I know how it is; you want to spruce up the lighting in your portraits but don’t have the bucks to spend on fancy-schmancy gear. Below are some ideas you can try and feel free to add some of your own!
#1 Get an assistant to carry a flash powered light box: place about 3-4m from subject, but at a creative angle, like about head height but out of frame off to the side. This may be enough to fill in, and avoid the chintzy dime-store flash look. It can be as simple as a stiff cardboard box, lined with foil on the inside, and cover with light-weight fusion material on front. Also the large diffusion area is less blinding for subjects -maybe approx 1m square (100x100cm). Better yet, 2 light boxes with assistants, and delegate to them the angles and such, just give them some general guide-lines.
#2 Have an assistant carry a large white reflective surface. This is great for shady areas outdoors -like under a tree, or awning. The assistant catches the sun’s rays, and reflects them softly toward the subject, but at an off-angle -try about 45º from camera-subject line, and about head height. You can use a large 1 x 2 meter piece of snow-white poster board, and glue to a Styrofoam backing. The Styrofoam backing is used in commercial P.O.P. presentations, I recommend about 1″ thick. You can also take advantage of your windshield sun shade, using the gold or silver sides to reflect light into your subject.
#3 One of the easiest things is to use a sturdy monopod. I got the idea observing sports photographers. Typically, with a portrait focal length, a monopod will give you an edge of 1-2 stops, or shutter speeds. In most cases that’s enough utilize existing light. They are less awkward than a full tripod, but do have limits. Look for the nicer monopods, such as the manfrotto,with a spring-loaded foot pedal are best to control the lateral pan movement.
#4 Check out those old-fashioned ’60s huge aluminum parabolic strobe flash reflectors! You can also stretch out diffusion film over the front, such as old nylons or white fabric. Throw in some light weight grips and a tripod mount and you’re all set!!!
These are fairly easy ways to achieve superior results. You need to keep trying, experimenting, innovating to get an edge over the competition.