Saturday, April 12, 2008

Strobist: Lighting 102: 3.2 - Balance | Flash/Sun Crosslighting

Strobist: Lighting 102: 3.2 - Balance | Flash/Sun Crosslighting

I completed the exercise for this lesson the following day after shooting the exercises for the previous lesson "Balancing Light: Twilight". I went back to the same beach but this time in full daylight, but found that this time round was not as intimidating as I thought it may be.

Previously, photos I have taken during the day time have typically been of people looking like panda bears or if they were wearing a hat then they usually ended up looking like "people with no faces". This may sound like a good name for the rock band but is definitely not good for photography.

I had attempted to use fill-in flash for some images, but as David points out, the images in the camera manuals were nothing like I was creating!

I was pretty happy with the results from this exercise, but ran across the problem of trying to convince my wife to stay in the blazing sun for long periods of time. April & May are considered 'summer' months here in the Philippines and the sun was almost at 12 o'clock and was scorching hot even though these shots were taken around 9-10am! Next time I will go out either earlier of slightly later in the afternoon or just wait till later in the year.

Anyway, below are some of the photos I shot that morning.

This is my favourite of the bunch and not just because it's my wife. The flash is probably a bit too bright and if had a bit more time I would have lowered the flash a bit. Another problem with the sun so bright it is really hard to see the images clearly on the screen.
Flash used at roughly 1/16. Backlight from the sun.
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 55mm (EF-S lens)

This close up of the above shot came in as my second choice. It is too bright due to the closer crop which was done by moving closer to the subject. Lesson learned - stop down the closer you get to the subject.
Flash used at roughly 1/16. Backlight from the sun.
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 55mm (88mm in 35mm)

The next two photos were really experiments to see the difference between the flash and non-flash. The first shot was to taken with no flash and I adjusted my settings to get the correct exposure for ambient light. There is an obvious shadow on the face making it too dark.
No Flash used
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 28mm (EF-S lens)

The second shot of the two shows the flash switched on coming from camera right. This is straight flash with no diffusion, which you can see from the hard shadows on the right (left?) leg. I did actually bring a Stofen filter and an umbrella but I was too short of time to get them out to try. Using some kind of diffused light would have softened the shows somewhat. The flash is probably still too bright
Flash used at roughly 1/16. Backlight from the sun.
Exposure Time: 0.004s (1/250)
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 28mm (EF-S lens)

The next four photographs were still balancing the sun and flash - but not cross lighting. They were all taken under some kind of shaded area and my aim was to try and light the people nicely whilst keeping the background correctly exposed.

The first image of my wife on the beach is almost correctly exposed for the sea, sand and sky, but she is obviously too dark. I accidentally knocked my exposure (overexposing the ambient slightly) from 1/250 to 1/200 - which is something I tend to do on a far too frequent basis. This is mainly because I am still getting used to using the camera on manual mode and somewhat due to me being someone who is slightly heavy handed and fumbles around a bit :-)
No Flash used
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/200)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 20mm (EF-S lens)

The next image of my wife shows her lit with a flash. The balance is OK, but maybe a little on the dark side. The ambient is now correctly exposed at 1/250, as I had spotted my error mentioned earlier. I would really like to try this kind of shot with some kind of diffuser and see the results.
Flash used at roughly 1/16.
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/250)
Aperture: f/9
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 24mm (EF-S lens)

The last two images of my youngest daughter (in the hat) and one of her friends was taken at breakfast time - yes I know that's junk food on the table - we were on holiday :-) Again I started by getting the correct exposure for the ambient light however after taking the shot I realized that I would have to change the aperture as the speed was too high.
No Flash used
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/800)
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 55mm (EF-S lens)

I stopped down the aperture and changed the speed to 1/250 then took of few shots to get the flash right. The flash for this shot was on-camera due to the location. Although the ambient is slightly over exposed the balance still kind of works for me - although next time I must remember to hide the evidence of our bad eating habits!.
Flash used at roughly 1/16.
Exposure Time: 0.005s (1/250)
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 40mm (EF-S lens)

So what did I learn? A number of things:
  1. I need to spend more time practicing this lighting technique (that goes for all the lessons so far).
  2. that if I move closer to the subject the light reaching my camera will increase and I have to adjust accordingly - either in camera or the flash.
  3. that the sun during summer here is hot and very bright and I need to take this into account when planning a shoot.
  4. It's not so bad taking your equipment out into the public. No ambulances turned up with straight jackets to take me away.
  5. I need to continually learn from other people, what they are doing and how they are doing it.
You can see all the shots from this exercise at my web site. I'm now looking forward to reading, learning and doing more lighting like this. Now, on to the next lesson!

Please feel free to leave comments or questions about this article and I will endeavor to answer them as soon as possible.

Previous lessons from Lighting102:

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