I have preached over and over on my blog about how Flash can improve the colors in your photos.
Flambient is even a new term you will see in photography that was being done long before. This is where the photographer blends available light with Flash.
This is without a flash shot of birds on the bird feeder. I am shooting from one window of my house, and I put the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL in another window about 15+ feet away, creating a triangle between camera, subject, and light.
The hard part of doing this is balancing available light and the flash.
This, to me, is a little too much flash. What you choose to do will be part of your style and approach.
Tip Don’t Use TTL
TTL Flash works by the flash doing a pre-flash, and then the camera takes a picture with the second flash. I think you could risk startling the subject and affecting the one with the actual moment.
Another problem is you will drain your battery for a flash much quicker, with it taking two seconds every time you take a photo.
I think you dial in the best settings to take the photo without the flash and then add the sparkle. I suggest having the flash -1 EV of the location you have before.
Today was the first class of lighting I was teaching to the School of Photography at the University of Nations in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I asked one of the students to be my model.
Bethany is helping me as the model for the first assignment on Rembrandt lighting using just one light with a 10º grid on the Alienbees studio strobe.
The top photo is the first photo I took showing what the fluorescent room light looked like before we used lights.
Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/1.8, 1/250
The first thing I did was turn all the lights off in the room except for the modeling light that is on the Alienbees with a 10º grid on it. Then, rather than jumping into shooting with the strobes, I showed the class you could see what you are going to get with the strobes using the modeling light.
Here you can see the triangle on the cheek, which is the classic Rembrandt lighting with a little twist of me not shooting her looking straight on but slightly behind her.
To see the rest of the assignment, you can go to an older post that walks you through the Rembrandt light exercise. Here is that link
Before using flash, you need to see what you are trying to create.
In my last blog post, I explained three things that affect exposure when using flash.
Flash Power—The bright flash will influence if the picture is over, under, or properly exposed. You can control the Neewer flash from 1/128 to full power in 1/3 stop increments.
ƒ-stop/Aperture—You control how much of the light is coming into your camera by the camera iris called the aperture. These are fractions—the focal length of the lens over how wide the opening of the lens is.
Flash Distance to Subject—The closer you put the flash to the subject, the brighter the subject, and the further away you set it, the darker it gets. Of course, this assumes your Flash Power and ƒ-stop is constant.
TTL—Through The Lens
TTL metering has been around for a while with cameras. Your camera helps make the proper exposure settings based on what light hits the camera’s sensor. The TTL flash is a very sophisticated flash system that sends out a flash that tells the camera what to set the camera, and then the flash fires again, taking the photo at those settings. The first flash happens so fast that it looks like one flash went off to the human eye.
An incident meter is the most accurate way to take a reading for any photo. An incident reading is where you put the meter where the subject is located and take a reading of the light falling onto the subject. The white dome needs to be where the subject is to get an accurate reading.
Most incident meters have an available light setting and flash setting where you can measure the light.
TTL metering is a reflective reading. You are reading the light that bounces off the subject. If you take a reflective reading of a White Wall, an 18% Gray Wall and a Black Wall, all three photos will look like an 18% Gray Wall.
Using the settings, you get from the incident reading meter for all three walls will look like they should.
TTL Metering has a variable
As you can see, the TTL metering system has one major disadvantage of using a reflective reading to set the aperture, shutter, and ISO on your camera—the color and tone of the subject will influence the exposure and white balance, whereas the incident reading is consistent.
Incident vs. Reflective
If the situation allows you to use incident metering, you will get the most consistent results. However, there are situations where this is impractical.
At parties where you are moving around the room, getting an incident reading and then taking a photo may be impractical to get the “moment.” Roaming photos is where a flash with TTL can get you close on exposure and white balance. You may have to check the LCD for a histogram and adjust the EV of the camera and the flash. A histogram often is much more practical than incident reading.
The TTL will adjust pretty quickly when the subject moves toward you, like a person on a red carpet walking toward you. If you are shooting RAW, you most likely be close enough to fix it in post if necessary.
Most seasoned pros have TTL flashes, hot shoe flashes, and some studio strobes that are not TTL. In addition, most pros will have an incident flash meter to adjust the lights and camera.
