Cast of thousands

OK… cast of three. Three photographers, namely my friend Howard, his friend and fellow photographer, and myself, is what it takes to quickly do portraits in the sun. As we did today.

Here’s the setup:

Camera Settings—The camera is set to Manual mode, as follows:

  • ISO 100. Always use this value, in bright sunlight.
  • 1/250 sec. Always use this value, in bright sunlight. (Or whatever fastest shutter speed your camera can handle when using flash)
  • And the adjustable value is the aperture… to get the right saturated (i.e. darker) sky etc I set it to f/10.

The flash is a studio strobe with a battery kit; fitted with a softbox. It is 45 degrees above the subject, off to one side. It is fired via Pocketwizards and adjusted manually to match the f/10 value. A sandbag stops it from toppling over, which otherwise it would, in the slightest breeze.

Using A Scrim—A scrim (a reflector without the cover, making it a translucent area that lets through light but softens it) is used to stop direct light falling onto the subject. Look at these two: first without scrim, then with.

Look at the face and neck, and now look at face and neck in the “with scrim” sample:

Need I say more?

Why I Used Flash—if I had not used a flash, I would have needed three stops more light, and the picture would have looked washed out—the snapshot aesthetic:

It’s not bad, but it’s not great. My style is very different:

With a few minor adjustments to the flash direction:

And there you have it. Straight out of camera, a nice portrait. And one more for good measure:

Mission accomplished: nice portraits made, portraits that reflect the subjects’ great, happy personality and as an extra, their excellent dress– and colour–sense. And portraits that elicit a “wow”, and that do not look like Uncle Fred’s work. And it’s all done in camera, not in Photoshop/Lightroom.


You can learn this stuff too—see and contact me to set up a training date.