Using your own lighting for outdoor portraits gives you the freedom to light your subject from any direction you choose. Suddenly you’re not bound by the direction and quality of the natural light, but instead have the option either to augment it with a gentle fill light, or create an entirely different mood. It lets you combine the best parts of studio and natural- light portraiture. You’re able to light the subject how you like, and also arrange the composition and backdrop without being hamstrung by the natural light falling on the subject. Ultimately, it puts the look of the portrait in your hands.

An LED like the Rotolight AEOS used here is a versatile choice for outdoor lighting. The ‘what you see is what you get’ nature of constant lighting means using the light is as simple as turning it on, positioning it and setting the strength. You can, for example, either place the light in front to one side in the classic key light position for frontal illumination, or instead move the light around behind the subject to lift the edge of the figure and provide separation from the backdrop. It simplifies the process of outdoor portrait lighting, so not only can you work more quickly, but you can also experiment with different angles until you have harmony between the power of the light on the subject and that of the natural light in the scene.

The colour temperature controls on the AEOS also means you can match the temperature with daylight, while still having the option to switch to a warmer or cooler temperature if the situation needs it. You can set the temperature between 3150K and 6300K, which covers a wide range of scenarios. You’re able, for example, to begin shooting outdoors in natural daylight, then set it warmer for sunset, or move indoors under tungsten lighting or head out after dark for a night-time street shoot. Control over colour temperature also gives the freedom to get creative with mixed colour casts, perhaps by combining a warmer light over the face with cooler ambient light behind. So you can either match the ambient light or intentionally skew it.

Switching to HSS flash

When the maximum continuous output isn’t enough you have the option to switch to a high speed sync (HSS) ash that doubles it giving you an extra stop of light. You’ll get about five hours of battery which is more than enough for most shoots. The quality of the light directly from the AEOS is somewhere between soft and hard, a bit like a beauty dish. At times when you need to change the quality of light there’s a dedicated soft box or barn doors. Each head also comes with a handy array of circular gels that t directly in front of the bulbs, giving you the option to change the colour of the light.

Of course the convenience of LED lighting comes at a cost which is output. While perfectly suited for providing ll light and catch lights when shooting outdoor portraits, these lights are not strong enough to overpower the sun – for that you’d need a ash. Those wedded to their speed lights would argue that a ash can far out-output an LED so why bother switching to constant lighting. It’s true that the maximum output is small by comparison, but there are different tools for different tasks.