If you do portraits in a studio setting, TTL flash isn’t necessary, but if you shoot pretty fluid situations, then the TTL system can help you get photos that may be impossible without them.
How can you go wrong with a fire-eating subject? If you miss the exposure, maybe, but if you get a well-exposed photo of something average and then something more dramatic, you get the idea of why start with a more exciting subject.
Look for things like this Luau in Kona, Hawaii, for example.
I photographed him for this Fire Knife dance at Truett’s Luau in Fayetteville, GA. So, you don’t always have to go to Hawaii to get your photo.
Later, I photographed the same guy the following day, but this was outside in the sunlight. This change in time and location should help you see how much a place and lighting can help a situation or not at all.
I think to improve your photos, don’t light everything when they turned off all the stage lights and let the fire dancer be the center stage so that the image is more dramatic than in the bright sunlight.
Without flash. Photo by Clara Kwon
With off-camera flash. Photo by Clara Kwon
In these two photos, you can see how Clara Kwon had no flash, and then adding sparkle helped to make the subject “pop.” She is not lighting everything, and the rest of the scene is slightly darker, making the subject stand out.
Remember to pick exciting subjects and try your best to put them in the best light.
These are examples of the student’s work from this past week on lighting that I taught in the School of Photography 1, which is part of Youth With A Mission’s University of the Nations campus in Kona, Hawaii.
This class was the first time most of the course used studio strobes.
Without flash — Photo by Andrea Klaussner
With flash — Photo by Andrea Klaussner
They learned how to use off-camera flash on location. The assignment required them to hand in one photo without a flash and one with it. Some of the student’s photos looked better without a flash, and sometimes you don’t need a flash.
Without flash — Photo by Lizz Busby
With flash — Photo by Lizz Busby
The bread and butter assignment for a photographer is the environmental portrait. Taking a poor lighting situation and improving it was the purpose of the assignment, as well as knowing how to make it.
The students took a baseline photo without a flash and below the sync speed for their camera. Then they made a flash reading setting the strobe to be one stop greater than the aperture reading without the flash. They then only changed the aperture to the great one-stop aperture that was the flash setting. They were also encouraged to see if more power from the flash was better for the photo.
1:3 Lighting Ratio Assignment
In an earlier blog post, you can see the students’ assignments. First, they needed the leading light [key] at 45º from the camera, with the model looking straight into the camera. We did this to help them see the shadow across the nose. They then had a fill light one stop less than the leading light.
They could use different backgrounds from White, Gray, or color.
Photo by Debbie Smit
Photo by Erik Wuesthoff
Photo by Keziah Khoo
Photo by Lizz Busby
Photo by Oo Shinoda
Photo by Melissa Kelsey
I think the students all did a great job, and in less than a week, each person had a potential of a couple of photos to add to their portfolios.
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12,800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400 — Flashes used (4) Alienbees B1600 with 11″ long throw reflectors with PocketWizard Plus II receivers and being triggered by the PocketWizard Mini TT1.
High Speed Flash vs No Flash
In the photo above I used a flash with an output just about the same output as the existing light.
This is the histogram for the above photo.
Nikon D4, 120-300mm, ISO 11,400, ƒ/2.8, 1/1000
Here is another photo where strobes were not used. I had to change to a faster lens and used a faster shutter speed.
This is the histogram for the second photo. There are two things I notice that are different. First of all the shadows in the available light photo have less information as compared to the photo using flash. Second the entire dynamic range appears greater with the flash, which results in less noise in the photo.
I wanted to just see what the Nikon D4 looked like at 25,600 without strobes. Here is that result. I am showing the same player so there is little variation as possible except for ISO.
Nikon D4, 120-300mm, ISO 25,600, ƒ/4, 1/1250
Here is the histogram for ISO 25,600
The ability of a camera to reproduce color accurately depends a great deal upon the color space with which the object is photographed. The dynamic range of color is the greatest with Daylight or 5500º Kelvin. As you move away from this color temperature to the sodium vapor lights in this gym that are 3700º Kelvin and then must add 27+ magenta to color correct this to get a neutral grey the color space actually shrinks. The dynamic range is less.
