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In the Shooting with Wireless Flash series, award-winning photographer Jim Sugar demonstrates his approach to using off-camera flash in a variety of lighting scenarios, sharing practical tips along the way.
In this installment, Jim shows how to light and shoot a portrait with a dramatic look. He demonstrates a variety of inexpensive lighting tools—clamps, gels, and other light modifiers—to light the subject and the background. He also shows how to offer direction, pose the subject, and make him or her feel more comfortable. The course wraps up with tips on distinct ways to effectively light and separate the subject from the background, using gels, adjusting lights, and modifying the ratios between multiple strobes and the ambient light in the room.
So I want to put these lights in place in such a way that I can show your claymor and your Scottish highland warrior outfit and do it in such a way that I show the shape of your body and the shape of the sword. So I've a light there and I've got this light here and one of the things that I'm going to do is bring it in very very close to you. As close as I can. And I'm going to bring this in here.
Eventually we're going to change in just a little bit but we're going to start with it here. And I've got the light on the boom pole is positioned directly over your head. So the camera is right here. This is the camera that I've been using quite already and this is a Nikon D3S. And I have a SU800 strobe-- or trigger on the top. And this is set up in such a way that this device here will send out a signal, which will trip these four lights, one, two, three and that one down there four.
So let just see how close I am. I need to move this over. And I'm going to start with a picture as vertical. And I'm using a 24 to 70 mm Nikkor lens. It's a zoom lens. and just need to take a quick look at it here. And we'll zoom it back a little. I'm using the camera in manual mode. I've intentionally separated the shutter speed from the f-stop. So by dialing the shutter speed fairly high, 60th, 90th of a second, there's no ambient light or no ambient component in the photo and the picture is being lit entirely by these four strobes.
So let me take a second and I'll see how good I am. You can smile with your eyes. You don't have to be giving me a big grin. Let's see how good this is. Loren, can you just give me a hand with that red light please? It needs to be angled more towards the middle. My left, please. Right. Okay. The exposure I get by looking at the histogram, which is another setting on the back of the LED. So the histogram tells me that I've gotten the right exposure. And I'm looking to make sure that I've got a pretty good picture, but I'm going to shoot a lot of photos.
Because in the bad old days when we shot film, we used to say film is cheap, opportunity is expensive. Great expression. Now we're shooting digitally so the number of frames that we shoot is relatively insignificant if we have a big enough CF card, CompactFlash card. And now I'm just tweaking and making sure that the relative ratios between each of these four lights, that no one is either too weak or too strong and that the modeling is correct, from the orange light on the left to the white light on the right.
So I'm going to shoot a few more of Bonnie. Again these are vertical and we're going to see how good they look. Great, so hold it up. Turn the claymore blade back towards, okay, and let's just see if we can pick it up. Good, turn your head this way, just a little facing away. Nice, just like that. Just like that. So I'm probably 90% of the way there now. And the last 10% are all details. But the details are really really important. And it's the difference between getting a shot that's sort of okay versus really okay.
So that's what I'm working on now. Now look back, look in profiles. Try that. Eyes back to me please. Come back just a little bit more. Forehead down. Nice! So now the main light is this light over here, and I separated them with the gel on it. And just by turning her body and 90 degrees-- and move your right wrist so that I can see the tattoo on your forearm. Cause that's a fantastic detail. Good, now turn.
That's great, just like that. And lower the sword about 2 inches. Stop, right there. Okay this time, I want you to look straight up to the light above your head. Just like that. Thank you. Let's turn the blade up just a little and maybe we can get a reflection. Good, just like that. Oh, that's great. So we're going to shoot the same thing. We're going to do three more poses with Bonnie.
And we're going to shoot to the left and to the right, but they're going to be different this time because we now have essentially white light on the left, warm light on the right. The overheads going to stay the same and all of these now are going to have a blue background. So the background, if we positioned it right, is going to go from bright blue to purple, to black, which is the natural color of the seamless. So we've taken that piece of seamless, that black seamless, and we've given it color. Okay, so let's just try that again. Bonnie, let's try this and I'll come to the side.
The exposure should stay the same. That shouldn't have changed. It's a much much different picture because of the color of the background. Now by putting this light on the right -hand side with the orange gel, it's lighting up the color of her hair and it's accenting her hair and it's defining the shape of her hair really nicely. Good, there it is, there it is. We've got that blue light perfect now. It's perfect, thank you. Good good good. Good.
This blue light is doing an incredible job. This trick of lighting the background instead of lighting the subject, it works really well. I could make it go any color that I want. In this case we've used red and blue. Great. Fantastic. Wow. A few more. Let's say we did 50, 30 to 50 really great images. So now we have these choices and the edit becomes a very very important part of the process.
But what we tried to do was to get this picture right in camera. And I think we succeeded in doing that. So, thank you very much. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you.
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