Using strobes with sunlight..sun not bright enough for ya ?

May 25, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I love using my strobes when I shoot outdoors.  For me, its all about defining the scene with different light intensities. I control that. I love having that control. It gives me options that I wouldn't have if I just used natural light and a reflector. I'm not saying one way is better, I just prefer to create and control my light source. The light source I  don't have control over is that big red ball of heat that keeps out powering my strobes and hogging the spotlight, (no pun intended..but hey, it was a good one) my ambient light. One way I control it is to move my subject (in this case 3 subjects) to a vantage point where I can 'utilize' the sun in my lighting scenario. In this particular photo shoot on Saturday, I did just that. I place my subjects where the sun would be behind them. This created nice rim or edge light on my subjects. That's how I controlled the sun. To light my subjects I had to make some decisions, that would in turn determine what modifiers I would use and how I would use them to light my scene. I needed a large light source to light all 3 models. I could use one big octobox and put it to a 45 degree angle on either side of the camera, but the models wouldn't be lit evenly due to light fall off. I'm going to need a second light. OK, so a second light, you say? The octobox is a large light source and it will wrap around nicely, however, when the models change poses and their not facing the key light (in this case, the octobox) in the same way anymore, the camera is going to see a different amount of reflected light off the model. I'm going to need a fill light. I could have used an umbrella, but I wanted a more directional light source. So I chose the beauty dish. I used a sock on it to diffuse the light a bit. I wanted the scene to have contrast,with out going too dark and without blowing out my highlights. As a 3rd light, oh ya, we brought em all out that day,  I used a light with a 30 degree grid. My thinking on that was, hey, 3 lights, cool. The 3rd light acted as fill for any shadows that might be unfortunately caused by model placement while changing poses. I could also bring up dark spots that my key and fill lights couldn't reach, because something wasn't allowing my 2 front lights to reach the bottom rear of the scene.

So that was it. 3 lights, in the bright -cant see a thing-sunlight. 

I've learned that instead of just putting a light somewhere, I ask first, what is it supposed to do? What effect do I want? A great place to start to learn about light is of course, to try and light something yourself. You learn the challenges real quick. That's how I learned. Trial and error. But its a golden investment of your time and effort that will pay off 100 times. I made the decisions that day based on my experiences and everything I know about light. It does the same thing every time you use it. 

A great lighting resource is http://strobist.blogspot.com/ And if you want to get the bible of all lighting books, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/listing/2689417841796?r=1&cm_mmca2=pla&cm_mmc=GooglePLA-_-TextBook_NotInStock_26To75-_-Q000000633-_-2689417841796 And as if that wasn't enough, if you want to see the light Guru in action and learn from the master, then 

http://www.software-cinema.com/trainers/6/dean-collins

That being said, I love to use my strobes, all my strobes, all the time. I learn every time I use them and it helps me use them smarter the next time. I try not to learn just where to put the lights to get the shot , but what the lights do and really understand what it means to use a beauty dish vs an umbrella. Why feather the light? Inverse square law, hard light, soft light...wow. Its a lot. But one final note. When you learn "why" you put your lights where you did, instead of just 'where' should you put them, it will make such a major improvement and your images will really pop!!

Good luck!! 


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