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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.
(MUSIC) All right, so we've moved out into a room a little bit now, and you can start to see how these cool windows are giving us lots of lighting options. Those are all ambient light options, and I want to use those to build a picture using strobe, just a couple of small flashes. This is a straight--let me turn this off so it doesn't fire off into Dave's face. This is a straight bare strobe, and it has about 2 square inches of light. This is that same strobe and a small softbox. This is made by LumiQest, and it's a LumiQuest Softbox III, one of my absolute favorite little lighting mounts. I use it all the time, and here's what I like about it. It's not a soft light source, and it's not a hard light source.
So if I bring it really, really close to someone's face, it starts to become a wrapping light source. It's a good for a head shot. I mean literally like this distance away, lighting, putting it right up close to someone's face, and maybe we'll play with that in just a minute. But if I back it up to 5-6-7 feet, it becomes a firm light source, sort of a harder light source, but not like screaming hard like a bare flash. So you've got a little of an edge to it, a little bit of a give to it, and the further back you move it the harder it gets. So this is a very useful flash, because it takes a strobe and turns it into something that has roughly the equivalent of a mono block in a normal reflector.
So this can be a really interesting key because it really defines shape, and it starts to accentuate people's faces rather than just erasing all the differences that we all have. Ramona has got a very, like a slim angular face, and this is going to accentuate that some, but I can turn around and I can create that same on-axis fill that we have with the window. If you look up here, there is an umbrella, and I'm going to keep that umbrella roughly behind my camera when I'm shooting. So I'm using two flashes. I'm using this one on the camera just to set the other's off; it's not contributing to the exposure at all. It's just keeping me cordless and moving around.
But I'm building the frame on the ambient exposure first. The available light is pouring into these back windows. I'm going to get that the way I want it, and they're going to look great, but Ramona is going to be dark. So the next thing I'm going to do is I'm going to add in some light on her, both in the from of a key light, which is going to shape her, and then with the fill light, which is going to fill in any of the shadows that I've created with this light coming from the back and this hard light coming from the side. I can dial in exactly the amount of legibility in those shadows that I want. So first, let's grab an ambient exposure, and our ambient is going to move around here.
This is actually kind of important. So rather than doing what I would normally do with bright outdoor light, where I might be starting at a 250th of a second, which is my hard high- sync speed--and I do that because that's going to give me the most wide-open aperture that I can possibly have, which is to say if my exposure is 56 at a 250th in here, at 60th it would be F11. And I want it be able to have the flashes hitting an easier aperture, faster recycles. It takes fours times the power for flash to light something at F11 as it does for the same flash same distance light at 5-6.
So when I've got plenty of light, I'm starting out at a high shutter speed, getting my ambient exposure, getting a reasonable aperture, and then letting the flash hit that reasonable aperture. You'll hear that term repeatedly, reasonable aperture, with me. If you're using flashes at roughly these distances, if you're using them in middle power like 8 power, quarter power, they're going to be hitting roughly F-5.6, F8, and that's a nice middle- of-the-road aperture where things, you've got decent depth of field, but the background is not tack sharp. More important, all of your lenses are sharper at 5.6 than they are at F2.8 for instance.
I would like hanging out in that middle of the range for my flash power, fast recycle for my lenses, shaper for my pictures, normal kind of natural depth of field. If I need to go to stop down and dial up my power on the flashes, I'm happy to do that. Likewise, I'm happy to dial them down and go wide open if I want to blow the background. But I like that middle-of-the-road set of settings, and you'll be surprised how often that a flash set on medium power at a medium, distance at a medium aperture is very close to the right exposure, because that's what they were designed to do. So first, let's build this picture without any flash and just grab a couple of just straight ambient light shots of Ramona just having, a seat in a leopard print. I normally wear leopard print when I shoot, but I didn't want to wear the same thing she was going to wear, so we're just going to let her wear that this time.
Okay, so just look towards me. And I don't know how high I'm going to be. This is over, but let's just see just, I'm really just concerned with those lights behind. Now I'm going to get two lights coming hard in from behind. She's going to be a black silhouette at this point, or very close to it. But I'm also going to get those lights bouncing off the ground, so that may make something kind of cool too. Let me lie down on the ground and see what this looks like. So let's begin to add this fill. So I think I'm going to--I think this is going to be kind of a square picture with her right in the middle, a forced, kind of anal-retentive composition, because she's got the wow dress on, she's draped over the chair, and everything kind of looks a little -- I don't know, almost clubby.
I want to go the other way with my composition. Okay, so just looking. All right, don't forget that. That's nice, I like the way you're--maybe we should get a full arm up on the chair, let's see. Good, good, good! Now, I'm not really even making pictures of her yet. I'm just looking her shape inside this graphic that I'm creating with the windows. Oh! That's nice, so let's add some light.
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