Swimsuit Portraits: Natural light & speedlight flash photo shoot

swimsuit portrait tfp shoot natural light and flash photography

I had the opportunity to collaborate with another photographer on a great summer concept. This shoot was to feature 3 local models in summer swimwear near a swimming pool. The concept was easy especially since it was in the middle of summer.

We lined up a residence with a private pool in north Dallas and got all the details together for the collaboration. It was the middle of summer and I knew we would have a great time.

Swimsuit Portrait Shoot

The goal of the shoot was to capture the models in a variety of swimsuits and other summer styles. The leaned more towards fashion and lifestyle imagery but we wanted to make this very colorful and fun.

The weather was perfect, and the water glistened in the mid-day sunlight. Shooting natural light was going to be difficult because of the harsh light so we both brought along speed lights to help lighten the shadows of our subjects.

Normally I would recommend having a stronger off camera flash strobe, but this was all I had at the time. I made it work and mixed ambient and flash for most of my portraits.

Sony a7ii and Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Portraits

For this shoot, I used my Sony a7ii mirrorless camera paired with my Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens.

This combination gave me a chance to get wide shots for this collaboration without having to get too far back from the subject. Shooting portraits with a 35mm can be tricky if you are standing too close to the model.

Make sure you are taking a few steps back so you can minimize the distortion in the subjects face or any parts too close to the edge of the composition.

The Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens is a very sharp lens that has been in my camera bag for the last 2 years. It’s a heavy 35mm lens compared to my Sony 35mm f1.8 lens.

The size and weight difference are pretty hefty but I still wanted to see how the Sony 35mm f1.4 performed.

Off camera flash with Juliana in purple bikini swimsuit
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f4.0 | 1/800sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera right with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger

Godox V860II-S Speedlight – Off camera flash

I knew the harsh light would be an issue since the mid-day sun was so bright and not a cloud in site. So I brought along a small speedlight to fill in shadows.

I used my Godox V860II-S speedlight and Godox trigger. I had the speedlight in a 24in x 24in portable softbox with double diffusion. If you’re interested in this speedlight you can check it out here for current pricing. 

This helped add a more even light to the models as I was shooting off camera flash portraits.

Comparing natural light and speedlights

I choose to switch between speedlights and natural light so I could see the comparison. I was using a small speedlight from Godox for the flash shots and this was more than enough to fill in the shadows.

The light was pretty harsh as we were shooting in mid-day but I still thought the small speedlight did pretty well in balancing with the sun.

I kept my flash and softbox very close to the subjects (within 2 ft) so I could maximize the light on my subject.

Natural light swimsuit portrait shot kristi
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/500sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only

Swimsuit Models

Our models for the day were Kristi Lynn, Jolesa, and Juliana. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Juliana and Jolesa on previous TFP shoots, but it was my first time working with Kristi.

Make sure to check out these models on Instagram if you get a chance

Jolesa – https://www.instagram.com/jo__queen/
Juliana – https://www.instagram.com/juliana.m.6/
Kristi – https://www.instagram.com/kristilynn_le/

Overall, all the models did great on this portrait shoot. We had music in the background and everyone having a great time.

Jolesa off camera flash photo
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.8 | 1/1,600sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera right with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
swimsuit portrait TFP test shoot with Kristi
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.5 | 1/640sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger

Jolesa in white bikini and top by the swimming pool
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f4.0 | 1/640sec | ISO 125 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Swimsuit by the pool with Kristi
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f5.6 | 1/320sec | ISO 125 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Speedlight off camera flash with Jolesa red bikini
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.8 | 1/1,600sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Sony 35mm f1.4 off camera flash photo swimsuit
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.2 | 1/500sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera right with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Off camera flash swimsuit portrait with kristi
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.5 | 1/640sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Off camera flash swimsuit portrait Juliana swimming pool
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.2 | 1/1,250sec | ISO 125 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Off camera flash speedlight portrait with Jolesa
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.8 | 1/1,600sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Juliana off camera flash purple bikini shot
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.0 | 1/800sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Jolesa speedlight off camera flash shot
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f4.5 | 1/800sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger
Jolesa in white bikini on chair swimsuit portrait shoot
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.2 | 1/500sec | ISO 100 | Godox V860II-S speedlight camera left with 24×24 softbox | Godox Remote Trigger

I am very fond of shooting natural light portraits. Especially when I have a chance to get bright and vibrant colors in the backgrounds.

For much of this swimsuit portrait shoot, I also shot natural light. The concrete and water were acting like natural reflectors for the sun so I didn’t have too much harsh shadows in the areas I chose to shoot.

I did have to raise my shutter speed in order to get a balanced exposure when shooting wide open at larger apertures. In hind-site I wish I had stopped down to around f2.8 or f4.0 in order to get detail in each frame.

Sony 35mm f1.4 portrait swimsuit shot with Juliana
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/2,500sec | ISO 125 | Natural light only
Jolesa by the tree outdoor swimsuit photo
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/640sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only
natural light swimsuit photo with kristi by the pool
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/1,000sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only
Jolesa in white bikini swimsuit portrait
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/1,600sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only
Natural light bikini photo of kristi in the shade
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.0 | 1/400sec | ISO 125 | Natural light only
Natural light photo with Juliana by the swimming pool bikini shot
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.2 | 1/500sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only

Natural light bikini photo with model Kristi
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f2.0 | 1/400sec | ISO 125 | Natural light only
Juliana in green swimsuit photo
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f1.4 | 1/5000sec | ISO 100 | Natural light only
Kristi in black bikini photo sony 85mm f1.4 g master
Camera Settings – Sony a7ii | Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss Lens | @f3.5 | 1/800sec | ISO 160 | Natural light only

What I learned from this shoot

My speedlight was not very powerful and needed time to recycle before I could get to the next shot. I learned pretty quick I needed to slow down and take my time with this equipment.

I loved the natural light photos but I think they came out darker than my flash sets. This was because I was positioning my models between me and the sun most of the time.

If I had kept them more towards the light or had a reflector on hand, I could have gotten more highlights on the face.

Conclusion – Swimsuit Photoshoot

After reviewing the overall photo session I think I got some great shots for my portfolio. I know everyone had a great time on location and I hope that we can do this again very soon!

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