The Equipment and Settings
- Nikon D700
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, hand-held
- 1/60 sec @ f/2.8 & ISO 400
- Manual Exposure, Manual WB, RAW
- 2x wireless flashes , Nikon SB80DX (not always easy to find, but a great value!)
- Radio triggering and flash power controlled via RadioPopper JRX triggers
How We Shot It
The concept of stop-action photography has been around forever, of course, but it seems like people are getting more and more creative with it lately! Or just fun and silly… ;-) Here’s how we captured this popular type of image:
First, there are two ways you can stop action like this in mid-air. You can either shoot in broad daylight with an extremely fast shutter speed like 1/4000 sec or 1/8000 sec, or you can shoot in darker conditions and use a flash to “freeze” things. For this shot, we used a 1/60 sec. shutter speed simply because it was dark enough that ambient light was not a factor on our subjects. Our flashes are going to “pop” at a speed that measures in the thousandths of a second, so we’re good to go!
The main light shining on them is a wireless flash that is positioned to my left, at about 1/32 or 1/16 power. I prefer to simply time my shots perfectly and nail it with one click, as opposed to simply blasting away with my strobes firing at 5-8 FPS. However if you like to put a little extra wear-and-tear on your flash tubes, they should be able to fire rapidly if you bump up your ISO or something and get to 1/64 or 1/128 power.
Also to conserve flash power, I would shoot these kinds of images with bare flash, instead of using a softbox or umbrella. “Hard” light looks cool and dramatic in these situations, anyways!
I used the RadioPopper JRX system with RPCubes attached to my Nikon SB80 flashes, so even though I don’t have TTL wirelessly I do have manual control over my flash power by turning the dials of my on-camera JRX Transmitter. Of course there are no markings for actual flash power values on the JRX, so I am really just guessing when I say the flashes were at 1/32 or 1/16. Another beautiful thing about the JRX system is that you can use almost any flash, regardless of whether you shoot Canon or Nikon! For example a Canon shooter could control these Nikon SB80 flashes just as easily as I can, and similarly I was able to remotely control a Canon 430EX with my Nikon camera!
In retrospect, I do wish I had another flash to shine from my right onto her face, maybe with a snoot so that it is very direct and not splashing everywhere, however my third backup flash wasn’t readily available.
I wanted to do something slightly different from what most people have been doing, so I decided to try and add a flash to create something that looked like “a burst of energy”. So I placed a flash in the background, about 20 feet behind our subjects, and I simply composed my shot very carefully. (And then Photoshopped out the Light stand that was holding the flash, of course!) Here’s what the original, un-edited image looked like:
NOTE: The flash in the back has a warming gel on, however the flash to my left is regular daylight balanced, and I set my camera’s WB between 5,000 and 6,000 Kelvin.
From the un-processed original, you can tell that I performed a little bit of cropping, as well as some burning & dodging.
Overall, I used an SLR Lounge Preset in Lightroom 5 for HDR type portraits. It is designed to boost shadows and preserve highlights, without making skin tones look god-awful like they can in most HDR type images.
I also used a couple brushes from the SLR Lounge Preset System to darken the ground and hide that “light spill” a little bit, plus another to brighten the sky, and then one more to add a little “pop” to the burst of light in the background. Also, overall I brightened up the image a little bit more, partly because I actually wanted a nearly-blown look to the image. Because of the whole “energy burst” thing, ya know? Anyways, that’s about it!
Take care, and happy clicking,
The SLR Lounge Preset System
The SLR Lounge Preset System is designed to enable users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. The sky is the limit with what has been dubbed the most powerful and intuitive preset system available. Click the link above to learn more/purchase! The SLR Lounge Preset System is now available for both Lightroom 4, (fully compatible with Lightroom 5!) … and Adobe Camera Raw… (Bridge CS6)
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