Full Moon Portrait with Off-Camera Flash – How We Shot It

How We Shot It June 13th 2013 4:25 PM No Comments

A few weekends ago, I had the good pleasure of photographing a wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel In Westlake Village, here in Southern California.  As it is a trademark of my own style and part of the standards at my studio, (Lin & Jirsa) …I of course took a few minutes to go out side with the bride and groom later in the evening to shoot some portraits under the full moon.

The Photo

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The Equipment and Settings

How We Shot It

Here is a wider image of the whole scene, just so you can get an idea of the setting:

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While both images have compositional merit, I enjoy the closer up version a little more simply because it feels intimate.

To accomplish this photo, I first had to be able to shoot at a slow shutter speed without blur.  This required a tripod of course, and having the couple hold very still.  Posing people against a railing always helps with that, and a 1/4 sec. shutter speed is usually no problem for 50mm and wider focal lengths.

The next thing I had to tackle was the lighting.  If I had photographed them with entirely natural light, the image would have looked good because there was a decent amount of ambient light overall, however they would have been very difficult to separate from the background.  As a rule of thumb, any time I see a bunch of trees or bushes behind my subject, I know I’ll need to use light to set them apart from that.  Simply imagine the image (either the 24mm one, or the 50mm one) without any back-flash behind them, and you’ll see how their hair would immediately “disappear” into the background.  This would cause the viewer’s eye to wander around the image much more than with the faint “kiss of light” you see here.  It seems subtle and un-important when it’s there, but without it the image just wouldn’t be as impressive.

Because the moon is actually a reflection of the sun and therefore quite “daylight balanced” in color, I decided against using a warming gel on the back-flash, which is rare.  I like how it turned out, though, because it almost looks like the moon is shining down upon them.

To help illuminate their faces, I had an assistant use another flash with a warming gel and a snoot, (a very narrow beam) …and shine it at them from down below, camera-left.

Once I had considered all these factors, I set my tripod up and started with the camera settings that I knew would usually work:  remote flashes at about 1/32 or 1/64 power, and camera with a wide-open aperture and ISO 3200.  Then it was simply a matter of dialing in my shutter speed until the ambient light looked right, and getting the subjects to hold relatively still to avoid motion blur.

SIDE NOTE:  Using the RadioPopper JRX system, I can actually adjust the power of my flashes from my camera position!  This was EXTREMELY helpful in this situation, because I only had one assistant yet the two remote flashes were a good 2-minute walk away from each other.  (I was also in a precarious position, standing on a ledge, just to get the shot!)  So if you’re like me and you don’t need wireless TTL but you really want to be able to control your flash power manually, I highly recommend this system!  I will be publishing a full review soon.

Anyways, once you know all the pieces of the puzzle, it’s relatively easy to fine-tune your settings and get the shot.

The Post-Processing

Once again, here at SLR Lounge Headquarters we are tinkering around with Lightroom 5.0′s final release.  This image, to be honest, barely needed any post-production whatsoever because the lighting, exposure and white balance were all pretty close.  This image could easily be produced in Lightroom 4, or Camera RAW, etc…

Anyways I started with a “Soft Portrait” preset from the SLR Lounge Preset System which we are currently updating for Lightroom 5, and from that preset I simply bumped up the shadows a little bit more.  Nothing too exciting!

If you have any questions about the lighting, the shooting conditions, or the editing, please leave a comment!

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matthew Saville=

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About

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge. Connect with him on Google Plus

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