Thursday, June 19, 2008

Balancing Act

A lot of my friends have been asking questions about my lighting techniques for portraits. So I decided to post a shot and explain in detail how I took it.

A friend of mine asked me to do some portraits of her a few days ago and I was more than happy to oblige. One of my favorite things to shoot is landscapes so I really enjoy incorporating that into portraits when I can. I thought with the color of her hair and skin, she would really stand out against a nice sunset, and lo and behold we got one on the day I did her portraits.

So, for this shot the first thing I did, was figure out where I wanted to position her against the sunset. I positioned her in the general area of where I thought I wanted her then, looking through my viewfinder, I made a few more minor positions. Then, I set my camera to program mode "p" and took a meter reading of the sunset and snapped a shot. I really didn't like the first exposure of the sunset so I dialed the aperture and shutter in from that shot in manual mode, then dropped the shutter speed another stop or so, which gave me a little more contrast to the scene.

After getting my sunset exposed how I wanted it, I kept my camera in manual (because I didn't want my settings changing after I focused on her face) and then re-exposed my camera on her eyes, just to get the focus set correctly. Now, keep in mind, my sunset is looking great but my model is completely silhouetted in darkness. So, I had a friend holding my Nikon SB-600 Speedlight on a light stand with a shoot thru, white translucent umbrella. She was standing to my right and I had her hold the flash with the umbrella as close to the model as she could get without getting it in the frame. The flash itself was about one foot higher than the model's head. This creates a nice, soft wrapping light. Then I took a shot. The flash was just a little too bright, so I manually dialed it back to about 1/8 power and took the shot again. This seemed perfect, creating nice shadows on her but giving her just enough light to be exposed properly. My flash was fired wirelessly with Cactus Wireless Flash Triggers. You can get these from Gadget Infinity for about $35 bucks last time I looked.

Also, I had my white balance set to cloudy, which just gives the shot about a bit more contrast and warmer color. The final exposure was f/5.6 at 1/125s ISO 200. I took several shots of her that day, but this was my favorite. If anyone has any questions regarding how I shot this, then please leave me a comment and ask. I think I included all the important details, but I've done these shots so many times now that I may have forgotten something.

If you are interested at all in using flash with your photography, then I highly recommend reading David Hobby's website called Strobist. He and his website are the only reasons I use flash today and I have learned just about everything I know about flash from him. Also, if you would like a more in depth article about balancing flash with sunsets, read his article about it, its where I learned how to do it! You can get to that article by clicking HERE.

Hope everyone got something out of this, and if you do, leave me a comment!


Raining Crafts & Dogs said...

Funny, I was there and this post still helps me understand more what you did! Thanks! I'm gonna have to check out this Strobist site. Then maybe I won't have to bug you so much. ;)

Dean said...

this really influenced me.good info and writing..thanx! :D