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In the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and Strobist blog publisher David Hobby demonstrates how to use compact flash units in a variety of lighting scenarios. In this first installment, he covers the basics, starting with ambient window light and ending with a four-light shoot of a model. Along the way, the course covers a variety of fundamental lighting concepts as well as accessories such as ring lights and softboxes. The course includes diagrams and detailed explanations of the lighting setups.
All right, so what I have done is I have kept that same light on the 45s for Ramona and I have set up a flash and an umbrella. This is the first typical portrait light that you might think about using. It's very inexpensive. It makes your light really nice and soft. You can bring it in close. And I am going to meter her, and I am going to set this flash up to where it sort of overpowers this daylight, to where the flash is sort of the only light that we have, which is to say I am not going to take into account this layer that we have been working with. I am going to grab your hair just a second, just trying to walk up that way.
Amy's like "No, no. Don't touch the makeup!" So maybe a little ironic: up to this point we haven't used the flash. But think of the ambient light as it exists as a light source that you can manipulate. You don't have to have a knee-jerk reaction to always pull out flash, whereas if you are going to think of that ambient light as a light source that you can manipulate, you will also think of it as your first light source when you are lighting. So everything that you can do to better understand ambient light, or available light, it's going to help you when you start to add that as a layer to flash lighting.
So I am going to make this flash fairly powerful. Seem what's it at now? It says 1/16th power, I am just going to take it up to roughly a quarter power. So it's not quite powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage or anything on Ramona, but it's reasonable amount of power. And I am just going to check my light and see how much of it there is. I have got a little flash that's going to be on camera that is dialed down so far it's not going to affect anything, and in fact I am sending it back into the ceiling. All I am doing is setting off my other SP 800 with a built-in slave.
So, let's see how that's going to work. See that's going to work. Here we go. Let's see how bright you are. That's giving me F9 and that's plenty, plenty of aperture. In fact, I am going to go down three, so it's just below. I am going to just above 56, going to F71. So it's telling me F9 at ISO 400. I am going to go down to 200 and make that F7.1. So at a 250th of a second--another thing to think about. Oh no, 6.3 sorry.
So one step above of 56. I am shooting at a 250th of a second because I want to take the ambient light out for a minute. I want to just use flash, and then we will start adding those two things together. I should be fairly close on my exposure. I don't know if this is the right light position for Ramona. It's just kind of a relatively safe light position. I will move this around just a little bit. I am probably blocking you guys back there. But all right, if you could look right here, that's good. That's a very clean, very nice exposure. I can absolutely work with that. What I am getting now is all my light is coming from here. There's some light hitting the backdrop. There is a probably a little fill bouncing off this white wall, but I can live with that.
I'm getting nice soft light on her face, but I am also getting a nice highlight off of her hair coming right back at me. Let's see, pull this up. Just grab a couple more. Okay, right here looks good. Turn your chin a little more towards this light or let me walk the light around. There we go. Good, good. Right down here just a tad if you would, good. I want to take a second to talk about umbrellas, because I have got a love-hate relationship with them. What I love about them is that they're safe and they are easy to use, and when I say safe I don't mean I am going to poke myself in the eye; I mean they are safe in terms of the way they light people.
They are cheap, they are easy to carry around, and I spend a lot of time lighting people with umbrellas, and you probably will too if you're just starting out doing this. The downside is they are safe because they start to make people look a lot the same. If you are just always throwing an umbrella up at 45 degrees up and 45 degrees over, your picture is going to look very similar to each other a lot of the time. So that's not necessarily a good thing. So as quickly as you can start to master an umbrella and move past it as a main light source from a typical position, start thinking about it in different places and we will explore that a little bit. We will have the umbrella right behind the camera to use it sort of as a giant ring light. We will float it right over Ramona's head at some point to give it kind of a cool dramatic top light.
The umbrella can do lots of cool things other than just being used the way it's being used right now. So what I want to do now that we have taken just a couple of shots with this umbrella giving all of the light and all of the power is I am going to walk the shutter speed up, and what you are going to see is the fill light, which is coming from this window right behind me, is going to start become more and more of an influence on the picture. I may need to go to a tripod here, maybe not. Let me take this down one stop. I don't want to be getting into one-second shutter speed land or anything like that.
So there, go back up a stop on my ISO, and I should be close. I am so close. Oh, that's a nice expression. Didn't know I was going to shoot from the hip. Ramona: No, I didn't know. David: Grr, I am not ready. All right, let's, we are at a 250th of a second, and at 6.3, this flash is on about 1/8th power. This is all middle-of-the-road stuff. So let me shoot a few, and then we are going to walk the shutter speed up. See how far am I going to have to get before this starts to--oh no, this is going to work well. Okay, so at a 250th of a second, I am just going to shoot and then take a break and shoot.
I am going to take a sequence of pictures, so you don't need to do anything. This is just, let's look at the light sort of a thing. I like the way you are looking right now too, so let's go ahead and put a shot of the flash in there so Dave can find that later. Okay, so here we are, at a 250th of a second, and that is all flash. I am going to open up to 56, because she is a little dark at a 250th of a second. Okay, now I have got a good frame. So just give me a nice natural straight expression just like that. That's good. Now don't move.
Okay, 200th, 160th, 125th, and now what you are going to start to see is that ambient light coming in, 100th, 80th, 60th. And I am not even seeing the back of the ship. Hopefully we are seeing an ambient fill happening, 40th, 30th, 25th, and now the ambient light is just completely blowing her out. But if I come back and look at this, I can see that fill just magically start to happen.
The first thing that it does is start to fill the shadows in on her face, but then it starts to come in and overpower the background too, and that's telling me my ratio has gotten up too high. But I am using one light, but I have actually got two lights working together, and by altering the shutter speed, I am controlling just this ambient light as a function of the fill. Ann is nodding in the back, like yeah, yeah, I get it. So what we have is the ability to easily make different lighting ratios just by how we open the shutter speed to collect that ambient light. Remember, the flash happens instantaneously, so all it cares is about the aperture.
The shutter speed cares about how long the shutter is open, or the light, the ambient light, cares about how long the shutter is open. So a one-second exposure with that flash is going to look different than a 250th-of-a- second exposure with that flash. Let me see where you started to look best here. That's pretty clean. So at a 200th of a second, she actually starts looking fairly even at about a 125th of a second, which is to say that the light coming from the flash is about as bright as the light coming from the window in the complete exposure. And you have to remember, every time you are pushing the button you are making two separate exposures.
One is happening instantaneously and the other one's happening as the ambient light builds up. So by controlling the shutter speed you control the balance between those two exposures. So what I've got now is classic key light coming from the left and fill light coming from her right. I don't necessarily like that, because when they start balancing out, they don't balance out in a great way, which is to say the lights are coming at each other from opposing directions, you can get cross shadows, so let's take just what we are doing now and move the fill light right around behind us. So we are going to go right back to shooting on this axis.
We are going to put the umbrella on the side of Ramona, and then we are going to let the fill light build in from right behind the camera.
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