Tips + Techniques

Amy Lombard on Creating Images with Punchy, Artificial Light

April 10, 2017

By Amy Lombard

© Amy Lombard

Up until around 2009, I thought I’d never use any sort of artificial light for my images. I was extremely sensitive to natural light and frankly had no interest in shooting any other way. A fellow photographer friend of mine came over one day with the Sunpak 622 Super flash—if you’ve never seen it, it’s enormous. I was just captivated and had to try it. As I looked at my film that I shot with it, I knew that was it for me. It was like hearing music for the first time. I felt like my work finally made sense.

This way of shooting accentuates specific details based on how you hold the flash—it’s like a spotlight. When photographing the everyday, it helps elevate these situations. There’s almost a surprise element to the flash that I really enjoy, especially when I’m at a party or really active environment. I no longer shoot with the Sunpak. I still have it and do love it, but I started using the Canon Speedlites and I don’t think I’ll turn back. They are so transportable and powerful. I’m often following someone around or constantly on the road, so being able to have multiple versions in my backpack is crucial.

This lighting style isn’t for everyone. I’ve lost jobs because of refusing to shoot otherwise. Some people think it’s too harsh and hate the shadows. A lot of photographers I know can balance doing airy, natural light photos with the harsh flash. It helps them get a greater range in clients, I’m sure, but I’m not about that. This lighting is crucial to my vision and this is how I see things. It’s flash or nothing.

Dog Tableau

Mrs Sizzle, a dog fashion-centric website (, is led by Suzanne Donaldson, who was formerly the executive photo director at Glamour and is now on the creative team at Nike. She saw my work “Doggies and Tiaras” on the blog Feature Shoot and we’ve been friends and collaborators ever since. This shot is of Patricia and her pink dog, photographed for Mrs Sizzle. I positioned the flash right next to the lens to avoid shadows. I think the flash adds an element of fun to the image, which clearly works well when you’re given a pink dog as a subject.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: 24-105mm
Exposure: f/22 at 1/125 sec.
ISO: 1000
Lighting: Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (set manually to 1/16)

Cast Corner

Somehow I have photographed the cast of Hamilton multiple times and have still not seen the show! This was shot at Sardi’s Restaurant in Times Square for New York magazine’s website as a roundtable conversation with the cast. New York really gave me my start; I came to know its art director Maya Robinson through working with the former photo editor of The Cut, Emily Shornick. For this shot, I just positioned the flash slightly above and held it with my left hand. Even if a photographer wanted to, they couldn’t have set up a whole lighting scenario in this crowded restaurant.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: 24-105mm Exposure: f/13 at 1/125 sec.
ISO: 640
Lighting: Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (set manually to 1/4)

Taken at the opening night of Hamilton, this was shot for The New York Times column Scene City—the Times has a rotation of photographers on that column, and I’m one of them. Anna Wintour is obviously someone you see at the high-brow events we are sent to. She can sense when she’s being photographed, so she’s a tough one sometimes to get candidly. But the bob you can see from a mile away; it’s so recognizably her. That’s what I wanted to come through in this image. I followed her around that opening night and held my flash slightly from the bottom, off to the side.

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: 24-105mm
Exposure: f/22 at 1/160 sec.
ISO: 200
Lighting: Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (set manually to 1/2)

Amy Lombard is a photographer living in Brooklyn, NY, whose bold and colorful work has landed shoots with New York magazine, WIRED, The New Yorker and VICE, among others. She was named a PDN’s 30 in 2016.

To read this article in the digital edition, click here.

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