Adding to Existing Light | Part I | Transcription
What are we trying to say when it comes to adding to existing light? This is actually one of my favorite lighting techniques and we did it a bit in lighting 101 but really lighting two, one and beyond is where we have a lot more control of this. What we’re essentially saying is when we want to add to existing light, we’re basically saying that the scene is perfect. The natural light in the scene is absolutely beautiful.
The light’s that falling onto our subject is great. All we need is just a little bit more of it. Why, because what we’re trying to do is just boost the existing light on our subject a little bit so that way they stand out from the background. The easiest way to tell if a scene is perfectly set up for just adding to existing light is just to look at the scene as a whole and just say, “Do I like the light on my couple? Do I like the overall scene lighting? Do I like everything about it, but is my couple getting a little bit lost in the background?”
That’s exactly what we have over here in this image. Now over to the image in the left, what we do is, what we look at is I love the light on the couple, I love the shadows, everything’s that existing on that scene I like quite a bit. I like the background light. I like everything about it. It’s just that the couple is a little bit lost in the background currently. The brightness of the waves and the brightness of everything else is just a little bit over where they’re at, so what do I do?
Well, I have a couple of different options. I can actually add existing light with this exact exposure and just add a smidgen of light which would look really nice and very, very natural. Or I can add light to the existing scene and also pull down the exposure of the background a little bit to kind of give it a little bit more drama. There’s really no right or wrong and in looking at this image, I think if it weren’t for the sake of this tutorial, I probably would have exposed it a little bit more in between.
This is probably around two stops darker than this one as far as the ambient background. Well, we can actually see, so this is 1/2000 of a second. This is 1/8000 of a second, so yeah two stops darker. I think I would have went one stop darker and then add a little bit light onto them, but for the sake of the tutorial, I wanted to make it a little bit more dramatic and just show you how to add to existing light using this technique. What are we trying to do in this scene? Well, for this scene, we’re shooting at the tide pools in Laguna Beach.
I’m actually on a staircase right now shooting down on a couple. I’m on my Sigma 35mm Art. Fantastic lens. I love the entire Sigma Art series. Absolutely amazing. We are shooting this at 1.4 and let’s see ISO 100 and 5.4K. Let’s walk through kind of that composition and kind of the overall process and tip. As far as composition and attributes go, I thought it’d be really cool to be shooting top down on the scene and to shoot it on a very shallow depth of field at F1.4 to kind of have this top-down look where my couple almost look like the scene just looks almost miniature due to that top-down look and everything else in the background falling into bouquet.
I thought that might be a cool effect to have, kind of that blur in the background, not having everything in the background be tech sharp. F1.4 was my first thought. I wanted that and I also wanted the natural vignetting that occurs when you’re shooting wide open on a lens. It looks beautiful around the edges and it has this natural darkening which pulls things into the center and brings attention to the subject. Okay, so we’re shooting with a relatively fast shutter speed and the whole purpose behind that was that I wanted to freeze one of the crashing waves.
I wanted it to be around 1/1000, 1/2000 of a second but you know at F1.4 and ISO 100, to get the background darkened down a little bit, so going a step further, I wanted to get a darker ambient exposure so I wanted to go around 1/8000 of a second. Now, what about sync? Now what we just said was that basically I wanted to freeze the waves, right, so we needed a shutter speed of around a thousandth of a second to get completely frozen waves in the first place. Now would it make a huge difference with the waves being out of focus in the background?
Not a huge difference if we were at 1/200th vs. 1/1000, but still that’s not the point. The point is that if we put an ND filter on being the sync speed down, we’re no longer able to freeze the background the way that we want to or the way that we envision, so what do we do? Well, we’re using the Phottix Mitros and so this is the time where with the Odin on my camera, and I had three Mitros’ mounted to the cheetah bracket. Again, the Cheetah brackets overkill for these guys. I just have it because I often use manual strobes too.
I just put these on the cheetah brackets. I have three of them and I use high-speed sync with my Phottix Oden on the camera. That allows me to fire at above 1/200th of a second for the sync speed. Now keep in mind that whenever we do that our light output, the light output of these guys drops tremendously. We’re losing anywhere between five plus stops of light by going up to 1/8000th of a second, but I have three of them stacked together, so that’s not a huge deal. Also, I just want to add to existing light. I’m not trying to overpower existing light.
