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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, let's go to the diagram for this shot we just did. The important thing here--a couple of things. Grabbing those backdrops and instead of using them two dimensionally stacking them in front of each other, one in front of two, gives a nice three-dimensional look to that backdrop and gives kind of another layer of texture to be going on back there. And the second thing I thought about it in this picture was bringing that umbrella in and hanging it right over the top of Ramona, as opposed to using it in the way we've been using an umbrella a few minutes ago, 45 degrees up, 45 degrees over.
I think it makes a more interesting light. It's this down wash of light that you can work against. And in particular, we've got Eric Kous, my friend holding this lightstand out as if it were a boom, but it's a boom that is voice-activated and that I can tell him to do whatever I want it to be done. And he can pull that out further, he can rotate it around, he can make less of the light fall on her, more of the light fall on her, he can bring it in closer if the light is not bright enough--any number of different things. And in fact, if she's moving around, he can move that light around with her and keep that same style of light on her if she were to move to her left or right.
In the movies this is called hollywooding the light, when you actually follow someone around with the light. It's a really useful technique if you are working with another photographer or an assistant on the scene. It makes your lighting a lot more versatile, and I highly recommend it. So we've got this light falling right over the top of Ramona, and it's splashing straight down, and she is sort of working in the edge of that beam. So the exposure here is based almost completely on flash. There's a little bit of ambient light coming in, and you can see that-- let's bring up the picture actually.
You can see that splashing on the tops of her shoulders and around the back, especially for camera right arm. Now we can modulate that exposure again the same way we could over at the other window, by opening up the shutter speed and just letting more of that light come in. And in this instance we got pretty high shutter speed, and there's not a lot of that light coming in. But those two lights are behind her in a kind of a cool way. They are sort of like two rim lights soft boxes back there flying, and we could open that shutter speed up to, say, a 60th or 40th and really get a lot more out of them if we wanted to.
Another thing we played with at the end was bringing in a ring flash for fill. And so let's bring up two examples of that. Here are two pictures straight out of the camera, no toning done to them really; this is just pretty much as they came out of the black box. On the left we're using a ring light, probably two stops down ,as fill, and you can see legibility in the shadows under her chin, and an overall reduced contrast in the picture. And you really don't notice it that much until you go to the picture on the right and that's where we take it away.
This is the way I'm most likely to use a ring flash, not so much as a key light, but as fill light to go in and alter the contrast range of whatever lighting that I've designed for key. It's a really, really useful light source in that way. And the ring flash has its own signature, and we'll do that again in a minute and use a ring flash as a key. But for right now, this ring is doing well as a fill light. In the end--and going back to the other straight picture for a second--I think I kind of like the more contrasty picture. I like it without the ring light in the end, and especially I like the fact that there's more contrast on the backdrop. That ring light, in addition to erasing the shadows under Ramona's chin, is also going to erase the shadows against those two edges of that front backdrop that's being created by that light we're flying over the top her.
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