Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Simulate sunlight, part of Advanced Photography: Flash.
- As we've already discussed, a bare flash casts a very hard light. It produces hard-edged shadows and contrasting textures. As you may have noticed this is also exactly what sunlight does. In many situations, hard contrasting light is unflattering but sunlight is a light that everyone knows and they know it really well. Certain parts of our visual processing evolved in the way that they did because of the fact that we lived in direct sunlight. That makes it a very familiar light which means it can be a very comforting light. Unfortunately you don't always have access to sunlight and even when you do it may not be doing exactly what you want, remember, light is sneaky. So, here's what's going on right now. I'm stuck in this cold, dim studio but Natalie back there is basking in the sun on the Riviera. Or at least, that's what I want the final image to look like, that's my vision for this image. So what that vision is, is her standing in open sunlight. That gives me a lot to know about where I'm going to set my light. I want a single light source, just like the sun is, it needs to be a small, hard-edged light source. So, to that end I have taken a single strobe, a 600 watt strobe, which is more power than I need and I've got it up here on this light stand and I've put a seven-inch reflector on it. So, what that reflector does, is it takes that 180 degree hemisphere of light that the flashbulb produces and it directs it forward right down at her. So I'm going to get more brightness that way than if I had the bare bulb, but it's also going to be a really, really directional light, a parallel light, which is what the sun is. So, it's set up and I've just kind of pointed it, my eye at kind of the same angle that you'd get in the late afternoon. She's here in her sunglasses so we're ready to go. I need to meter. So, I've got my light meter, I've got a remote control on my camera because I can't reach the controls on that monolight up there and I've decided I want to aim for F/16 because I'm working with a medium format camera and because she's at an angle to me sometimes I have trouble controlling depth of field on this camera. This eye'll be in focus and this eye won't. I want to be sure everything's in sharp focus 'cause I'm going to shoot with a pretty small aperture of F/16. So, I'm just going to meter here and I'm getting (meter beeping) F/22, so I've got one stop too much in terms of light. I'm going to dial that down just to give you an idea on this 600 watt light, if this turns out to be correct then I'm at 1/8 power, so again that light is quite a bit more than we need for this but, (meter beeping) that's okay, F/16. Now, this meter has a really cool feature on it. I want this to be, I want that light to be the only light in the scene, I want to drown out all the ambient light. Right here, you see a little percentage, 100%. The meter is telling me that 100% of the light that it metered was light from the strobe. There's no ambient light in this scene at all. I have completely overpowered all of these lights that we're working with here. This is the power of flash and strobe photography. It allows you to go to the Riviera without having to go to the Riviera. Wait a minute. All right, anyway, let's get started. Natalie, so you've been walking all day on your trip through a Greek village or something and you've seen some light here so you're just going to take a little break, lean up against that wall and relax. I'm going to start getting in close here. (camera clicking and beeping) Just going to take a quick look. Yep, that looks like sunlight and she looks relaxed. That's great. (camera clicking and beeping) Open up your face a little bit more to me. Very good. (camera clicking and beeping) Let's get some, let's get your right hand up there maybe with your hat, yeah there we go. (camera clicking and beeping) Okay, (camera clicking and beeping) that's maybe looking a little too much like selling a beach vacation, let's lose the hand. Oh I like the smile, (camera clicking and beeping) that's good. I'm shooting these pretty tight, and I think maybe the image of drowning in sunlight would be better if there was more space around her. So, I'm going to back up here, this is not a zoom lens. So, I'm going to pull back so that I can have some more space around her so that she's really looking up towards the sun. There we go, that's sayin' to me a cat like, basking in the sun. (camera clicking and beeping) That's good now you look very relaxed. So, let's say you even just doze off a little bit. Tilt your head back towards the wall a little bit. (camera clicking and beeping) Yeah good. (camera clicking and beeping) Frame it up a little like this. Now, hard-edged light is particularly suited to black and white photography. So, at first I was thinking I'm ultimately going to convert all these to black and white but, her skin tone against the white wall and her gray shirt and the black and white hat I'm not sure, we'll have to see. That's going to be a tough call to make. However, as I look at these now, I'm feeling like there's still something not quite right. (camera clicking and beeping) It's not her, it's not the lighting. It's that there's all this empty space in the frame. I want somethin' up there. I can't put clouds or the Mediterranean or seagulls or anything like that cause I'm stuck here in the studio. But, I could put some lighting ornaments up there of some kind. I could continue to play with this sunlight that I've got. So, she's been strolling through this little village and maybe she's on some narrow little alleyway between some stucco buildings. She's just seen this shaft of light and so she's going to take a break and bask in it. That's what I want. That's my vision now. To achieve it, I need to place a few modifiers.
- Why use strobes instead of continuous light?
- How to think about light
- How light bounce works
- Learning lighting from existing photos
- Using a flash meter
- Simulating sunlight with shadows
- Using softboxes and umbrellas
- Calculating and using lighting ratios
- Shopping for studio strobes