Free resource for learning how to use off-camera flash and studio lighting.
Frequently, a reflector will get the job done with a lot less work
As you can see, having the subject in the shadow obscures detail and makes the subject look flat. Adding the reflector adds dimension and a better tonal range. The best part of using a reflector is that you can see what you will get right away and easily make adjustments by moving the reflector.
Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Client/model: Meredith Myers. Assistant: Scott Edwards.
Photograph The Standup Librarian Meredith Myers in a cramped, dark library setting. Meredith wanted it to have a classical dark library feel and also feature the trademark costume of her character along with some other items that are important to her craft. The biggest challenge was the cramped quarters. To solve it, the lights had to be closer than usual to the subject. When the lights are very close, the inverse square law makes it important that the diastance between the main light and the subject be kept consistent, so no moving around while shooting without re-metering. Since this was a well thought out set-up there was no worry about the subject moving too much.
As usual, there are three main sources of light; the main light, the fill light and the separation light. The main light was provided by a beauty dish on the left. The reason I chose a beauty dish is that it has fairly soft light without spilling too much light on the rest of the scene. To further direct the light, I put a bit of Cinefoil (black foil) on the back side of the beauty dish to keep the light off the background. The fill light was provided by a reflector on the right, and I hid a flash between some books on the shelf behind there to provide some separation light. The separation light was turned down until it was about two stops less than the main light. Or to put it another way, it was one quarter as much light.
Canon 50mm lens
Canon 550EX flash
Pocket Wizard triggers
Bowens 500 monolight
Bowens beauty dish
You can easily replicate this look with any kind of directional main light or by using something to block the light from the background. Controlling light spill is the key to getting this kind of look.
I received this e-mail from a photographer today and it shows how there are things you can use to improve your photographs everywhere. This is an ingenious use of a makeshift reflector.
Photographer: Mark Davis
Great work Mark!
I noticed some interesting light coming into my kitchen on Sunday and decided to shoot a garlic bulb on the kitchen counter. Since one side was too dark, and remembering that you said anything could serve as a reflector, I quickly found a cash register receipt and . . . voila!
You are a good teacher!
This has more to do with your work than you think:
Much of the portraiture done a hundred years ago stands up today because of its lighting, composition and technical excellence. The example above was obviously done professionally and there is a lot we can learn by examining it.
One thing that is amazing is how little equipment was typically used back then. Most likely the main light was a large window with a reflector on the left to lighten up the shadows slightly. If artificial light was used, it was probably a single large beauty dish and the same reflector on the left. That's it. The tone of the background was controlled by either using a gobo (something to block the light) or with the distance between the subject and the background, or a combination of both. This basic one-light setup was set up to create a Rembrandt lighting pattern which is characterized by the triangular shadow on the shadow side of the subject's cheek. There is more information on Rembrandt lighting elsewhere on this blog. Since the subject has a triangular face, the photographer decided on broad lighting, which is the lit side of the nose closest to, or facing the camera. Narrow lighting is the opposite, the shadow side of the nose faces the camera. Learn more about broad and narrow lighting here.
To create this image with artificial light today, you could use a beauty dish, soft bow or umbrella as a main light, a reflector for fill light and some kind of gobo to control how much light hits the background.
If you're looking for inspiration, look back to the masters.
Most camera sensors are a 2:3 ratio which fits some paper perfectly and others, not so much. Here's a breakdown of how it works with all the popular size prints:
So, the sizes that match your sensor and require no cropping are:
All the other require some cropping to fit, so when you're shooting give yourself a little extra room around the edges.
Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Kristy Neuenschwander. Assistant: Pat McGlinchey
Fill flash does one thing; it lightens up shadows. By using fill flash, you can control the exposure of the background and the subject separately. Below is a photo taken with the sky the way I wanted it to appear. The problem is that it leaves the subject way too dark, and if I expose the subject properly the sky will be too light. Here's where the fill flash comes in.
1: Get the background exposed the way you want it.
2: Add enough light on the subject to expose it the way you want.
Most cameras can't sync with an off-camera flash at more than 1/200 of a second. That means the shutter speed must stay below the sync speed no matter what. To make that happen, you may need to adjust the aperture and/or ISO. Also remember that like everything else in photography, there are always limits to what is possible.
So, getting back to the example, the first shot is 1/60 of a second at f-8 and ISO 100. The second shot is the same, except a flash was added. The way I do it is to set the flash at 1/4 power and either use a flash meter to determine the exposure or take a test shot and then adjust from there. Remember, you already have the background set, so all that we need to do is adjust the light on the subject. There are two ways to control the light on the subject; flash power and aperture. The shutter speed controls the ambient light (background). In this case, I increased the flash power to 1/2 power and it was perfect. Increasing the aperture to f-5.6 would have produced the same result if I left the flash power at 1/4 power. Open up the aperture or increase the flash power. Both are effective ways of making the exposure of the subject lighter.
The setup is simple. One off-camera flash.
The best way to master fill flash is to get out and use it, so get out and experiment! You'll master it in no time at all.