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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, so that did not turn out the way I planned, which is just kind of cool thing because we're at the end of the day, we've had a lot of different little neat shoots in what is basically a white room with a bunch of windows around it. I came in with a set sheet, I want to do this, I want to do this, I want to do this, I want to do this, and pretty quickly we saw how willing Ramona was to go with the flow, and it seemed like a waste to photograph her in just really staid preconceived looks. So, we tried to push the glam just a little but further each time and ended up with something that looked almost film noir at the end, which is kind of neat because this is a white room with daylight streaming in and we were able to completely control that.
And I also thought that was a little meta, meta, with the photographers, teaching photographers being shot by other photographers, shooting people and including the lights in. So, it's a little bit of a visual play on words, and I always enjoy doing that kind of thing. I failed on a couple of things. I saw some ideas that weren't working very well, and I was able to jump off of them. The shot that we had setting up right before the end, it looked too derivative when I started to see it, even though it looked kind of the way we were expecting it to look, so that's when we jumped it with the other way. What I hope you get out of this is the idea that starting from the simple backlit, the window right behind the photographer simple light, and moving that around, adding a flash to it, balancing that is, exactly the same thing as everything else we were doing in here today. We were either totally taking into account the ambient, and putting it exactly where we wanted it or decided we wanted to stuck the ambient into a box and shoot at 250th like F8 or F11 and take it out of the frame completely and build completely with flash.
Here at the end, the only ambient that was poking in was the actual light that was coming through that window. You could actually see out the window and that was put exactly what we wanted by just dialing the shutter speed up and down. If the window area is too bright, you are going to close the shutter down. If the window area is too dark you are going to open a shutter up. It's pretty simple. None of this stuff need be complex, and I hope that the fact that you saw it done kind of rids the idea of any complexity involved. Just get the first progression, get that mix of flash and ambient, get the mix of flash and flash, and there's really nothing you can't do.
And what I see a lot, when I see beginners shooting is they'll slave so much over the light and they'll get the light finally the way they want and they go click. Okay, we're done. Now that's the time when you should be beginning, and that's the time when you can put the light away and not be thinking about the technicals and really be thinking about the interaction between yourself and your subject. So the professional will push them right up to the end, push him a tiny bit further, but know one they are not going to get anything else from the subject. You shouldn't be the limitation; the subject should be the limitation. I watched my friend Joe McNally shoot, and one of his favorite things he says when he has really got someone going and the light is right, and the gesture is right, and the expression is right, and the flow is light, he is like stay with me, stay with me, stay with me, and they stay with him.
And he takes that little tiny bit of window we would have when everything was perfect and just stretches it until he has that version nine ways to Sunday, and that's a big lesson that I learned from him: just don't quit. Just the way when you get everything the way you want, don't quit. That's when you push it. That's when you make twenty different versions of that picture that you like, and ideally you're going to have a tough time deciding which one is your final edit.
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