If you want to take portraits like mine outdoors, like the one below, in conditions of bright sunlight, what do you need?
After the click, I shall outline it all for you. Good news: it’s not expensive.
As you know by now, if the sun is out, you get pictures like this (and what else I am wearing in these pictures I will leave to you to decide):
Not terrible, but also not very very creative. The background looks washed out – “washed out” meaning “overexposed and hence lacking saturation”.
So we expose less? Yes – by a couple of stops – but then we get this:
Nice background – look at the trees and the sky, which is actually blue now – but the foreground is dark.
So you put the subject in the sun? No. Sunlight is harsh, and makes people squint as well. So instead, you use a flash. In this case, a big one, battery powered:
Combine this with the dark exposure above, and now we get what we came for:
Good! So what do we need?
- An off-camera flash (small speedlight or large strobe, like I used here).
- A way to fire this (a cable, or two Pocketwizards, or light-fired TTL if it is a speedlight).
- A modifier – am umbrella being the cheapest, or a softbox.
- A light stand with a bracket to mount the flash and modifier.
- When using strobes, ideally also a flash meter.
When do you use a big light, a strobe?
- When you need a lot of light, like on a fully sunny day
- or when there is distance between your flash and the subject
- or when the modifier eats up a lot of light
- or when you want extra darkness in the background.
When do you use a small flash, a speedlight?
- When you do not have a power source (battery or wall outlet)
- When you do not want to carry heavy stuff
- When your modifier will not eat much light
- When you do not have to shoot in bright sun
- When you do not need darker backgrounds.
So what was I using in that shoot?
- Camera, Canon 1Ds Mk3.
- A 24-70 lens.
- Bowens 400 Ws light on stand.
- Bowens softbox.
- Battery travel kit (controller plus battery) to power the light.
- Battery power cable.
- Two Pocketwizards (one on camera, one connected to flash).
- A cable from Pocketwizard to strobe.
- Light meter (Sekonic flash meter) to ace the exposure.
Not complicated – and often I do it with speedlights, as in the shot at the very top.
I encourage you to learn this stuff. I am teaching ta Vistek (dates soon) and at the Niagara School in august, as well as privately – a few hours with me, and you’ll be able to produce great artistically lit images. Go for it!