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Shooting with Wireless Flash: Outdoors at Twilight

with Jim Sugar

Video: Welcome

Award-winning photographer Jim Sugar shows how to shoot outdoors during twilight, balancing strobe output with natural light.
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Shooting with Wireless Flash: Outdoors at Twilight
Video duration: 0s 45m 15s Intermediate


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 shoot outdoors during twilight, what photographers refer to as the magic hour. He goes on location to create an exterior photo of a busy pizzeria, employing five wireless strobes strategically placed both inside the building and on its exterior.

His approach to lighting the scene involves balancing all of the scene’s light sources—the twilight from the sky, the interior light of the pizzeria, the existing lights on the outside of the building, and the output of his strobes—in such a way that the final photo doesn’t appear to have any special lighting at all. He demonstrates a variety of inexpensive lighting tools—clamps, gels, and other light modifiers—to accomplish this goal.

Also discussed is the importance of planning and setting up ahead of time to maximize shooting time when the light is waning. The course wraps up with tips on planning for gear, estimating the amount of time available to shoot, shooting in manual mode, and using a camera's histogram to judge exposure.

Topics include:
  • Preparing for a shoot
  • Using light modifiers, clamps, and other lighting accessories
  • Changing the quantity, aim, and color of strobes to balance existing light
  • Using twilight calculators to estimate available time
  • Manually adjusting aperture and shutter speed
  • Composing the shot
  • Assessing the results
  • Tips to remember for outdoor sessions


Hi! I'm photographer Jim Sugar. Thanks for joining me at this look at wireless flash in action. In this series, I show how I use artificial wireless strobe units and other accessories in a variety of different scenarios. In the first installment of this series we did a product shot of a bicycle, a photo that could be used in a catalog, a magazine, or a website. In the second installment we shot a portrait of a woman in an exotic Scottish warrior costume.

We use different lighting accessories and gels and we even employed a smoke machine to get a photo that could run in a travel or educational magazine. In this installment, we're going to take on what I think is the most challenging scenario. We're going to go outside and photograph on location during the twilight hour, the magic hour as it's often called. Our location is Tony's Pizzaria, a charming little pizza joint in Ventura, California.

It's a classic Americana kind of place. Now a few things make this kind of shot challenging. I want to position the lights and adjust my exposure so that all the light in the photo is balanced. The sky, the lights on the building, and the light in the interior of the pizzaria. It's a beautiful day in Southern California. It's not raining inside the pizzeria. I need to plan the shot and set up everything long before twilight arrives and when the light is just right, I want to add the human element.

Because a photo of Tony's Pizzaria isn't complete if it doesn't have Tony in it. Now a shoot like this is always a challenge. You're outside, you're in a public place, in this case a restaurant that's open for business, with customers coming and going, and you're working against the clock to get the shot before it gets dark. There is a lot of setup and a lot of fine-tuning involved and you'll see that in the course. So if you're hungry for pizza, let's hit the road and get started.

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