Here’s why you use proper lighting – with flash used for many outdoor shot too.

Say I shoot talented new model Anastasia outdoors using available light:

That is well exposed – but poorly lit. Even on an overcast day, there are shadows; no catch lights: not a great shot.

So now I do it again, with a big flash (a Bowens 400 Ws) with a softbox. I set the flash manually, using a light meter, as follows:

  1. First I meter, using the ambient light meter, for ambient light. I read, say, 1/100th second at f/8 at 100 ISO.
  2. I want the background to be darker than what I will light (remember Willem’s Dictum: “Bright Pixels Are Sharp Pixels”), so I actually set exposure to 1/250th second (still at f/8 at 100 ISO).
  3. I now switch the meter to flash meter mode. I set it to 100 ISO and 1/250th, and fire a test flash while holding the meter in the exact place the model will be. I adjust the flash level until the meter reads f/8.

That gives me this:

I think you will probably agree that this is a much better shot. And the procedure is simple. On an overcast day you can use speedlights too, if you prefer.


8 thoughts on “Lighting

  1. With the flash and a slightly higher camera angle, she almost looks like a different person!

    Michael, what is a goos low cost flash meter?


  2. This is just like every other before- and after shots i’ve seen. In the first picture she is just standing there and composition is severely lacking.

    I do get your point though 🙂

  3. So, Michael, in the end, your camera is shooting at f/8 and 1/250th?

    You’ve underexposed the background 2 stops?

    Am I getting this right?

  4. Great post

    When you were metering ambient light, was the light meter where you were or where the model was?

    Many thanks

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