Photographing fashion on the coast with flash lighting

Combining natural light with studio flash, when working on location, can produce some creative and eye-catching results, as you’ll see in this fashion photography class.

For this shoot, Karl and the team braved high winds and less than ideal tides to capture this stunning shot. Throughout the shoot, you’ll see how Karl carefully combines natural light with studio flash, how he uses filters to control ambient light from the setting sun, how he balances multiple lights and uses specific modifiers to create controlled patches of light in key parts of the shot.

In this class you will learn:

  • How to shoot fashion photography on location
  • How to combine natural light and studio flash
  • How to use filters to adjust exposure
  • Studio lighting setups for photographing on location

To learn more about fashion photograph on location, you may enjoy some of our other fashion photography classes, including our ‘Seascape fashion photography’ class, which forms part of this series of fashion shots on location.

We initially wanted to do this shoot the next day for the best tides, but predicted higher winds meant we had to bring everything forward.

fashion photography on location

Shooting into the setting sun, we were battling dropping tides and strong winds.

During the shoot, we were battling a rapidly outgoing tide and gusty winds, but with fairly clear skies we pushed forward with the shoot. Shooting into the setting sun, I decided to combine natural light and flash to get the best exposure in both the sky and the subject. 

Fashion photography location lighting

Graduated filters and careful control of light allowed for precise control over the final result.

To do this, I had to use graduated filters and adjust the power settings on each of the lights to get the correct exposure.

As the shoot progressed, the sun dropped lower in the sky and the colours improved, which meant I decided to incorporate more natural light in the shot. To do this, I had to adjust my shutter speed and lights accordingly, as you’ll see in the video, to get the final result.

Fashion photography on location

The final fashion image.


  1. Just a quick Q on this superb image Karl. Was the 35mm focal length lens quoted a medium format 35mm (so about 24mm in 35mm format equivalent)? Best, Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew, yes it was a 35mm lens in Medium Format which would be equivalent to about 24mm in 35mm FF.

  2. This photo is quite a story. I can imagine a thousand things looking at this photograph. The process has been very impressive. Excellent team work and your patience and security makes them trust you. Good work.

  3. So creative to imagine and then realize such a beautiful almost surreal composition. Stunning result Karl! The dress choice is amazing – it’s hard to tell where the dress stops and rocks begin. The lighting is perfect – it looks so natural. Charis and all the details are illuminated with precision. That sky was just perfect. You could wait a long time for a sky like that – your planning, preparation, and timing were rewarded by the perfect sky. The video and the narrative showcased your work so well.

    Brilliant – a joy to see it come together!

  4. Absolutely beautifully done. The out come of the image is epic. Well done crew and fantastic job Karl for directing everything.

    This is what i call a vision of beauty.

  5. Hello Karl.
    You are truly a genius and I thouroughly enjoy how much I am learning here despite having shot for almost 20 years now.
    Can I ask – in this situation what type of ND you were using and if there is a particular filter brand/system you recommend or endorse?
    Thank you and stay healthy my friend!

    1. Hi, thank you that’s very kind. I use LEE filters, these were the LEE IRND which are about the best ND filters you can buy but they are pricey. Their range of standard glass ND filters are still very good and not as expensive.

  6. This is absolutely gorgeous. I am lost for words at how stunning the whole process folded out into the magnificent final shot.

  7. this shoot really inspired me. Can you tell me details about the black skirt used as I am getting one made. What length is it, how wide and what material was used (sorry to be a nuisance!) Thanks Karl. GREAT shoot. Its good to be back with you!!

    1. Hi Miz Universe, I think it was about 4m long and about 3m wide at its widest. It was a ‘train’ rather than a whole dress and it was created by a designer called Francesca Marotta

      1. thanks so much for your timely respite! Much appreciated. I am now getting one made for my models

    1. Yes she worked very hard in difficult conditions, luckily she was as keen to make the shot as i was.

  8. Hi Karl,
    This one was a beautiful Shoot.
    Could you think about making a video on how you pre-plan a shoot with your team? As in what is your thinking process of designing a fashion shoot, how you get a theme and how you create your mood boards, Do you leave a lot of choice and creative decisions to your team or do you control every aspect from the outfit to hair and make up location scouts etc.

  9. the end product is amazing but as other videos of your if you have added the photos you took along the shoot. it would have more helpful video. thanks.

    1. Hi, I never use HSS primarily because I usually shoot with medium format so I can sync at any shutter speed up to 1/2000th which is plenty fast enough for me to cut out ambient. When shooting with 35mm I prefer to use ND filters and have more versatility with my flash power settings, simply because this is the way I was working before HSS was invented.

  10. Absolutely stunning. In my humble opinion, it is one of your best fashion images, that i’ve seen, shot in location, Karl 🙂

    1. Thank you Bogdan, and I’m very happy I didn’t have to go to Iceland to shoot it, this was just a few miles from the studio! 🙂

  11. Your clear instructions to your team, and your mental focus in what were obviously very trying conditions, resulted in a photograph that genuinely made me gasp! Wow!

  12. Gorgeous shot that again shows the absolute excellence in perfect balancing of ambient and flash light. Extremely well done of the entire team.

  13. Very nice!
    Do you always use paras or soft boxes without a diffusion layer or two when shooting outdoors, or is it dependent on distance from the subject?

    1. Hi Steve, if it’s fashion I prefer the more textured or more contrasty light of a Para or silver modifier. I generally keep softboxes for more portrait work than fashion.

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