Last Updated on March 21, 2021
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Are you looking to improve your portrait lighting with the best flash for on or off camera shooting?
I’ve been a professional portrait photographer for a couple decades and have used dozens of flashes in pursuit of the perfect lighting. And after reading this article you will know the best portrait photography flash for Canon, Nikon, and more.
Best Flashes For Portrait Photography
An external flash allows you to improve your portrait photography results without an overly expensive lighting studio setup. A high performance speedlite allows you both on and off camera functionality. This versatility prevents you from having to travel with a ton of gear. That means it’s possible to do your portraits with just what fits in your camera bag.
A flash will even help you when shooting outside during sunsets and shadowy afternoon lighting. You will achieve better exposure which means you will spend less time editing photos after your shoot. All this means you will get better image quality and spend less time and money along the way.
Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT Flash
This Canon flash offers professional portrait photography lighting and is compatible with most modern Canon DSLR cameras. You get consistent performance and features that will help you achieve great exposure every shot. The 600EX II-RT offers a 2.4 GHz wireless radio transmitter that is fully compatible with Canon E-TTL and E-TTL II systems. You get a powerful guide number of 197 feet at ISO 100 and 200mm and an impressive zoom range of 20-200mm with a built in diffuser panel for 14mm. Bounce lighting is easy to achieve with the head tilt and rotation. It works very well both as an on camera flash and as an off camera flash.
- True professional performance
- Offers wireless radio transmission
- Ideal as both an on camera and off camera speedlite
- Powerful guide number of 197′ at ISO 100 and 200mm
- Easy mounting to camera body
- Compatible with most modern Canon DSLR’s
- Battery powered
Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT Flash
I love this Canon speedlite for on camera portrait photography sessions. It is compact and relatively lightweight and offers excellent performance and soft flattering lighting. It has numerous features that will make your portrait sessions a breeze including the built in catch light panel that really makes the facial expressions of your subjects standout. Operation is simple with the LCD panel and multi dial settings. You get a very snappy recycle time and it runs on AA batteries.
- Compatible with most modern Canon camera bodies
- Compact design ideal for on camera use
- Powerful guide number of 141′ at ISO 100
- Easy to use w/ LCD panel and multi dial
- Fast recycle time
- Zoom head range of 24-105mm
- Battery powered
Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI
The 470 EX-AI is an impressive flash ideal for the portrait photographer who does not want to pay the big price tag of the 600 EX. You get great performance and features that will work for the professional and beginner portrait photographer alike. You get AI bounce function as well as Ai.B auto mode and AI.B semi auto mode. The guide number is a decent 47′ at ISO 100 and you get beam assist for those low light shots. The zoom range is an impressive 24-105mm and the ability to create bounce lighting with the head tilt and rotation.
- Professional quality at a reasonable price
- Ai bounce function
- Guide number of 47′ at ISO 100
- Offers a zoom range of 24-105mm
- LCD panel
- Can be used on camera or off camera
- Compatible with most modern Canon cameras
Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash
This is my favorite all around Nikon flash for portrait photography. It offers an impressive combination of performance, lighting quality, and portability. Can be used as a master, commander, or remote lighting source. The built in wireless flash control works flawlessly. You can get bounce lighting with the flash head tilt and rotation. Compatible with Nikon’s i-TTL flash control system. You can easily achieve perfect exposure with every shot as operation is straight forward and easy.
- Compatible with Nikon FX and DX formats
- Versatile and portable speedlight
- Bounce lighting with tilt and rotation
- Works on camera and off camera
- Hot shoe mount or wireless control
Godox V860II-N i-TTL for Nikon
The Godox V860I N is my favorite budget priced TTL flash for Nikon portrait photographers. Do not let the relatively low cost fool you though, this Godox is a great performing flash. You get built in wireless control as well as a powerful guide number and a zoom range of 20-200mm. It is fully compatible with other Nikon brand speedlights allowing you to use on and off camera flashes at the same time. The recycle time is quick and you can get up to 650 full power flashes without issue. Fully compatible with Nikon TTL system and you get high speed sync, exposure lock and 2nd curtain sync. This flash is incredibly reliable and offers very flattering light perfect for portraits.
- Compatible with most modern Nikon DSLR cameras
- Features wireless triggering
- On camera and off camera functionality
- Compatible with Nikon TTL system
- High speed and 2nd curtain sync
- Fast recycle time
- Battery powered
No matter what camera you use, your portrait photography image quality can be dramatically improved with a top rated flash. Create flattering lighting both on camera or off camera with the best portrait flash picks.
For more portrait photography guides and tips read these articles