Fashion flashin’

Sunday morning, around mid-day, in downtown Oakville I shot a fashion shot for a magazine front cover.

Outdoors fashion is, as always, a matter of many things coming together at once. One of those is light. Without light, even on a wonderful overcast day (wonderful in photo terms), the image lacks something. The mother and daughter models lack a certain je-ne-sais-quoi.

Actually I do know – they lack light:

Models in Oakville (Photo: Michael Willems)

So we add a flash. I used a Bowens 400 Ws strobe, although I could have used speedlights. The sequence is as follows:

  1. I set my camera to manual.
  2. I select 1/200th second and 100 ISO.
  3. That gave me, on this particular day, an aperture of f/5.6 for a nice saturated background. (To arrive at this, I can use my in-camera meter or my light meter set to ambient.)
  4. I now add the strobe, set it to 80% power about 6ft away, and test this with the meter (now set to flash mode). Well have you ever:  the meter immediately indicates f/5.6! (This is just experience. If you are less experienced, no worries – just turn the light up and down until you do read f/5.6).

That gives me:

Models in Oakville (Photo: Michael Willems)

If I want the background a little darker I change the speed to 1/250th (still in my flash sync range):

Models in Oakville (Photo: Michael Willems)

Okay, we are set. If the sun comes out a little more,  I go to 1/250th, and if it gets a tad darker I go to 1/160th.

The idea of this shot is autumn – so we now bring out the props. Autumn flowers and fruits and vegetables now gives us this:

Models in Oakville (Photo: Michael Willems)

Notice the speedlight with a blue-green gel as accent/hair light on our right? The speedlight was held by Kurt, who assisted on this shoot, and was set to 1/4 power (again – experience tells me that setting will probably work – and it did).

The final step is to make that an egg-yolk yellow gel instead of a blue-green gel – yellow accentuates the late day setting sun feeling that is synonymous with autumn. (I use Honl Photo gels).

Models in Oakville (Photo: Michael Willems)

And there we have the image. (In fact this is not quite the image – that one went to the client, and I do not like to publish images in this open forum before the customer has used them!). Also – note that these are shot a little wide since this is for a magazine front page, so there needs to be space for text.


  • Umbrellas and softboxes outdoors will be blown away, so hold on tight.
  • If the models move, use AF-C/AI Servo focus mode.
  • With two models, be very aware of the danger of blinking – one of them will blink in very many images, so check, and take many images.

The setup was as follows:

Fun shoot.

(And perhaps also, a shoot that explains why photography costs money: A car full of equipment, props that get used just once, two sets of clothing, and five people taking several hours. All this costs money!)


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