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Changing the position of the key light


From:

Lighting with Flash: Basics

with David Hobby

Video: Changing the position of the key light

All right! So we have switched up now. We have got the keylight coming in from the classic position, up and off to the side. The fill light is now coming from right behind me. Remember, this keylight is daylight-colored, and this fill light is a little bluish because it's in the shade. It's a little bit of something we'll have to deal with, but I am okay with that for a second. The exposure for her, for the flash on her face, is, what are we at? F6.3 at ISO 400. I got that. I am using a flash meter today, which is not a normal thing for me, but I want to be able to quantify, later, the differences in the light ratios between lights that we are talking about, so it's something that you will be able to set up and repeat if you like.
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Watch the Online Video Course Lighting with Flash: Basics
1h 50m Appropriate for all May 10, 2013

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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.

Topics include:
  • Starting with window light
  • Adding a flash and umbrella
  • Using multiple strobes
  • Layering and creating a cone of light
  • Creating classic ring light glamour
Subject:
Photography
Author:
David Hobby

Changing the position of the key light

All right! So we have switched up now. We have got the keylight coming in from the classic position, up and off to the side. The fill light is now coming from right behind me. Remember, this keylight is daylight-colored, and this fill light is a little bluish because it's in the shade. It's a little bit of something we'll have to deal with, but I am okay with that for a second. The exposure for her, for the flash on her face, is, what are we at? F6.3 at ISO 400. I got that. I am using a flash meter today, which is not a normal thing for me, but I want to be able to quantify, later, the differences in the light ratios between lights that we are talking about, so it's something that you will be able to set up and repeat if you like.

What I typically do is to build my fill light first, dial it down to where my fill light looks exactly the way I want it to look, and then add my keylight, and I do it all by eyeball, because you've got the little, the digital image on the back. You can't really trust your picture for tonal densities. You are mostly looking at the relationships between the lights that you are adding. You want to look at your histogram to make sure you are not falling off the bottom or the top, as far as your files being pushed too low or too high. Don't trust your eyes for absolute numbers. Trust a histogram for absolute numbers. Trust your eye for the relationships between the tones.

So this is going to be an all-flash picture at first. And I like that look, I like that little head tilt thing you just did. When I turn around and don't talk to you, you found all these like really cool poses, so I am trying to grab those when I can. So here we are, at a 250th 6.3, so I am completely taking this window out because I am shooting so far, I am working so far above that lighting exposure that it's really not going to become an issue. Okay, here we are. So this is all flash, and this light is really wrapping around in a cool way. Now, in fact, I am going to bring that in a little bit closer, even. You are fine. Don't back way. It's okay, it won't hurt you.

I made it a little brighter, but I think that's good anyway. Look right here, if you would. Even a smallish umbrella like this, if you bring it in very close, it's going to be seen as a very big light source by someone's face. Even so, I am going to be getting a nice wrap from this, The shadow side of Ramona's face is almost completely, black because she has got nothing contributing to that part of the exposure. So when we start to walk up the shutter speed, going from a 250th of a second to a 200th, 160th, maybe a 125th, a 60th of a second, this window, this fill light that's coming from the front will become more of an influence on the exposure.

So let's walk this up the same way we did before. I'm going to shoot a picture of the flash, just so we have it as a reference. Don't move; stay just like that. So here we are, a a 250th, 200th. I've got a blank node. I didn't--160th, 125th, and just now the window is just starting to creep in, 100th, 80th, and now I am filling in that shadow on a 60th of a second, and the shadows are really starting to come alive.

50th, 40th, and 30th, if I can hold it still. There we go, little more. Try that again. Okay so I grabbed 3 at a 30th. Now what you see is that fill comes in but it doesn't have its own direction because it's coming in on the same axis that I am shooting on. This is something that took me 20 years to figure out how useful this is, because you can add in fill without altering the apparent direction of the light source. If I add my fill in from over here and I start bringing it up, that fill is going to create a secondary shadow going in an opposite direction from the keylight, which just looks like unnatural to people.

It looks like lit in a bad 1970s kind of a way too. So my thinking is, if I can build fill that comes from straight on the camera and reveals content without adding its own directional light source, then that allows me to be very picky and even very edgy with the light source that I do add. So if I've got a fill that doesn't really add a flavor to my picture, I can add all my flavor with the key light without taking too many chances. I can be edgy with my light without knowing that they are going to look bad.

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