Fierce Red-Head Mountain Top Shoot (free video!)

Creating the image in your mind is never easy, but today I will show you how to make it possible using flash and just how easy it can really be!


This past fall, I ventured out to Colorado to work with a really cool lighting company called Westcott. They hired me to go into some crazy locations and show off the power of their lighting modifiers and what they can do.

We shot a whole bunch of videos that I will share with you all for FREE, and one of them was with their fierce red-head on top of a mountain. We headed up to this sweet location where the trees broke open and allowed us to see the landscape of Colorado in the background.

The issue was:


The natural light was terrible!

At that time of day, with our subject placed where we could see the beautiful mountains in the background, the light was basically unusable without some serious diffusion panels and reflectors to help.

What I LOVE about using flash, is that I can create incredible images no matter what the ambient light is doing. Then, when we ALSO have great ambient light, I can make an image that is crazy cool.

Step 1


First thing I did was simply put a flash in a SIMILAR position as the sun light (in this case to camera left).

Step 2

I placed the center of that light (my Elinchrom Ranger AS Speed) with the attached Rapid Box XXL from Westcott on it slightly above the center of her eye line. Placing in at this height is CRITICAL to the catch light in her eyes looking correct!

Step 3

Next I powered that light up so it was 1 stop BRIGHTER than the ambient light so the sun would then act as a fill light, my subject would become brighter than everything else and pop-out of the shot!

Direct sun is ALWAYS f/16 at at ISO 100, 1/100th of a second, so I powered my strobe up to f/16 at at ISO 100 and raised my shutter speed to 1/200th of a second (it is literally that easy) to darken the ambient light by 1 stop.

Step 4

Lastly, I added a second light to the back right of the frame and added the NEW Westcott pop-open strip bank to it.

This light was positioned at a similar height to the main light, but I was sure that it did NOT hit my subjects face in any way (which can create not so pretty hot spots on the face).

That light was powered about 2 stops LOWER than my main light (f/8 at at ISO 100) in order to make it not look too flash heavy. It would then separate my subject on the shadow side of her body from the background for added cool-factor!

Added Bonus:

Because I prefer to shoot portraits of this nature at shallower depth of field, I then added my 4 stop ND filter from Lee Filters to darken the overall image by 4 stops, which then allows me to OPEN UP the aperture by 4 stops to compensate and then shoot at a shallow depth of field.

(NOTE: If you want more information on how to use an ND filter system, check that out HERE)

The final images are shot at f/4, ISO 100, 1/200th of a second.

See ALL the final images from this shoot HERE!

How do I shoot images like this at weddings?


Jody and I are creating a FULL-LENGTH wedding course that takes you through an entire wedding front to back with us. You can sign up to hear more about it when it comes out soon HERE.

It it, we will teach you how to capture insanely beautiful images in any lighting, at any wedding, indoors, outdoors, in sun, in shade, at the reception and much more!

We hope you enjoyed this weeks video!

  • Julie Riddle Worthy

    Great video!!!!

    • Zach ‘n Jody Gray

      Thanks so much friend! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Sista Suga

    The photos are gorgeous! Those lights, run off batteries?

    • Zach ‘n Jody Gray

      Thanks so much! Yes, the lights are all battery powered. The main light is the Ranger by Elinchrom (designed to shoot outdoors) and the background light is the Elinchrom Style 600 studio light powered by a Vagabond Mini from Paul C Buff.

      • Sista Suga

        Thank you! I also enjoyed the video!

  • Stephen Michelle Caldwell

    Definitely enjoyed it – some great tips. Just wondering if speed lights be to underpowered in that kind of situation? I presume may have to wait until the ambient light level drops a bit more?

    • Zach ‘n Jody Gray

      For sure. SL flashes, even with the fancy hi-speed sync, could not overpower the sun through that particular modifier. The reason the images have that look is because of the large main light source.