. I don’t have any where near the content or talent you do but it sure has improved my site. I sure hope you feel you haven’t been copied, that wasn’t the intention…. (direct link back to Lighting Essentials in the Links post.
    I come here at least twice a week to check on what you are doing and should probably post more comments, everyone should! What ever you decide to do I’ll keep coming back even if you decide to go the paid subscription route. Best Content, Best Blog, Best Photography period. Hats off to you Mr. Giannatti.
    Douglas Essery

  4. I love this. Works great for weddings, too, since it seems that brides always have their face slightly away from the sun, causing unsightly shadows along the nose … this allows me to expand the “sun” without blinding the bride or having her squint into the sun.

  5. how did you make the light look like a soft light without using any diffuser? I’ve been trying this but the result is the subject has a very harsh light on it.. is it manual or you used a ittl chord? thanx

    • I carefully watch the angle of the light to the subject. I keep it fairly close to the subject axis (nose) and that lets the light not create any harsh shadows. I use manual, and I only use as much light as necessary. I don’t ‘blast’ the subject, rather I let some of the ambient help me with fill.

  6. The one thing that\\\’s *really* bad about this website is the use of Simple CAPTCHA v1.5.1b by zorex.

    Many times when I have tried to leave a Reply I had to try over and over and over before the CAPTCHA would work. It says “Invalid Security Code. Please try again.” I do. It fails. &^%$*#&^%

    Please get this fixed or when you move to a different website don\\\’t use the zorex CAPTCHA.


    Terry Thomas…
    the photographer
    Atlanta, Georgia USA

    Let\\\’s count the number of times I have to use the CAPTCHA today: 3

  7. Oh. There is another thing that is weird about this website.

    It really does not like punctuation like an apostrophe.

    Here is an example: It’s raining today on Bob’s tenth birthday.

    The code behind the website inserts in an unwanted backslash when it sees an apostrophe.

    Combine that with CAPTCHA failures and you get a backslash with every retry.

    CAPTCHA failure count: 3
    356689 did not work (two attempts)
    395431 did not work
    511313 worked

    • Hi Terry,

      The only place we can find that code with the apostrophes is on your previous comment. I had Matt look at the postings to see what is going on, but it doesn’t seem to be in our code. We are using WP latest version, and have not created any custom markup. Sorry you are having trouble.