Improve your Flash photos by not lighting everything

How do you get this result? [Figure 1]
When this is where you started? [Figure 2] Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/500 on Matrix metering.
Maybe you want the light on even less of the face like this. [Figure 3]

I started this photo shoot with figure 2. I started with a back lighted subject. Most all the light is on the background and the subject is in the shade.

This is the setup.  I used a fill flash on my Nikon P7000 to take this photo.  If you look behind the model you can see the shadow from the house and see how all the sunlight is hitting the background. Nikon SB900 on light stand with Radio Poppers PX helping be sure the signal from the Nikon SU800 is not lost outside in all the sunlight.

I suggest doing this assignment yourself and take some notes just to be sure you are remembering all your settings.  While the Nikon will capture the camera settings it doesn’t show the SB900 settings in the embedded information, only that it was used.

Shoot all these combinations and you will have 16 different photos to compare the results.  Add + series and you would have 28 total different ones to look through and compare.  
As you can see in these shots the background is consistent through each series and the skin tone gets brighter and darker due to the flash changing while the Camera setting stays the same.  You then change the camera setting and re-shoot the series with the flash.

Here you can see me changing just the camera settings on the Nikon D3. The ISO stays the same. The aperture stays the same and by dialing this under the shutter speed will change automatically because I am using the exposure compensation to change it. Had I chosen to shoot this in Shutter Priority and not Aperture Priority the Aperture would change from each setting instead of the Shutter Speed.

Since the flash is off camera and I am using the Nikon SU-800 to control the flash, I am changing the SU-800 and not the SB-900.  Here is what those changes will look like.

You can continue to go through to the -1, -2, -3 respectfully to get more combinations.  The reason I am only changing A and not B or C is the Nikon SB-900 is set to Channel 1 Letter A.

Camera setting at 0 and the flash is set to -3.  Also the Flash is zoomed to 200 so I am just lighting her face and not the outfit. [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/1000]
Camera -1, Flash 0 [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/2000]
Camera -3, Flash +3 [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/8000]

Now let’s back up and talk about the Zoom on the Nikon SB-900 flash.  The next three images are all shot with the Camera at 0 and the Flash at 0, but I am zooming the flash all the way as wide as it will go at 17mm to 35mm and finally at 85mm.

Zoom at 17mm [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/1000]
Zoom 35mm [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/800]
Zoom 85mm [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/800]

When you push the shutter you can never see it happen, but the Nikon Speed light system fires a pre-flash to set the exposure and then fires the flash.  Now remember the camera is set to Aperture priority and the camera is in matrix metering mode trying to figure all this out for you.  When the flash was at 17mm the light from the flash is falling on the model’s black robe and the camera wants to make it darker and thus shortens the shutter speed to 1/1000.  When the flash is just hitting the face with the 35mm and the 85mm zoom setting then it is at 1/800 shutter speed.

I mention this to say when you are in TTL mode shooting in some form of auto there are variances due to each scene.  This is why you want to shoot this type of test before you shoot a real job.  Just change the model’s shirt to white and everything will change again.

Let’s mix it up a little more by adding a snoot to the SB900.

I am using the LumiQuest snoot on the Nikon SB-900.  This narrows down the light to an even smaller spotlight.
I didn’t move the flash or camera, but the model moved ever so slightly in these two examples.  This is where you can use the Depth-of-Field preview button to have the flash fire a continuous light that you can see where it is hitting the subject.  I can tell you from experience that you don’t want to do this a lot without letting the flash cool down between doing this.  I burned out the tube and had to have Nikon repair it.  Use this sparingly. [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/5000] 

I pushed the depth-of-field preview button and then had the model stay still to get the light where I wanted it. [Nikon D3, 85mm, f/1.4, ISO 200, 1/5000] 
As you can see everything is the same as without the snoot in the setup.  By using the snoot the exposure changed a great deal even tho I am only having the Camera at -3 and the Flash at +3

SWPJC 2-Minute Show

This is the 20th Annual Southwestern Photojournalism Conference this week in Fort Worth, Texas.  You can read more about it here

One of the highlights through the years is the “2-minute shows.”

Everyone’s got something to say, but can you say it in two minutes? We’d like to give you the chance to take the stage and share your vision in 120 seconds. That’s right, you’ve got just 2 minutes be it in photos (limit of six) or multimedia.

[youtube]This year I am using my 2-Minute Show to invite folks to Tibet with me. I would love some feedback. Give me your comments below.

We normally start at Billy Bob’s at the Fort Worth Stockyards on Thursday night with the students shooting the dancers.

I enjoy seeing my good friend Morris Abernathy each year.

Anke enjoys her friend Ashley Veneman

Louis Deluca and Garret Hubbard.  This year Garret is a keynote speaker. 

Bill Bangham as you can see is a CLOSE personal friend.  He has a show hanging in Richmond, Virginia.

Jim Veneman is the driver of the SWPJC Bus.  He helps keep us on time.

Louis Deluca, Morris Abernathy and Jim Morris are up to something as always here in the Stockyards.

OK this was the moment I decided I wanted a Nikon P7000.  Jim Veneman looked like he had left his cameras at home and then out of no where he pulls this out. 

Gary & Vivian Chapman talk with Kevin Vandivier

Garrett Hubbard is just a great guy and loves to help others by reviewing their work at the conference.

This was one of my past slide shows at the conference.  I liked it enough to keep it on my website. 
You may not be coming to Fort Worth, but take the time to create your 2-Minute Show and see if you can WOW us with your work and tell a story in the process.