For the most accurate color if we had used only the strobes and no ambient light at all the color would have been the most accurate. Also, I could not have bounced the flashes off the ceiling, but would have to point them straight at the volleyball players. You see the flash that is bounced will have a color shift of whatever it bounces off. If the ceiling was red then there would be a red tent to the light.
Here is a photo of one of the four Alienbees B1600 with the 11″ long throw reflectors. You can also see the PocketWizard Plus II used to trigger the flash. I dialed down the flash output to 1/8 power. Again with todays full framed high ISO camera chips the results are quite acceptable and the flash is less disturbing to those in the room.
This is a wider shot of the room where you can see the results of all four strobes going off.
This is the histogram for the overall shot above.
Here is that same angle with no flashes.
This is the histogram for the available light photo.
One last comparison
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12,800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400 — Flashes used
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12,800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400 — No Flash
High Speed Flash Sync
You may have noticed that the flash shots were done with studio strobes and syncing faster than the 1/250 sync speed for the Nikon D4. How did I do that?
Here is an explanation from the PocketWizard website.
PocketWizard’s HyperSync™ feature throws x-sync out the window, allowing never before possible shutter speeds with full power flash – any full power flash. With some camera and flash combinations even 1/8000th second is possible. (Alienbees with the Nikon would only sync up to 1/400)
HyperSync is simply the ControlTL® system’s unique ability to adjust the timing of the flash burst so that you can use as much of the light output as possible as the shutter opening passes over your sensor. With the systems “through-the-shoe” communication, a ControlTL transmitter with HyperSync can automatically detect the camera type connected to it as well as the shutter speed. Read more …
I will often light a conference room when the ISO needs to stay low. A few years ago, I owned the Nikon D2X camera. With this camera, most people felt comfortable shooting up to ISO 800 with little noise, but above that was a concern.
While I could have shot these photos with the room light, you would have to consider a few things. First of all, mixed lighting. While the lights in the room with fluorescent, the room also had a large window where some daylight was spilling in.
The easiest solution for me was to overpower the room lights just a little and clean up the color.
I put the lights down to 1/8 power to ensure the flashes would make all fire. I didn’t want to put a radio remote on every morning. So I have a PocketWizard Plus II receiver on one light while triggering it with the PocketWizard Plus II transmitter. If I put the lights to the lowest setting, they do not always fire.
I was pleased overall with the results with g d skins tones and colors throughout the photo. The s was important because I wanted to show the diversity in the classroom, and if not careful, some of the people would have been just a silhouette rather than seeing the skin tones we do here.
This is one of my favorite photos that I have ever made. I think the model brought as much to this session as I did lighting her.
I love her hair, the turtle neck and her wonderful skin and smile.
Simplicity is what makes this work so well. You need to have the background far away from the soft boxes. There is easily 10 feet from the model to the background. So the amount of light hitting the subject drops off pretty quickly and what little light is hitting the background isn’t enough to register in the photo.
She is around f/8 on the Mamiya RZ 6×7 camera system. I was using a 100-200mm zoom lens and shooting with Provia 100 transparency film. I didn’t know how good it was until I got the film back from the lab a day or so later.
Sure I shot a test shot. I shot that with a Polaroid back using Fuji’s Polaroid film.
I love shooting in science labs. I enjoy learning what the scientists and engineers are working on and creating that will impact our lives in the years ahead.
Here I used two color gels to help communicated “science.” I used blue on the background and red on the foreground.
To get a gel to be the same color it is in the shot it needs to to -2 stops darker than the main light on the subject. So here the main is f/11 and the background blue is metering at f/5.6. The same for the foreground red at f/5.6.
You will notice the power for the blue is full power. The reason for this is the blue gel absorbs more of the light than red does.
The main light is a 30º grid on a monobloc. This is the keep the light from spilling over onto the red or blue and watering down the light.
This is what you see a lot of on ebay and other websites of people selling metal objects. My examples are using my Yamaha YTR-734 Silver Trumpet, which I pulled out and started playing again.
After cleaning it up I didn’t want to waste not preserving this for myself.
You would think just putting a metal object like this Silver Trumpet on a blue background and using two off the camera flashes at 45º angles (like copy stand) would give you perfect light. This is how this is lighted.
Here is the setup for the photo above.
