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Mixing ambient/available with strobes

A situation most photographers encounter many times is mixing ambient/available light with strobes.
There is however a pretty simple rule you can always use to remember how to influence the look of a scene.

Shutter speed controls the available light
Aperture is the flash
ISO stays the same

If you change the ISO you have to change the aperture (because this is fixed pulse from the strobe).
By changing the shutter speed you can let in more or less ambient/available light.
This way you can make a background outside darker (faster shutter speed) or lighter (slower shutter speed) while the exposure on your model (the flash) stays the same. Do remember this is of course with manual flash with ETTL this works slightly differently.

Also remember that there is a point where the ambient/available light can actually over power the strobe, especially outside when working with fill-in flash this can happen quite easily, that’s why I always advise to setup your strobes on full power first and lower the output by counting (if your system has 1/10th or 1/3rd digital settings and is reliable). If you change the shutter speed you have to remember that if you double or halve the shutter speed this is ONE full f-stop so if you know your aperture and the combination of ambient and flash you actually can very quickly calculate when the ambient is higher that the flash. If for example the setup is f11 on the model on 1/125 and you overpower the ambient with 2 stops, you know that when you shoot on f11 1/60 you are now overpowering the ambient with just 1 stop.

This comes in very handy when you start adding constant lighting to your scene like in these examples.
You can actually (to a certain level) control how much the lightbulbs emit, or how far they blow out.
I love using the Elinchrom ELCs for this because they can go down REALLY low in power, and that’s awesome for mixing them with this kind of light.

For this setup we used one strobe on the model and one blue gelled strobe on the back for the smoke effect. The chandelier was powered by 230V 😀

Mixing light sources can be incredibly fun but also a bit difficult at first. Also take into account that some light sources have a different color temperature (to be exact EVERY light source has a different color temperature, that’s why we use the X-Rite color checkers), you can solve this by gelling the strobes, or…. just leave it and play with it like I did in these shots, I love the cool hues you can get this way.

As a rule of thumb:
Outside light : no correction
Tungsten : Amber colored gels
Fluorescent : Green colored gels

Or find the proper CTO gels, you can of course also stack gels, I always advise to by them not to heavy and get two, this way you can stack them together if necessary.

Model : Danique
Dresses (black) by Sinister

Danique June 17 2016 2441

Danique June 17 2016 3408

That easy lightbulb again

Every once in a while I will take it out of the closet… my favorite light source to play with… that simple 100W light bulb in the cheapest enclosure I could find. It’s always fun to see the reaction of the attendees of the workshops when they see the possibilities they can have while shooting with a light source most would label as “unusable for some cool shots”.

 

One of the things you always have to remember when shooting with light is “distance” or in other words “the inverse square law”.
In very simple terms, if you use a light source really close to your model the light will fall off very rapidly, meaning you will get a lot of contrast in your shot, if you move the light further away the light will fall off less rapidly. So if you want to light a group it’s often wiser to move the lights a but further away, and if you want a striking high contrast portrait you can move it closer (although many other factors play a role of course, but let’s keep it simple).

With the lightbulb the power, for me, lies when you use it really close to the model and the background. The outcome is always something that surprises people and often they ask me “How many strobes did you use next to the lightbulb” 😀

 

So if you have a lightbulb in your house, don’t be afraid to use it in your next shoot, it might surprise you.

 

For much more in-depth techniques, tips etc. get my book “Mastering the Model shoot” or download one of my videos from this website.

Manon Juni 13 2015 0594

Manon Juni 13 2015 0865

Between two walls and different lights

In these shots you can see our model Anna Matthea between two walls……. you say what?

 

In our studio we use different kind of backgrounds, mostly the studio walls are painted in special structures and colors to function as backgrounds, but we also have several “movable” walls. In this shot we used two of these walls in a very steep angle and let Anna Matthea pose between them.

 

Lighting setup was very simple…. just a single 100W lightbulb, nothing more.

Anna Matthea February 14 2015 0366

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Light can be very simple

As photographers we have to realize that light is our language, it’s the paint we work with to tell the story.
Now for most photographers light is something they can control as long as it’s something familiar and something that…. well has a label which states what it does.

 

Light however can be so many things, in my opinion (and I really mean this) there is no light source that can’t be used to create a nice image. So during a workshop I got some questions about different light sources and we did a part of the workshop with just one (well actually 3) light source, an old chandelier. The only thing we modified from this chandelier is that we use 100W light bulbs instead of the much lower in power bulbs you would normally use. This helps to keep the ISO a bit lower.
Oh and don’t worry if your camera shoots on ISO1600 or ISO2000, when you zoom in you indeed see some noise, but trust me… when you print or publish for the net you won’t see the noise anymore, or at least it won’t bother you.

 

Now the fun thing about shooting with these kind of light sources is that you really learn to control your light and see what light does, for example placing it closer to the model will give you totally different look than when you place it further away. Today I show you two sets we did with the chandelier. On the first one we had the lights really close to the model while on the last set my assistent actually swung the lights above the model (Manon). As you can see… the same light source but two totally different looks.

Manon Juli 5 2014 (82 of 153)_DxO

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