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Shooting using available window light

From: Lighting with Flash: Basics

Video: Shooting using available window light

Okay, so we have some white seamless set up and we have a window set up. The neat thing about this room is that it's just surrounded with windows, which means that on most given days, you are going to have shade light coming in, which is what we have from this direction, and on the opposite side you have some form of sunlight, if it's coming through. It's a pretty overcast day today, so our light is going to be pretty consistent. So I have just set up some white seamless, and what I have effectively done is to take this window and make it into a soft box. So rather than just saying, well, the exposure is 1/125th of a second at 2 8 and 400 in here, which is about what it is, I'm specifically already starting to look at the soft box as--or this window, see I slipped Freudian--this window as a soft box, because I want not only to have the quantity of ambient light that I want, but I want to have the quality and the direction.

Shooting using available window light

Okay, so we have some white seamless set up and we have a window set up. The neat thing about this room is that it's just surrounded with windows, which means that on most given days, you are going to have shade light coming in, which is what we have from this direction, and on the opposite side you have some form of sunlight, if it's coming through. It's a pretty overcast day today, so our light is going to be pretty consistent. So I have just set up some white seamless, and what I have effectively done is to take this window and make it into a soft box. So rather than just saying, well, the exposure is 1/125th of a second at 2 8 and 400 in here, which is about what it is, I'm specifically already starting to look at the soft box as--or this window, see I slipped Freudian--this window as a soft box, because I want not only to have the quantity of ambient light that I want, but I want to have the quality and the direction.

So this is going to be very cool light because it shades, so I am going to white balance for that. Since I have got a nice big white sheet of paper behind Ramona, I can just put it on automatic white balance and it's going to be fine. I am not going to get into trouble with my white balance until I start adding it with flash, and then we are going to have to rationalize the fact that the flash is normal and this light is cooler. So that's not a problem I have yet, so I am not going to worry about it. So this is a really nice--it's like a giant ring soft box, if you think about it. It's a little high, and we are going to make it higher in a minute, but this is a clean, can't- go-wrong, kind of a very smooth glamour light, and I am going to shoot a few frames of Ramona.

If you could step like maybe 6 inches away, so I am getting whatever shadows that you have, and turn your shoulders a little that way, now if you turn towards me. There you go. So we are just going to pop these off really quickly. Okay, you don't have to move every time I hit the button--you've got the model thing going. No wind machines today. Now, just straight, and straight and right here. There you go. And actually straight on, let me just have you look, just turn, your chin in, and what I will do is I will look at you and I will take my hand and rotate it this way or that way and just mimic that with your head occasionally.

Straight up. Hey Amy, can I pull you in for just--lips together for a second. That was very good, lips right here. There you go. Okay, relax for just a second. I see a little bit on her nose, on that right side. Amy: A little shine. David: I want to grab that. It may just be the way the light's hitting her. So this is really simple. But you can see it's still, it's just like really clean straight. It's like what passport light should be.

Ramona: Passport lights are always going to be bad. David: Yes, well they are competing with the driver's license people. So they are going to rock it. They've got to rock the bad light. Okay, cool! Thank you, very much. Oh, you did the hair thing for me. Let's grab a couple more like this. So I am just shooting straight on, and this light is behind me. If you've got a shady window and you can drop some white near it, that's a really nice way to get fast easy light. So this white is a background. Well, lots of backgrounds are going to have the white walls.

We have some cool wallpaper covered things over there. We have got some seamless to work with. But the neat thing about this background is I can move this wherever I want. So I can make this light straight on or I can move this background at a 45-degree angle, and I effectively move this light source. So that's how I am trying to capitalize whatever ambient light I have, because I want to do that before I start adding flash. So let's grab a couple of more just like this, and then we are going to take this window and we are going to move it up higher. Okay, straight on, that's good! Okay, so what we have done, we haven't moved anything, as far as the light source goes, but we have moved the background. So rather than a white backdrop directly opposite the light source, I have taken a gray backdrop and put it at a 45-degree angle. So if I shoot on a 45-degree angle, I have effectively moved this light to where the light is now hitting her to 45-degree angle.

So rather than coming from right behind me, it's coming from between us, which makes it more of a typical portrait light. I also wanted to get it up higher, so I took Ramona and moved her down lower, so now we are both sitting down. So now I have taken the light that's right behind me and moved it around to the side and moved it up, so it's kind of a classic portrait soft box now. Okay, I am going clank here. I am hitting the background stance, and go ahead and face this window a little bit and come around towards me just a tad. Chin down just a little bit. I have got a 250th of a second I think was my light. A little dark at 250th. Let's go to 1/60th.

Very good, thank you, okay, lips together. It's a nice clean, very different light than what we were looking at before. Now, I did something really stupid, and I am going to own up to this every time I can: I left my auto balance or my white balance on auto. I've taken all the white out of the scene, so now it was reading this and it didn't see anything but her flesh tone. That was the brightest tone. It was coming back as warmer than light, it was trying to make it neutral, so naturally my picture became too cool. It's too blue.

So I want to take my white balance and set it to cloudy, probably it's going to be the closest that I have, and I should get my flesh tones back. There they are, that looks great! Okay, chin right to me, that's good. Okay, deep breath. Haaaa, good, good, good, good. I lost her now. She has got the giggles, so she is gone for the day. But let me show you this, the difference in that light we were just doing. Big difference.

Just by moving around it, it completely changes the shape of your face. So I am going to play with that. So we haven't really even added any artificial light yet. We are still just playing with the window. Window light, you are first class, right. It's not just about knocking down--I am looking around and it's not just about knocking down the ambient light. It's not just about knocking down the ambient light; it's about using the ambient light as your first light source, and if you learn to do that, you are going to have one more light source in your bag all the time than you have number of flashes. So if you've got two flashes, you've got a three-light studio with you, just ready to go.

You are fine, you are fine. Keep going. Whatever you need to do, you are good. Okay, don't move. Come in nice and tight and let your hair frame your face. All right, and back the way you were, this window, that's good. A couple of horizontals. I like that, that little half look that you just gave me. It's kind of I own you, kind of thing, that was really cool! David:I think I just killed it. Ramona: Sorry.

David: No, no, that was it right there. It's either--I am married, so I get that's the, you-are-in-trouble look or the I-know-something- you-don't-know look. I am not quite sure. Okay, very good, right here. Deep breath and just like totally chill. That's good, good, good. Okay, I am going to come right in. Dn't pull the hair over your eye. Normally I will be focusing on the close eye, but when the hair covers that close eye, I am going to focus on the back eye. Okay, don't move, chin down just a little bit, good, good.

Now make me in trouble again. That's it. All right, so let's relax for a second. So this background is doing some cool things. It's barely separating her hair from black, which I like, so it's not calling attention to itself. This light source is up and high on a 45-degree angle now, and really the folks of Love Life have chosen a neat space for their studio, because--am I right? You guys can get away with doing a lot of here without ever adding a flash? Yeah, so it's like--have you ever seen a tennis player run around their backhand for a long time, and I am not dogging you guys at all. This is you can totally work in here for years and never use a flash.

But in the same token, you can take these light sources and start to co-opt them into very cool foundations for adding flash, which is what we will be doing pretty shortly now. But don't discount the quality of your ambient light, not just the quantity, the quality. Make it the light source that you want to make it before you start adding other stuff. All right, let's just switch this up just a little bit now.

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Lighting with Flash: Basics

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David Hobby
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