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In this installment of the Lighting with Flash series, photographer and Strobist publisher David Hobby visits a conservation center to photograph subjects small and large, demonstrating flash lighting techniques along the way. The course begins with a close-up shoot of a small frog—and with details on how to light close-ups and macros using a small softbox and a reflector made of crumpled aluminum foil. Next, David uses multiple strobes and umbrellas to transform a dark blacksmith shop into a warm backdrop for a portrait of a craftsman at work. In a bonus chapter, David discusses an approach for organizing photo meet-ups that have a purpose: leveraging the talents of multiple photographers to quickly create a set of photos for a worthy organization.
So this was, this was a deceptively complicated picture for me. Normally I'm really not worried when I walk into a dark room in fact I'd rather walk into a dark room than, than a light room. But this room was exceedingly dark. And, and that's not a bad thing. The worst thing it was, it was even darker In the back, and we had no place to hide a light. but let's take a look just at our main subject matter from the top. You have Alvin our blacksmith. So, expertly rendered by yours truly at his anvil. And that's sort of the angle he's working at.
And then right behind him you've got the forge which is very, very hot back there, and really precludes our being able to stick a light behind it. It's its, you know, you're going to be sweating if you're working right next to that, its not the place you're going to be sticking a plastic flash. So, here's a straight environmental picture with Sebastian one of the people working with us that day. And this really illustrates our problem in that what little light exist is coming from the front and it's actually decent quality light, but there's no light reaching the back. This room has very, very, very tiny windows in it and, in fact those windows were something we wanted to get rid of. Because we want the darkest possible room so we can key our exposure on the tiny little glow coming from the stick.
And the light coming from the forge itself once we get the fire going. But that's not our problem now. Our problem is fixing that dark background. And, to do that, we're going to take a couple of limo pro lp 160 flashes, put them on half power, and point them from the rafters, up into the ceiling. Now, the good news is, that light is going to do some neat things for us. In fact, let's take a look at that now. Here's Sebastian again with pretty much the same exposure, but this light hitting hitting the back of the room. So, we currently got the separation we need, we can see into the back of the frame.
there's, there's some good things happening in that this light is picking up the color of the wood. As it comes down and reflects and warms that whole frame up in a really neat way. The bad news is, that wood is not exactly shiny aluminum foil. It's dark wood up there. So, it's going to be absorbing most of that light. Which is why we got these flashes both set on half power. And we're still getting just a modest amount of light returned back from that very dark ceiling. So, now we've got our separation light working because those, those flashes are not only giving us a background. But they're also giving us the separation light on what will be Alvin's shoulders.
These are still Sebastian's shoulders at this point. So, let's take our fill and bring that in and our fill light is going to be instead of a ring flash I want to push that light further back behind me and make it bigger. So, it will ironically reach further back into that room. It's another SB-800 a (INAUDIBLE) and a Lumiquest shoot through 43-inch umbrella. And these lights are just all slaved and I'm going to set them all off with a flash just on the camera pointed up, not really affecting the exposure at all. So, now what we've got is our, is our background lights throwing, light up and differentiating the background. And throwing the separation light on the blacksmith's shoulders, and our front light is going to go in there and just fill in everything that does not need to be lit by the key.
So, when we bring our key light in and light Alvin's face, it's really the only thing we're concerned about. The rest of the picture looks exactly the way we want it to look, and we can just concentrate on using that key light to polish off our subject. So, that key light is going to come in nice and close, just out of that frame. And all, the only thing it has to do is define that stuff in the foreground and Alvin's face. And we cheated him a little bit to get him looking the right directions for the light. We had to turn the anvil a little bit those are little things that are important. And, and it's much better to, to go and do those finishing touches than to have your subject. be looking in a way where the light can't see him, or you can't see his face, or he can't see you or whatever.
So, let's look at a wide shot of the light as we have it set up and you can see how close the umbrella is to Alvin. We want it just out of the frame so when we zoom in, it'll look like just a window or a door. and you start to see the, the forge coming up now too. That forge, the fire, right there at the bottom of the chimney, and the glowing glowing metal that he's working with. To get that glow, we've gotta have a really dark room. So, that's why we wanted this ambient light in the room to be as dark as possible. And if you take just an ambient picture, you can see that the that the fire in the forge is actually bright enough to be a light source.
And we're going to, we're going to need that light source because we want this forge to come alive and we want that metal to glow. And so what we basically have here are a, are two exposures. We have a flash exposure that's happening instantaneously. And then we have a very dark room in which the only things that are glowing are, are the steel, that, that Alvin is working on and the fire in the forge behind him. And using the shutter speed to balance that, that complex set of lights and flashes putting out and the simple glowing lights that are happening in the very dark room.
In reality, we can dial those lights in as much or as little as we want, and it's, it's really, it's a bit of a complex picture, but every step in it is very simple. You've just got a few variables. You have to decide when you're going to, when you're going to hit the button on that, that hammer coming down. And you can't even really see it you're mostly just going by sound. Otherwise, everything is pretty straight forward and well, what we end up with is a very rich, very warm, almost a Currier and Ives kind of a look. From a room that was very dark and, and what little, what little light there was all coming from the front.
So, we sort of flipped it on the back, built the light from the back, and and then let it go dark and allow for that flame to build up. I was really happy with this picture especially given, given the tight environment that we worked with, and of course, Alvin was, was fantastic.
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