Urban Portraits in Manchester with just one Speedlight

Jul 1, 2012 | Continuous Lighting, Flash, Location | 30 comments

01. A slash of flash from a single Speedlight and a slash of sunlight make this dramatic figure in the landscape shot.

My Urban Portraits workshop has been running for five years now and in that time I have been fortunate enough to have taught in many cities throughout the world. I have settled on just two cities for my UK workshops because they are simply the best. Manchester and Bristol offer great opportunities to shoot as a group without being moved on. I have very specific wet weather routes that allow us to shoot in all conditions.  The pictures that can be created in these cities are varied and exciting.

All pictures were taken using a Fujifilm X-Pro1 and a 16mm, 35mm or 60mm lens.

02. Jenny Brook and a big pebble. Sunlight and bare Speedlight make a fabulous combination.

The Urban Portraits workshop is set at an introduction level using natural light or the output of one Speedlight in manual mode. The emphasis is on the art of composition, lighting and design. I teach how to see a picture opportunity. This might sound obvious but I have a system that can isolate lighting, select backgrounds and deliver punchy funky portraits.

03. Lines and design in sunlight.

The other key element I teach is how to pose a model. In this shoot we worked with the fabulous Jenny Brook. Jenny is the hardest working model I know. Totally committed to the shot and the moment, Jenny’s professionalism shines through in these pictures.


Each delegate needs to bring a creative heart and an open mind. Plus a camera and a couple of lenses covering 28mm to 90mm or more and ideally a fast prime standard lens of f/2 or better. I provided the flash triggers, one each for everyone, the Speedlight (a Nikon SB900) on a stand and the inspiration.


We meet at a coffee shop so those that are traveling some distance can relax if they arrive early and our lunch is usually taken at a bistro restaurant.

06. Sunlight outside a lift.

I encourage the delegates to shoot in Manual mode and I give out formulas and settings where required. It is very important for me that everyone goes away with the information needed to recreate these images and the ability to develop new styles with their new found knowledge.

07. 45 minutes into the shoot and we are at location three. I used a single Speedlight to make this picture pop.




11. One Speedlight and a splash of flash.

12. Natural light was all we used for this shot.

One Speedlight on minimum power was all we used for this night club entrance portrait.

14. One Speedlight. I teach how to balance the ambient and flash elements of the exposure.

15. Natural light like this is fabulous when you know where to find it.

16. One Speedlight used in an unconventional manner.

17. Sunlight in control.



20. A Speedlight and a 60mm lens on my Fuji X-Pro1. No camera or lens can make a picture. It takes light, design and a photographer.

21. The same Speedlight in the same spot at the shot above.




25. Here is a natural light sequence where control of light on Jenny's face is key.

26. Jackie O class and style.



29. The last shot of the day involved a white balance shift and a light colour shift combination.

If you have any questions, technical or other, about the Urban Portraits workshop please do drop Blaise an email. Blaise and I between us will be able to help.

Please feel free to comment on these pictures.


    • Damien

      Thank you Glenn for your constant support and kindness. It means a lot :) Kindest regards, Damien.

  1. Anthony Clay

    Fantastic set of images and especially using just one speed light. Very elegant model also! Fantastic work both of you.

  2. Jon McGrath

    Nice location! Where was it shot! Oh great image too

  3. Jen Brook

    really looking forward to 15/1/13 :)

  4. Belle Momenti

    Love this shot … beautiful lighting as always!! :-)

  5. Andrew Frost

    Inspirational images, an inspirational man – I’m saving the pennies so hopefully I can be part of it soon!

    • damien

      Thank you Andrew. I hope to see you on a workshop soon :)

      All the best, Damien.

  6. Kevin Cull

    Amazing set of images again Damien, and with one Speed light, Fabulous! :-)

    • damien

      Thanks Kevin. I like to keep it simple at times.

      Best regards,


  7. Matt F

    Great work- I love how you’ve mixed ambient light with off camera flash- you make it look easy! :)

    • damien

      Thanks Matt, Practice makes perfect. Haha.

  8. Jonathan Knights

    Great set Damien.
    Love the lighting. I really need to attend a training session with you.

  9. Stephen T


  10. Jen Brook

    Wow! thank you so much Damien! I had a great day in Manchester doing this workshop with you. Everyone I met was lovely and hard working, can’t wait to see you again!

  11. Di Holmes

    Thanks so much for your reply Damien. I’m now about to buy JJC trigger and receivers for £14.99 from ebay… One purchase in the great scheme of photography that won’t break the bank!


    • damien

      Thanks Anthony :)

  12. Thorsten

    I always look forward to your Urban Portraits updates, they never dissapoint – not that any of your updates do, but this style of shooting, in particular, is so incredibly accessible to anyone really, that there is no reason in the world not to give it a go. Thanks for sharing once again.

    • damien

      Hi Thorsten,

      Thanks for your continued support and kind words. It’s been a while since we shot together.

      Cheers, Damien.

  13. Peter Burkwood

    Nice to see you working with the bare minimum kit Damien, it goes to show anyone can have a go at this…


    • damien

      Thanks Peter,

      As you say, kit is rarely the restricting element in photography. These could have been shot on a ten year old digital compact worth £30 and the results would have still been fab. On my workshops I teach the foundations that empower photographers to use light creatively.

      Kind regards, Damien.

  14. jason

    can you expand on your photo number 16?

    • damien

      Hi Jason,

      Number 16 was lit with a single speedlight. Do a workshop and I will reveal all my secrets and systems ;) haha.

      Cheers, Damien.

  15. Di Holmes

    Love, Love Love!
    I’m hoping to book onto one of your courses soon as I would love to experiment with Speedlites.
    At the moment I have a Canon 430 ex ii. Would you kindly suggest what to buy in means of ‘flash triggers’? I have a habit of doing my own research and ordering the wrong thing.
    I bought your wedding book at a recent expo’ and have just done my first wedding.
    Thank you for the constant inspiration.
    Di Holmes

    • damien

      Hi Di,

      Sorry for the delay in replying. I usually do 100 or so comment replies at a time on a rainy day like today. I use cheapo flash triggers from Ebay and use my Speedlights on Manual. I find it the most consistent and best way of working. Some photographers love working with TTL and using flash exposure compensation. For TTL work triggers tend to be more expensive. I’m reluctant to reccomend a particular make because they all have their weaknesses and you might just not get on with the ones I suggest. The ones I use cost £15 a set on Ebay. They do exactly what they should and I love them. Canon do a great IR tigger capable of TTL and Manual with your flash it is an STE2. I have two of them and I love them for interior triggering etc.

      I hope this helps in some way.

      Kindest regards,



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