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Tips & Tricks

How To Over Power the Sun using ND Filters With Joel Grimes

By Justin Heyes on August 30th 2016

Creating a natural looking portrait outside with flash limits your options regarding your camera settings. A photographer might be stuck at their sync speed, usually 1/180 to 1/250, and at a low f-stop of around f/22. This creates a balance of flash to ambient that will not over expose your subject, but who wants to shot portraits at f/22 all the time?


Shooting portraits with your lens wide open, especially with fast glass, creates the subject/background separation that is so desired by photographers and clients alike. Photographer Joel Grimes shows us how to use an ND filter to overpower the sun while using a wide open aperture.

[REWIND: Ensure That Your Engagement Session Rocks: 5 Planning Tips ]

To achieve the desired result Grimes used a variety of gear:

6 Stop ND Filter

Westcott 24” Rapid Box Beauty Dish

Paul C. Buff Einstein

Canon 5DS R

Canon 35mm f/1.4


Some cameras have ND filters built in like the Fuji X100T, which has a three stop ND filter that moves in between the sensor and the lens. Being able to shoot portraits inside then switching the ND filter on for outdoor shooting with out adjusting the settings makes it an indispensable tool during a fast paced event like a wedding. If your camera does not have a built in filter, Shivani wrote up a great list of 5 Tiffen ND Filters to fit every budget that is worth a read. See link below:

5 Tiffen ND Filters For Every Price Point 

Source: Joel Grimes via Youtube

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mike Kropf

    I’d like to point out that the subject is in the shade. I wouldn’t necessarily call that “over powering the sun”.

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    • Bing Putney

      That’s true, but most of the background is in the sun, so that’s the ratio that has to be balanced, or “overpowered.” If he had only balanced his strobe with the ambient light actually hitting the model, the sky and background would have been completely blown out. The way that he metered and exposed the shot gave him the saturated blue sky, and green trees and grass behind her.

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  2. Jeff Schneider

    what i think may have been a useful mention in this video is “ok we’ve taken our settings from ~f/11 to f/1.4 by adding a 6 stop ND filter, now we have to jack up the flash 6 stops to get the light level from the flash back to appear as it was before.” that takes a pretty powerful light source (hint hint: not a flashgun)

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    • Vangelis Medina

      This is so wrong.
      You dont need a single bit of more power.
      ND filter dont change the ratio between the sun and the flash.

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  3. Sada Domonkos

    So…. have you ever heard about hss strobes ? :))))

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