Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives

Damon Tucci's Essential Techniques for Location Lighting, Part I

By Damon Tucci
All images ©Damon Tucci

Want to achieve a beautifully lit image in any conditions? Master three lighting techniques and you can make it gorgeous anywhere.


In today’s fast-paced world of photography, you have to produce on demand, no matter what the conditions may be. This is especially true for wedding photographers. You can’t change the date of the shoot, so you must be able adapt to ever-changing lighting and weather conditions.

But whether you’re a portrait or wedding photographer, time is money; the more efficiently you can use your surroundings and enhance the light, the more effectively you can deliver above average consistent results. We practice and perfect our capture and lighting strategies so that we can tackle any assignment. We know them backward and forward so that we can implement them seamlessly.

Three lighting techniques should be part of any modern photographer’s repertoire: the use of available light, off-camera flash, and video light techniques.

Available light techniques revolve around working in open shade and using a reflector to accentuate and shape the light on the mask of the face. I use Radio Poppers and Nikon SB800 flashes for my off-camera flash and employ the camera’s high-speed sync capabilities to transform any average scene into a very dramatic one. Video lights enable us to capture images in modern hotels and subtly light the subject’s face without overpowering the background. This method is very fast and what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).

In these two examples of off-camera light usage, you can easily see how underexposing for the ambient light and adding off-camera flash can dramatically improve the look of your image in bland lighting conditions.


Here we start behind my house against the fireplace on an overcast day. I used a Nikon D700, an 80-200mm lens at 80mm, two Nikon SB900 Speedlights and a RadioPopper to control the flash.  I underexposed for the ambient light 1 to 1.5 stops at 125-second at f/5, ISO 400. The overhead Speedlight is zoomed to 85mm. 


Below, I had a drab cloudy Orlando day to shoot this couple’s portrait.


By underexposing the ambient light 1 to 1.5 stops, I get a dramatic sky. I add light from the upper left with an SB800 Speedlight and use the RadioPopper and the camera's high-speed sync to make the exposure 1/2,500 second at f/4, ISO 400, to illuminate the couple. 


Look for Part II in December’s Web Exclusives, and even more in the February issue of Professional Photographer magazine.

Damon Tucci has been a professional photographer in Central Florida for the past 20 years and has photographed over 2,500 weddings. His award-winning work has been published in Professional Photographer, Rangefinder, Studio Photography and Design, InStyle Weddings, People, Brides and a host of other publications.

Come learn from Damon Tucci at Imaging USA, January 15-17

In My Head: Tapping into the Photographer Mindset
Tuesday, Jan. 17, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
Want to create beautiful images anywhere, anytime? Who doesn’t? Join celebrity wedding and portrait photographer Damon Tucci to learn a methodology and mindset for producing exceptional images on demand. He will delve deep into the psyche of the photo creation process to show you how simple it can be … if you have the acute understanding of timing and technique that he’ll share! You’ll also learn about modern posing and lighting techniques, including off-camera speed lights, available lighting, strobe and video. Come learn Damon’s tried-and-true formula (and reap the benefits).