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Tips & Tricks

Backlighting Ultra-Wide Angle Environmental Portraits With Pye

By SLR Lounge Official on August 8th 2016

Shooting environmental portraits can present challenges nearly tantamount to their rewards. Typically, this subcategory of portraits is shot either in a location with which the subject has some familiarity (where they live, work, or play), or in an area that warrants appreciation on its own, and provide not only points of visual interest, but contextually they can grant insight into the persona and character of your subject.They can be gorgeous, and are extremely well-suited for large scale prints in addition to the standard portrait types.

These portraits, sometimes referred to as on-location portraits, are often done at wide angles to encompass the environment around the subject, and thus helping to frame the narrative of the story a portrait is supposed to tell.

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Of course, this presents its own unique set of challenges, because when you’re shooting a very wide image whereby you might find your subjects are proportionally small, it’s easy for them to get lost within the frame. But there are ways to not only get your subject to stand out, but to exaggerate the surroundings and atmospheric effects like rain and wind and fog.

Backlighting is one of the key ways to do this as it allows for clean separation of the background and adds depth. Given the wide nature of the shots we’re going for, your relative distance from the subject may be quite far, and the ambient light may not be ideal, so having a good lighting set-up is of the utmost importance to get the final image you want.

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Image by Pye of Lin and Jirsa Photography (www.linandjirsa.com)

[REWIND: Editorial Bridal Party Portraits With The Profoto OCF Beauty Dish]

While not imperative to have, having a powerful, small, and portable strobe has great advantages over a speedlite or set of speedlites, and something like the Profoto B2s make life easier too due to their TTL and high-speed sync capability.

At SLRL, we do love the Profoto B2s and in the video below, watch as Pye takes you out in the field and shows how to execute a great wide-angle environmental portrait in a challenging location with the help of a single B2, though the set-up could be supplemented if the B2 isn’t yet in your arsenal.

Terms: #Backlight

Articles by SLR Lounge Official are created by multiple authors. They represent official announcements by SLR Lounge.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Christina Bingham

    This is episode 8, where can I find the other 7 episodes in this series??

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  2. Steve SLR Russell

    In your video, I really love how the spray from the waterfall shows up in the closer shots. I am curious about your exposures. The numbers don’t seem to add up to me. Perhaps I am missing something. Your shot at 24mm is 1 second, f/4, 100 ISO. The shots for 70mm & 200MM are 1/20 sec, f/2.8, 1600 ISO. It seems there is 3 2/3 stops more light in the last 2 shots but still a similar exposure. Was there that much more ambient light from the wide angle, or did I miss something?
    Was it necessary to adjust the flash power on your B2 for the close up shots?
    Love your videos & really appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

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  3. Paul Wynn

    Thanks Pye for a great post, love the images. Will try this technique at my next wedding, can’t wait.

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  4. Frank C

    This is so inspirational! Where is this waterfall, if I may ask?

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  5. barbara farley

    This is why I come here everyday :)

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  6. Sam Caravana

    Awesome tutorial as usual

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  7. Ralph Hightower

    Pye,
    You mentioned that you set the White Balance to 7000. How did you come to that determination? I’m new to digital photography and this white balance; white balance has been set for me by the film manufacturers for the past 30 years. With my DSLR, the white balance is set mostly on the daylight preset since outdoors is where I shoot primarily.

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    • Shivani Reddy

      Hey Ralph,

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW8UDucKvEk

      This is the perfect video for you to watch, and I’m not trying to bias because I am in it haha. We discuss the various White Balance settings and how to change your Kelvin temp in camera rather than in post.

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    • Pye Jirsa

      I set the WB to how I wanted it to look in post. I wanted the scene blue, and it was during the “blue light” dusk hours, so setting to 7000K was still very blue, hence that choice. But, Shivani just posted a great link and video, and it’s also stuff we cover in depth in our Lighting 101/201 courses.

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