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
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