So, this little drop is about using flash on location (a very cool location) with a subject and a vista for your background. Adding drama to your photos can be very difficult sometimes, especially when you have a mixture of light and shadows and weather. With a few little extra items in your camera-sack you can really beef up the quality of your photos.
What you will need:
- Camera (duh!) – I use a Canon 5D mark II.
- Lens with nice quality -I use a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L. You can use a zoom-lens, I’m not against, I just have primes in this case – I think that prime lenses have nice details and often are super Bokelicious! But forget it here, as I used f/8 so anything will really do :).
- Flash(es) – You can use one, like I have here in the photo-examples. Sometimes one will pass well, just to give your subject lift – but more on that later.
- Radio-Triggers – are not necessary if your camera has a triggering system by IR (infra-red trigger), but my camera doesn’t supply so I use cheapy triggers by Pixel – nothing special, but have worked well for the last 4 years for these types of missions. Costed me around $120AUD for a trigger and 2x receivers. Not bad!
- Tripod/light stand/ magic-arm with clamp – are handy and give you height above your flash-foot that is supplied with most strobies.
- Your subject – a pretty lady often works well. 😉
Here you have a little behind the scenes here above. The flash is attached to the magic-clamp on the railing and can be positioned easily, giving space to your subject and direct light where you want it. You can use a light stand or even your tripod, however, I like to use the arm as you can get a little more versatility where the stand can’t.
As you can see, the flash is rigged up with the receiver which is just a basic hot-shoe – no need for pesky cables.
Setting up you subject, light, camera and yourself for the shooting. Generally you only have a 10 minute space of freedom, even less in tourist locations. We had quite a few interruptions and sometimes it can be a little intimidating for your subject when shooting in public spaces. So be aware of this and be respectful to your subject – they are human, too!
Set up your scene and subject first and talk through what you are trying to achieve – I find this to be best – and work with your subject and ask them if they have any suggestions to add flavour to your photos. Most of the time it is a 50/50 effort on both sides – as they see things you don’t and vice-versa. You are trying to get the best shot possible and that everyone is happy at the end of the shoot. If not, just be happy you got in the practice – it is all about the experience.
As a professional I always make mistakes and in search of the new. I find it to be often the most enjoyable moments of my work/passion and sometimes you get a nice picture from a mistake.
Next, set up your flash(es) and choose which one is going to be your key light, if you chose to use two. When you have a bright sunny day, you are probably going to set the flash to full power. Be aware, if you are using normal batteries, your flash on full-gas will not recycle so fast and you will have a limited number before they drain. **Take backups, like a 20-pack**
Lucky for me I had a cloudy day. So I just set my flash to 1/4 power and located it about 2 1/2 meters away form my subject, pointed at the upper body/face. You might need to take a few test shots if you don’t have a light-meter (this time I didn’t bring mine! Shame :P) just to get the subject to background balanced.
Next/during is the camera set up. I have in this scenario shot at f/8, as I found that I have enough detail in the background and my subject falls nicely in the frame/picture, plus I can get a nice balance of light from my flash and natural light. Also, I shot at the maximum shutter speed of 1/200 sec – slower would make my background lighter and I don’t have the luxury of high-speed-sync-flash, but I don’t need it here anyway. And I have my ISO set to around 400 and a Polarized filter attached to the lens, which drops the light intake down by a stop of light. That is why I popped up the ISO to 400, where I would normally use ISO 50 <-> 200.
So, a summary of what is set:
Camera: ISO 400, f/8 (Aperture , 1/200 (shutter speed), CP-L Filter (-1 stop of light), RAW picture Quality.
Flash: 2 <-> 3 meter from subject, 1/4 Power.
Now the setting are set, and it should only take around 3 minutes to set up with test shots. You are now ready to get creative!
As I have a prime lens (fixed focal length) of 35mm, I have to physically move myself around my subject, checking out different perspectives: close, far, under, over, etc. This way your light will stay the same (if your flash doesn’t run out of juice) which leaves the creativity to full focus! As you can see from the examples above, it is just a matter of re-framing and keeping focus on your subject – generally it is good to focus on the eyes, as that is the focus point on portraits (mostly).
Also, shoot in RAW, as that is the best way to get the most out of your photo when you send it to the machine for processing. It is nice to have more control. If you shoot JPG, or compressed photos files, you lose that versatility of being able to control your colours, exposure and other options only available with your RAW files.
You can even take a selfy with your settings and expect that your light exposure will be spot on!
As for changing the your F-Stop to blur out your background and focus your subject more, you can and will have to adjust all of your settings. You can open up your lens to f/4 or f/2.8 or f/1.4 (if you have honour to use such nice glass), but be aware of how light it is outside! This means there is more light coming in to your camera.
Drop down you ISO, if the internal light meter is over 2+ on the scale. Low or 50 ISO is pretty normal and makes sense. If there is still too much light outside, you will have to attach a ND filter of 6 or 8, or more depending on the natural light. The ND filter helps you to open up your lens and blur out that background.
Also, you will have to play around with your flash power. Sometimes you can leave it the same, but that also depends – it can be tricky to shoot wide open in the day without the right filters, but with a bit of mucking around you can tackle the physics and get your shot. My example is just the easiest way to shoot with flash outside on a cloudy day!
So, after your shoot you should feel like you on top of the world with your photos and are ready to celebrate! Just like Anni right here on top of Tirol, 3,210m high!
Løre Danger, Tirol Austria, 2017.