How Francisco Joel Hernandez Adds Depth to His Portraits

March 6, 2023

By Jacqueline Tobin

Portrait Photographer Francisco Joel Hernandez is speaking at WPPI 2023 for the first time and his seminar, Adding Depth in Portraits with Off Camera Flash, on Wednesday, March 8 (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) has already sold out. Lucky for us, he was kind enough to share some of what he’s covering with us in his off camera flash class, what the key takeaways are, what he thinks portrait photographers should be doing right not that they aren’t, and much more!

1. What is your WPPI 2023 Class about?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: My talk explains how I add a level of depth within my portraits using off camera flash. I’ve been a fan of this look and ability to use lighting in my images for over a decade and love sharing the process on all my social media. I believe sharing is caring and the best way I can help others is in person so I’m really looking forward to doing that.

2. What are the main takeaways attendees will leave your off camera flash class with?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Hopefully they gain a much better understanding of lighting and also just how easy it can be to take their images to the next level. There’s always been a misunderstanding of flash in that most people think it to be cumbersome when it doesn’t need to be or that simply adding some flash will ruin nice natural light. That’s not true at all. With lighting, a little goes a long way.

3. What is trending in your genre right now?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: That’s a tricky question, but I would have to say the nostalgic direct flash look of the early 2000s is something that’s getting a lot of traction on TikTok. There’s always a lot of interesting things on there. I don’t tend to follow trends, yet I think keeping in the know about them is helpful.

4. What do you consider to be a game-changing photographic technique or marketing tip that helped changed your business?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Showing potential clients the process with behind the scenes photos and videos really made me seem more personable. I’ve had clients hire me because they said I looked like someone I can trust and relax around just from them seeing my YouTube videos.

5. What’s something that very few people know about you?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Even though I’ve been in Texas for half my life now, I’m originally from a very small town in Michigan called Hart. I much prefer the cold over the heat so I sometimes visit Michigan every now and then especially during the Winter.

6. What do you think photographers in your genre aren’t doing but should?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Easily making Reels on Instagram. A lot of people think it’s ruining Instagram and protest making them, but they’re missing out on a large market out there. It’s very easy to make a Reel and you don’t need to show your face or dance either. I encourage everyone to at least try it out for a month.

7. What advice do you have to keeping one’s work fresh, beyond off camera flash?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Consume as much art as you can whenever possible. I’m always looking at vastly different types of work in different mediums like movies for example. Some images I plan to take are heavily inspired by some of my favorite films. You can learn lighting techniques from seeing films and any behind the scenes content they have.

8. What piece of gear or gadget can you not live without?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Probably my Flashpoint Xplor 300 Pro. It’s my favorite strobe to date and I’ve used it extensively over the past several years. So small yet powerful and has a unique mount that allows use with very portable modifiers.

9. What was your most challenging off camera flash shoot and why?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: This is a tough question for sure, but I believe I can say it would be my very first photoshoot with a model ever. The guy made it clear from the start that he had no confidence in me, I forgot my light stand, and it was so hot the day of the session. The reason he didn’t think I’d do a good job was because he thought I was taking photos for years with models due to a misunderstanding in our communications up until the day we met. He ended up loving the photos.

10. If not photography, what would your career be?

Francisco Joel Hernandez: Definitely something artistic like a cinematographer. I’ve loved films since I can remember and always get so mesmerized in theaters when watching certain scenes that have great cinematography. Love how even today there’s new work pushing the limit and creating beautiful scenes.

Francisco Joel Hernandez portrait.

Francisco Joel Hernandez is a professional photographer and content creator based in South Texas who has a passion for teaching others off camera flash through social media. With over a decade of experience in this field, he aims to constantly educate others how powerful off camera flash can be and how helpful it is to have in your tool belt as a photographer.