In studio photography, you want to kill ambient light completely. The light bulbs in your studio, or the light falling in through the window, should not affect the picture at all.
This is easy when using flash. 100 ISO, 1/125 second, f/8 and you’re all good. Ambient light: gone.
But when you are using hotlights, it’s not so simple—especially if you are using small, light, and affordable compact fluorescent lights. These are (by definition!) exactly as bright as a lightbulb. So now you need higher ISO, longer shutter, lower f-number… and now your lightbulbs do suddenly show up in the photos.
And that’s why most photographers use flashes.
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The Internet is a funny place. There’s so mamy opinions,. And everyone is an expert.
The problem is that you need no qualifications, so most of these opinions are just plain wrong. I have heard things like “the rear curtain setting gives you softer flash pictures”, “you need to use the zone system”, “you should never format a memory card”—and many other absurd statements.
So, my advice is, “beware”. Especially if it costs money. Do not buy “exposure courses”. Exposure is simple: if it is too dark, make it brighter; if it’s too bright, make it darker. And do not buy Lightroom presets, unless they are things you truly cannot do yourself. And so on. Buy courses only if you get a 100% money-back happiness guarantee.
And especially: when you read something on the Internet, research a little. Who is telling you? Research them. Are they are real photographer? Are they an expert in their field? Or are they Uncle Fred, or a teenager in his mother’s basement? Judge their answer based on this—then run it by another few people.
Or just take courses from reputable, proven speakers. That is also a time tested way of doing it.
Perhaps I can recommend my ebooks and my courses—but you be the judge. Caveat emptor, whatever you do.
That’s me, by a Sheridan College student last week. Standard four lights: key, fill, hair/edge, and background. All using speedlights with modifiers, namely umbrellas, snoot (for the hair light) and a grid (for the background light). Easy to set up, and easy to shoot.
Tomorrow, I will shoot a self portrait, and I recommend that you do, too, Self portraits are very good practice. They need you to have technical skills, as well as a feeling for personality and composition. Go wild!
A photo like this needs careful balancing: the TV, the room, and the outside.
- First, as always, set the ambient exposure. Set your camera to match the outside.
- See how the TV works with that. If not good, find a good point in between, where the TV looks good, even if the outside is a little bright, like here.
- Keep your shutter speed below 1/250 sec or 1/200 sec, depending on your camera.
- Now add flash; add the right amount to match the ambient exposure. Bounce the flash from a point behind you that gives equal brightness through the room.
And that’s all. Not that difficult if you approach it right!