Posts Tagged ‘flash photography’

Simple Fill Flash For Outdoor Headshots and Senior Portraits

August 28, 2012

Recently my wife and I flew to Florida to spend a long weekend with daughter one. Daughter two, who lives in Los Angeles, flew to Florida as well to join us for a short family vacation.

Daughter two, also known as Kayla, needed updated headshots for use in Los Angeles.

She wanted a series of outdoor portraits. Our time would be limited; as would the amount of gear I could pack into a carryon bag.

My normal gear for an outdoor headshot (senior portrait) would include a large reflector, a powerful battery-powered strobe with a light stand, remote trigger and either a shoot-through umbrella or soft box.

For this trip I had to limit my gear to two lenses, a speedlight, and a camera body. I also wanted to take a modifier along for the speedlight. I opted for a Rogue Larger Reflector fitted with their new Large Diffusion Panel.

The reflector and panel attach directly to your speedlight and fold flat for transportation. (See image)

Rogue Large and Small Flash Diffusion Panels

Here’s the simplest solution I have come up with to date for an outdoor portrait with a minimum of equipment.

Step One: Shoot in open shade with the sun positioned to one side or slightly behind your subject. The sun will provide beautiful highlights on your subject’s face and hair. The open shade will serve as a base exposure for your subject’s face.

Step Two: Put your camera in aperture priority mode at f/2.8 to f/4.0 depending on how defocused you want the background. Take a test exposure and note what your camera chooses for a shutter speed. The background and sun’s highlights should be properly exposed, but the lighting on the face will be flat and slightly dark.

Step Three: Now it’s time to add fill-flash to make the image pop. Turn on the flash. Switch your camera to manual mode and set the aperture to whatever you used in step two. Set the shutter speed to match your camera’s settings in step two. (An important note here: if the shutter speed exceeds your camera’s maximum flash sync speed you will need to have a flash capable of High Speed Sync flash. As an alternative you can lower your ISO and/or stop down your aperture to achieve a slower shutter speed.)

Step Four: You’re ready to take beautiful portraits. Monitor the exposures as you shoot. Adjust flash brightness using Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC+/-). I normally start with FEC set at minus one. You can also adjust the brightness of the background by changing shutter speed. A faster shutter speed will darken the background; a slower shutter speed will brighten it.

The two images above are from my session with Kayla. I have included my camera settings for your reference.

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Add A Little Color To A Black Background

March 6, 2012

In the course of teaching a studio lighting class and daily conversations with photographers, the topic of backgrounds inevitably comes up.

I thought I would use this post to show the versatility of the good old black paper background.

We all know black makes a terrific background color for portraiture—usually with a background light added for accent and separation.

What many photographers seem to forget is that the background light need not always need be the standard white we are all use to seeing.

How about adding some color to your black background?

It seldom fails. Whenever I suggest adding color to a black background I get a quizzical look… Add color to black? Can you do that?

And of course you can. By hanging a colored gel in front of a background flash source the black paper takes on a whole new look. (I use a studio strobe with a 20-30 degree grid. See photo below.)

Strobe with grid and colored gel.

You will get a deep shade of the gel’s color where the strobe is strongest, with the color gradually radiating back to black towards the edge of the background. I love this look.

The photographs shown here show how I used this effect in three of my flower images. I have also used this method to create some of my favorite portraits and product shots.

Give it a try next time you are looking to add a little variety to your studio session.

All the best,

Randy

The floral images pictured in this post are available as fine art prints by following the links below.

Calla Lily

Pink Mum

Orchid 01