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06-18-2017, 07:46 PM - 4 Likes   #1
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Three Portraits, Three Lighting Approaches

Here's three recent shots of mine that I realised use very specific alternative lighting approaches, the sort of things we often discuss on here, so I wanted to show these alongside each other with an description of the flash use .... I hope the images are interesting and good for some flashy talk


First is a quite standard sort of indoor portrait, with a two-light set-up; one Main Light with a 60x60cm softbox placed to the subject's left (camera right) and a little high ..... and a 'Fill' light with Umbrella, fairly straight on to the subject. Here's an image of the set-up ....



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The flashes used are the Pentax AF-540FGZ and Cactus RF60. The Cactus was triggered by the V6 Trigger on the camera, and the Pentax flash was triggered optically in SL2 mode by the Cactus output .... so Manual Mode, a mix of radio and optical triggering.


1) Pentax K7, D FA28-105mm, ISO200, F11, 1/180th


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Next the baby went outside and I managed to get her propped up in her high chair. This was a bright sunny day, with strong back/side sunlight, which I ended up using as a bit of rim light. I knocked out most of the ambient light, and the extremely distracting speckled highlights in behind, by moving into HSS mode, and a shutter speed of 1/500th. The same AF-540FGZ in the softbox was used as a Main Light, again off to the subjects left and facing downwards. The fill light this time was the AF-540FGZII on the camera, directly facing the subject. This was trhe triggering flash also, set to 'Wireless Master HS' mode. I had a P-TTL ratio split between the two flashes, 2/3 - 1/3, and a +1 compensation on the Main flash, 0 compensation on the fill one.


2) Pentax K7, D FA28-105mm, ISO100, F6.7, 1/500th


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Finally the last shot is something completely different, a dynamic situation out with the family, no time to set up lighting gear, so just working with a single on-camera AF-540FGZII, with a 1/4 CTO gel on, and working to reduce the ambient a bit and bring out the subject with the flash. Here she was sitting in the shade with strong open sunshine behind, so the camera exposure settings and flash had to work together to create a photo with a decent contrast and lighting balance. I often tell people wanting to learn about flash that these sort of portraits simply don't exist without flash .....


3) Pentax K7, D FA28-105mm, ISO100, F6.7, 1/90th


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Thanks for your views, I hope the shots and explanations are interesting .... Nigel

06-19-2017, 02:26 AM   #2
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Hi Nigel. I love the last two especially. With the "baby outside" shot you have achieved both an interesting background and managed to isolate your baby from it (no mean feat I guess), which makes for a really interesting portrait. Did you do a number of attempts before getting the ambient light just right?

The last one is great use of flash to make a portrait, which as you say, without flash could not be achieved.

Appreciate the technical details as always.
06-19-2017, 03:44 AM   #3
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Great comparison, Nigel!
06-19-2017, 04:59 AM   #4
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Nice examples Nigel, thanks for sharing!

QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
The same AF-540FGZ in the softbox was used as a Main Light, again off to the subjects left and facing downwards. The fill light this time was the AF-540FGZII on the camera, directly facing the subject. This was trhe triggering flash also, set to 'Wireless Master HS' mode. I had a P-TTL ratio split between the two flashes, 2/3 - 1/3, and a +1 compensation on the Main flash, 0 compensation on the fill one.
Maybe it's early in the morning for me, but it looks to me like the stronger light is the on-camera one? If the soft-box was outputting more illumination on the subject than the on-camera light, I'd expect a shadow on baby's right side (camera left).

06-19-2017, 05:16 AM   #5
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I like the work put into the explanation and lights.
Outdoor shots are tricky given the balance between ambient and fill light that needs to be factored in. The fill light has to compete with the ambient light to create the desired lighting effect. My view with those outdoor portraits is that the fill light should highlight the subjects face and the kick light could be more outlining over the opposite side's hairline. But that's only one view, and take it with a grain of salt.
06-19-2017, 05:12 PM   #6
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Thanks for your responses guys ...


QuoteOriginally posted by pschlute Quote
...... Did you do a number of attempts before getting the ambient light just right?

No Peter, I zoom into the background, include the highlights in the frame, press the green button and set that in Manual mode. So I have the aperture and ISO pre-set, let the metering give me a shutter speed, then lower the exposure further with shutter speed. Here I think I ended up around 1.5 stops below the metered settings. It usually takes two test shots to assess the histogram and then its done. I do this process with the flashes off and even before the the subject is there.

---------- Post added 20-06-17 at 00:12 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by clackers Quote
Great comparison, Nigel!

I hope it was interesting!

---------- Post added 20-06-17 at 00:25 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by BrianR Quote

...... it looks to me like the stronger light is the on-camera one? If the soft-box was outputting more illumination on the subject than the on-camera light, I'd expect a shadow on baby's right side (camera left).

I think you're right Brian .... in fact I have to own up to a bit of dodging on the right side of the face (the 'fill' side) .... only because I thought the darker shadow originally didn't look right. So the flashes did create more contrast originally . But yes, what you say is proven by the stronger catchlight from the on-camera flash. This is interesting, because it suggests that the ratio is not just a simple power differential between the two flash outputs, but rather uses the metering to adjust the actual flash exposures of the two outputs to achieve the set contrast, and it is the actual contrast across the subject that is the real 'ratio'.


In this case here the distance from subject to softbox was very small (the box is just out of the frame), but the distance from subject to the on-camera flash is about 8 - 10 times more distance than the softbox one! So we would expect the 'fill flash' to actually need a lot more power to illuminate its part of things because of this far greater distance, even though it is supposed to be lighting its part 2/3rds darker than the other flash. I will process another one without the dodging to show the original effect ..... the catchlight is still stronger though, showing the extra power needed.

---------- Post added 20-06-17 at 00:33 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
. My view with those outdoor portraits is that the fill light should highlight the subjects face and the kick light could be more outlining over the opposite side's hairline.......

I am sure you are right Ash ..... that would be a better effect. In fact my ambient exposure was dictated by needing to dampen down the very bright highlights in behind (they are leaves shining in the sun), so I was cutting them down and I didn't consider the rim light so much. Next time I should try a third flash in behind as well


Last edited by mcgregni; 06-19-2017 at 05:36 PM.
06-19-2017, 06:48 PM   #7
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Here's another from the outdoor 2-flash session. This one shows more the original P-TTL lighting ratio with no dodging or burning. Here the softbox one takes the lead, but I do see that in my first shot the ratio seems to have been much closer together .... just a little hiccup in the metering I guess. I think really all this balancing ambient light with 2 flash P-TTL and ratios is always going to be somewhat ...."experimental"


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