Outdoors light, or, Umbrella RIP

I shot some model shots outdoors today, in very difficult conditions. Outdoors in varying light: often, ouch, direct bright sunlight. And very windy – up to 95 km/h gusts – which means a light stand with an umbrella, which after all is like a sail, gets blown over constantly.

And outdoors on a bright day you need a flash, and preferably a modifier like an umbrella or a softbox.

That gets you well-lit shots without horrible shadows. Shots like this one of today of my model Kim (from my Tumblr site):

What is the challenge outside?

  • You want to expose the background right – you want to make it dark to bring out saturated colours and to make your subject the “bright pixels”.
  • That means low ISO, fast shutter, and high F-number.
  • But you cannot exceed a low speed like 1/200th of a second (your maximum “flash sync speed”)…
  • And low ISO and high F-number reduce the effective power of the flash…
  • …so for flash you would ideally like high ISO and low F-number, since your flash needs to be powerful to “compete with the sun”!

That is why you need a large flash, like a battery powered studio strobe. So using a speedlight can be a challenge.

And yet, I managed, as you see. Partly by holding the umbrella close to the model. And by tuning all the variables just right. The umbrella did die, RIP; but it was worth it for the shoot. Yes, you can do it with a simple off-camera TTL speedlight!


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