I have two hotshoe Nikon Speedlights (1 SB900 & 1 SB800) lighting the trumpet. They are setup like a typical copy stand photo shoot. Works great for objects other than metal. Perfect for copying flat art work and books.
This is the same photo as above with just the room light and no flash.
This is the available light without the blue background
By removing the blue fabric the white table wrap the light around the metal and give it more shape.
My recommendation is Tent Lighting
Here I am using tent lighting. I pulled back the front panel so you could see inside.
When you wrap an object with light all around it you get much better results.
There are four flashes lighting this setup. Two Alienbees B1600 up in the ceiling pointing towards the back and two on umbrellas as you see here.
This is the setup with white seamless background.
I think you might do a better job of selling this trumpet on ebay with lighting like this than the light above.
Notice how in the bell the blue fabric is reflected. if you look really close you will see just a little black spec. This is the camera peaking thought the front panel.
Here the only difference in the above photo is using a blue fabric.
Somewhere in between?
Maybe you want something in between the top photo and light wrapped all around the object. Instead of tent lighting just use white foam board and cut it into different shapes. You can then put a black sheet out of the photo but blocking light. Then just place the strips of white foam board to place you want to add white verses the black. Slowly you can give different looks. Use different color foam board and you can add color to the reflections like the blue fabric is doing here, but just put it outside the view of the camera but in the reflection of the metal.
Rather than me showing you everything, go photograph something yourself and see what you come up with.
One of my favorite shots to do for organizations is doing what I call the “Walk and Talk.” This is where I have two or more people walk next to each other towards me.
I encourage them to barely feel each other next to each other. This keeps them from walking further and further from each other. The closeness to each other also helps communicate they are friends. This is using the body language of touching or almost touching to help communicate their relationship.
Now here are examples I did while teaching in Kona, Hawaii in February this year. These first ones I was showing the students how to use two hot shoe flashes as fill lights. I have included the assistant carrying the lights for these examples to show you what they are doing as well.
I am talking to the subjects and explaining what I want them to do. No flash went off here.
The photo assistant is carrying a Nikon SB900 and a Nikon SB800. They are zoomed out to 200mm for the SB900 and 120mm with the SB800. This helps the light go farther, but also keeps the light mainly on their faces.
Notice the assistant must be pretty close to the subjects for the flash to work properly. In addition to the flashes I am using the RadioPoppers PX system to help relay the infrared signal from the Nikon SU800 on my camera to the flashes.
We switched out the subjects so everyone could experience what it felt like doing this exercise and see it being done.
While showing the class how to use the hot shoe flashes there were a few times where I got ahead of the flashes recycling. By not waiting long enough between flashes (2 sec) the flash wouldn’t fire.
The MiniTT1 will let me shoot at 1/500 sync speed rather than just 1/250.
Now another thing you will notice that is different in these examples is how far away the photo assistant is from the subjects.
The AlienBee 1600 has the reflector that comes with them on it. So notice that the flash is lighting more of the subjects. I can change that by just adding a grid, but didn’t for these photos.
The flash is set at about 1/8 power. I can almost shoot on motor drive setting for these photos. The reason is the recycle time is so short.
When I shot these photos not a single time did the flash not fire. I think that when it comes to getting the best expression you need to be able to shoot at any moment and not just when your flashes are ready.
I would highly encourage using the studio strobe over the hot shoe flash for this reason alone.
Just like I did above, I talk to the subjects and do a few test shots before I have them walk towards me.
After we did some tests to get them moving I then had the start over where they are talking to one another.
As you can see it doesn’t take long for people to relax and the photos to look pretty natural. I would have changed one thing in these photos. I would have had the assistant put the light on a light stand and get the light up a little higher to help avoid the glare in the glasses.
This is just to show that the flashes fired every time.
Now look at the photos where the flashes didn’t fire. Besides there faces in the shade the color on their faces isn’t as good. I think that using flashes helps you get the best skins tones outside possible.
Go out and try this yourself.
Often when I am flying around the world it is easier to carry the Nikon SB900 and a Nikon SB800 than carrying the AlienBee 1600 and the Vagabond Mini Lithium battery. So, depending on the situation I find myself in I can still get the photo with either system.