The Photo

MS1_7566-3(Click here to view a larger version!)

The Equipment and Settings

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.

hadouken lighting diagram

The Post-Processing

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,
=Matthew Saville=

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