Finding the Moments That Define Your Event

Playing Around :: Off Camera Flash + Ambient Light


One of my professional goals for 2016 is to buy less equipment and, instead, learn how to better use the equipment I already have.  I've been reading a lot and am focusing on to see it, how it shapes and informs photographs and how to use it to effectively. I've been using off camera flash for bar/bat mitzvah receptions for a few years, now, but I rarely use it to shoot portraits.  I did some reading over the weekend and decided to bribe my 11-year-old son to let me practice on him. All I wanted to do with these portraits was to get more comfortable combining ambient light and flash.  I was shooting him about 4:45pm when the light was going down but the sky was still a bright blue.  I wanted to keep the blue sky but I didn't want a bright photo.  So I measured the ambient and played with the settings until I got the sky where I wanted it (1 stop under the ambient reading).  I set up an SB-900 speedlight on a stand with a Westcott Rapid Box and placed it about 3 feet from Jack.  The speedlight was on manual at full power (I started at 1/8 power and it did absolutely nothing to overpower the sunlight.  I tried 1/4 and still nothing.  I dialed to full power and moved the flash about a foot closer to him and found my sweet spot.)

Let me be clear: I know these aren't good photos.  They are simply snapshots - the composition is off, the backgrounds are distracting and my son's expression says 'Get this over quickly, Mom' more than 'Look at me, I'm a model and loving this.'  But the lighting is more or less where I wanted it to be. I wish I had noticed the light spill on the driveway in the photo of my son sitting down but I didn't.  No big deal.  I'll catch it next time.

Baby steps.

off camera flash and ambient lightoff camera flash and ambient light

For comparison, here are the test shots:

Ambient metering for the sky before adding OCF at full power:

off camera flash and ambient light

The ambient metering (exposed for the sky) before adding in the full power OCF:

off camera flash and ambient light


Exposing for Jack's face (you can see the sky is blown out when Jack is exposed properly)

off camera flash and ambient light