Retro Direct Flash Portraits – Sony RX1RII + Godox Lux Junior


Today, I’m gonna show you how to shoot and edit a photo to achieve that retro flash look in your portraits. You can also download my free preset that I’ll use to edit the image, but I’ll walk you through the editing process from scratch in the video so you can understand how to achieve and tweak this effect in Lightroom.

Behind the Scenes in Iceland

This impromptu photoshoot took place in Iceland at the stunning Panorama Glass Lodge. It’s a surreal environment with a glass building and the raw Icelandic landscape in the background, making it the perfect setting for some retro portraits. This look has become quite popular among wedding photographers, and I occasionally use it to add a unique touch to the wedding day gallery.

What You Need

For this photoshoot, I used the compact Sony RX1R II with a Godox Lux Junior flash. It features a 35mm lens, which is perfect for this style. However, you don’t need a specific camera—any camera with a flash or the option to mount a flash will work. Even a compact camera like the Sony RX100 or an older APS-C camera will do. The key is to have a focal length between 28mm and 40mm and a flash (either built-in or mounted). Manual settings are preferred to control the camera and flash effectively.

Camera Settings

The secret to achieving this look lies in unbalanced exposure. For example, in the featured photo, the background is dark while the flash is harsh, making it clear that this is flash photography. To achieve this, set your camera to underexpose the image without the flash first. Then, turn on the flash, set it to manual, and adjust the flash power to your liking. For this effect, the more unnatural and harsh the flash, the better. This makes sense when you apply the specific edit in Lightroom.

Flash Basics and Mastery

If you’re not familiar with flash photography, check out my free flash lesson. For those who want to master flash photography, consider my full FLASH MAGIC course. Also, if you’re interested in joining me in Iceland, I have two spots left for my “It’s a Kind of Magic” retreat. Four nights in an even more epic lodge, two days of shooting, one day exploring Iceland, and five masterclasses—it’s going to be epic!

Achieving the Retro Look

For these images, I used a high f-stop (from 5.6 up) to mimic the look of retro cameras, which typically didn’t have a very shallow depth of field. Embrace imperfections—don’t stress about out-of-focus moments or candid shots. This style is all about capturing the feeling and emotions in the photos.

Editing in Lightroom

Now, let’s dive into the edit. The key tool in Lightroom for creating or recreating this retro look is the curves tool. We’ll edit this picture entirely with curves to achieve that perfect retro flash effect.

Watch the video to see how I edited the image and don’t forget to download FREE preset here.