Always look on the bright side

When lighting skin, there’s one rule I go by: I light it brightly.

This student on my college course looks great and pretty:

But look what happens when I light her up 1.66 extra stops:

Her skin looks even better.

So when I use flash, I expose 1-2 stops over normal, by using flash exposure compensation when using TTL flash, or by increasing flash power, or by simply exposing more when using available light. You will see a lot of high-key images in my work:

Those are from a shoot I did today. One on camera flash, manual, 1/4 power, camera on 400 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/5. And one flash on my left, set at 1/32 power, aimed direct at the subject through a 1/4″ Honl photo grid.

Can you seen the effect of the individual flashes, and of exposing so brightly?

 

Evolution of a shot

How do we set up a shot with both ambient and flash light? Let’s look at one.

Let’s start like this:

That’s the studio setting: 1/125 sec, f/8, 200 ISO. Ambient light plays no role. That is the definition of the studio settings.

Is that what we want here? I would say no. We want to see the lamp!

So now, let’s mix in ambient light, shall we? We aim for –2 stops on the light meter. Here’s 400-40-4, which gets me very close:

That’s 400-40-4 (i.e. 400 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4): the “party setting”.

Much better, if we want that mix.

Now let’s open that curtain and take a look. Fortunately., the outside light and the lamp are in the same range, so I can set my camera for either of those. 400-40-4 will do it. If I had to choose, I would choose based on the lamp, the most important element.

Because I want no light spill from the flash into the rest of the room, I do not use an umbrella. Instead, I use a small Honl photo Traveller 8 softbox, held close to the subject. Here’s student Arsheen setting it up:

That gives me the final shots:

That mix of warm and flash light: beautiful. But that’s my taste: you can do your own, develop your own style. And that is what flash is all about.

 

Shoot

Last night I photographed a party. Let me take you through that: it is useful to see a real-life shoot as it unfolds.

This was a very quick, rushed shoot: hardly any time at all to set up.

I had two cameras:

  • 1Dx (full frame) with 16-35 lens;
  • 7D (crop camera)  with 24-70 lens.

That means effectively I had 16-35 and 35-105 mm available, i.e. 16-105 in one continuous range. So the lenses were taken care of.

Now the lights. Seeing the need for speed, I quickly set up two speedlights in umbrellas, fired by Pocketwizards. In this example only the one on the left fired:

The final pics look like this:

That’s simple: One umbrella left, one umbrella right. We are looking for competent lighting here, not art. I did not use a meter; just set the lights to 1/4 power and adjusted ny camera settings (ISO, aperture) to that.

Note the mom in the first shot. My shoot was hindered big time by all the moms taking iPhone shots. A trend more than ever before.

Then the rest of the shoot: the 16-35 with one on camera flash bounced against what walls there were.

Easy in some rooms, harder in the ballroom since it had a high, black ceiling. So I started at 400-40-4 modified to 800-40-4: i.e. a camera setting of 800 ISO, 1/40 sec, f/4. That extra stop comes in handy when you are bouncing off high or dark ceilings. Like here, in the middle of the ballroom

Sometimes, I switched to mood lighting: simply increase the shutter speed to darken the ambient light, and the aperture smaller (or lower flash compensation, when on TTL) if you also want less flash:

All in all, a competent shoot.

With some fun too: A panning shot., 1/30 sec and I follow:

The ghosting lends it an interesting effect; and the subject is sharp first because I am panning; second because she is lit mainly by my flash, which is 1/1000 second or faster.

I had just enough time to produce prints for the parents, on my little Selphy printer. All good.

And then quick post work an on to the next assignment!

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Want Michael to shoot your family event? He’ll quote a competitive price and deliver quality work quickly. See www.tolivetolove.com for details.

 

Aha Me A Riddle I Day

Not the Laura Love song, but a real riddle. What happened here?

My face is underexposed totally compared to the rest of the shoot, which was like this:

So there the sides of my face are well exposed. But then the photographer zoomed out, and we got the shot at the top. What gives?

If you do not know, let me give you a hint: we were using TTL.

If you still do not know, allow me to explain:

TTL is like “auto for flash”.

  • Auto flash exposure normally uses evaluative (“Matrix”) metering.
  • I.e. the screen is divided into little squares, dozens or hundreds of them, and each one is metered individually.
  • As soon as any of these little squares are overexposed, even one of them, the camera tries to fix that.
  • It does that by lowering the exposure. But you obviously cannot change just one part of the photo, so the entire exposure is lowered.
  • That’s the reason the picture at the top is underexposed: the flashes are visible, meaning a hot spot or two, and the camera “fixes” that by lowering the entire exposure (by using a lower flash power setting).

The fix: You can go to average metering. Or you can avoid hotspots like reflections or flashes.

That’s one of the little facts you learn if you take my flash course.

Are you aware that virtually all my courses are offered online as well? Live, one-on-one courses, like the one I just did today with a long-time reader from Melbourne, Australia:

If you go to this page and check the pull-down menu, you will see that you can even save money by doing it online. So wherever you are in the world, I would be delighted to do a one-on-one with you.

 

My must-have. My preciousssss….

I actually have many “preciousssses”. But this one is among the most precious. My lightstand/bracket/umbrella combo. This here:

This kit, which is just about glued to me, consists of:

  • A light stand.
  • On it, a bracket for mounting flash and umbrella.
  • A pocketwizard. (Plus one on the camera).
  • Cable from pocketwizard to flash (from Pocketwizard or from flashzebra.com).
  • A small flash, e.g. a 430EX/SB710, or any other flash. Any brand will do if I use “manual”. As long as you cam disable the timeout and set the power level manually.
  • Umbrella. Shoot through as well as shoot into (i.e. removable cover).

It folds into a very small package, and often, it’s all I need. Since I know how to mix ambient and flash, that umbrella allows me to do so much. Including this:

Oh, and a student spotted me and took this photo, of the exact flash stand used for that shot:

 

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Want to learn? I do remote training over the Internet, using Google Hangouts, so you can now do my courses wherever you are in the world. Better still, for a limited time, it’s cheaper than here, in person. See learning.photography to order now.