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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.
Okay, back to the lighting diagrams. We have a camera subject, and now we've got our windows behind the subject, because the windows themselves and the light coming through them are going to be subject matter in the picture. So what we're going to do now is, our initial exposure, we're going to build this in three layers, and we're starting to be a little more complex with balancing ambient and flash. In fact, we're using two different flashes and two different layers of flash quantity here. So the first thing I want to do is to take this and make it is as little of a complication as possible.
So my first exposure is going to be based on the light coming through the windows and how they look reflecting off the floor, which is a nice dark old shiny wood floor. So I'm going to dial in my ambient exposure until the windows to look the way that I want and the floor looks the way that I want too. And this is an ambient-only exposure. This gives me the base for my picture, and it also is going to give me the confidence to build that picture up in any way that I want. So now that we've got our base working ambient exposure, I'm going to bring in some fill light, and that's going to be with an umbrella right near the camera. So it is effectively soft on-axis fill.
And as far as power level, that power level is going to be anything I need it to be to dial up the shadows to where I have legibility in what will be my shadows when I'm done making this picture. So let's look at this photo with just the ambient exposure and just the fill flash exposure. Now, what you can start to see is the walls have picked up some exposure in the back, and that's also coming from my flash. Ramona has legibility just about everywhere. The chair's a little dark right at the bottom, but I'm not really concerned with that at all. But everywhere that's going to be in shadow, when we start to add that key light in next, there's legibility there, so that's going to give me the confidence to do whatever I want to with that key light, because wherever the key light doesn't hit is going to look like this, which is to say it's going to be--it's going to be readable. I can see what's in the shadows.
Setting that shadow level is a really important thing, and it's a real confidence booster when you are going to start using more edgy light maybe on your key, and getting away from just that typical umbrella at 45 degrees up and over. So here we are. We've got our umbrella popping in is fill, exposure is built on the key, everything is ready to go, and now we are going to add in a key light. And my key light is another SP800 inside of a LumiQuest SoftBox III. At this distance, which is six, eight feet away, it's hardish; it's not hard, it's not soft, it's got a little bit of an edge to it, but it also isn't just this like brutal hard.
But frankly, it could be brutal hard, because I've already taken care of my shadows. So when we bring in that key light, you can see that there's legibility everywhere, so I can sculpt her face with a little bit of the glamorous light. I don't have to play it safe with her anymore, and that umbrella that's right by me is filling in everything that that key light misses. So let's take umbrella, that fill umbrella, away for a minute. And this is just a grab frame; this isn't a final frame that we're bringing up here. This is what just the key light and the correct ambient exposure--not correct, maybe the wrong word--the ambient exposure that I chose for this picture.
This is what it looks like without the fill. Now, I'm going to go back to this fill for a second, and you can see that's a huge difference. We still keep the quality of the light, that little edge quality, and that little sharp shadow as it walks around her cheek bone, but the on-axis fill which we built first and which we were confident of, because we saw it working by itself, erases all those problems that's going to be left by the hard light as it's coming in from upper camera right. So we've got two flashes and an ambient. We've really have three light sources going on in this picture, and the important thing, the key here is to build them up one at a time.
You'll eventually get to where you can see them one at a time, but it gives you a lot of confidence to start with that ambient exposure, put it where you want, see if you need to fix any dark areas with your fill, and then come in and do what you want to do with your key.
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