If I was, that would be a problem but since I’m not, it’s okay. We achieve sync by going into high-speed sync and going to 1/8000th of a second and ISO 100 for that slightly darker, more dramatic exposure. Light direction and quality. Now here is one thing, if I could go back to the scene and if I had 20/20 hindsight, if I were to go back and redo this, I would make one modification to this. Well, maybe two modifications. One, I would shoot it in between these two exposures so it’s just a little bit less dramatic. Two, the light position right now is placed on the ground and to the left of the subject, okay?
As far as the light direction and quality, we have three [barreled 00:05:49] strobes over to the left of the camera. Again, we’re shooting top down, so the couple’s on the ground, the strobes are over here just on the left side. I wish the light position would have been a little bit different. If it were possible to boom the lights up, to almost like the same position, the same height that I’m at, like 10 to 15 feet, and then just walk it out a little bit further in the scene, now it might have been a shot where we’d have to setup a tripod and do that simple composite because it would have most likely been in the frame if it were up that high and if we were shooting down.
What I would essentially want to do if it was possible and if I had the time is to light from the exact angle at where the sun is coming down from here and that would be top down from about 15 to 20 feet up in the air, going right on the subjects, so that way we match the ambient light just a little bit better, but we didn’t have that choice. The way that we were shooting it was, this was kind of just in the moment and we wanted to get the light as good as possible. I’m shooting from the left side, which we are matching the direction as far as like where the light’s coming from but we’re not matching the angle going top down and so it ends up filling a little bit more shadow than I would want it to.
The problem with not matching ambient light direction is that you end up filling shadow and the more that you fill shadow in a scene like this, the more flat the subjects look, why? Let’s say light’s coming from one side and we add that light, so let’s say our natural light’s coming from this side and we add light from this side, by doing that we’ve essentially cross lit the subject and what you end up getting is just a flat light because you lit from this side, you lit from this side. It’s equivalent to if you just shot a flash and flat lit them directly.
What we want to do is match that ambient light and we’ve matched it from the direction kind of where it’s coming from. We didn’t match it in terms of height, so we ended up filling a little bit more shadow than I would have liked, but it still is a nice example of basically amplification of that existing light. Let me push this out just a little bit so you guys can see this. For our final shot, we ended up posing. We basically have for the pose, he’s kind of dipping her back just a tiny bit. They’re going for a kiss. She has her hand up on her chest and then we fire with three Phottix Mitros pluses on the cheetah bracket.
Again, depending on how many flashes you have set up and depending on whether you’re using a high-speed sync versus an ND, you could be anywhere from one over one to 1/4 power. We’re shooting around 1/2 power on this because we’re losing so much light being in high-speed sync. Were we not in high-speed sync, there’d be no need to shoot with that much power, but we’re losing a ton of light at 1/8000th of a second with the high-speed sync. Again, if you guys want to see what high-speed sync does and ND filters versus high-speed sync and all that stuff, go back to lighting 101.
We did full demonstrations on that. You can see precisely what it does. All right, so like color, I actually like the natural look, that kind of cooler tone. It was overcast day so we have this kind of cooler tone to it, 5400 degrees Kelvin which looks nice. I thought it looked great. As the waves crashed, we shot the image and I dig the overall look to the image. You can see that basically had we shot the image without any added light, this would have been the exposure on the couple, so we basically pulled down the exposure by two stops. They drop into the shadow.
Again, I think an ideal balance between these two would have been one stop between these, so like 1/4000th of a second and maybe one stop less light power and coming from that high-low point using a tripod. Again, a tripod would have taken like 15 minutes, 20 minutes to get that shot because we would have to set up the tripod on the stairs and it would have been cumbersome and so forth but I think if you have a chance, that would be amazing. Okay, just remember one last tip I had here was that anywhere between 1/2000th and 1/8000th of a second, anywhere between this range, even going brighter, going darker, whatever you guys want to do is completely subjective and up to your discretion, okay?
Just adjust the flash power accordingly but it just is going to depend on whether you want that more natural versus the more dramatic look. Here we went with the more dramatic look. I still think it looks really cool. It’s a shot that the clients absolutely dug but that just gives you an idea of what to go for. That is adding to existing light and what you can see in that final image is that with the existing light added, we can pull down the background just a little bit and it just makes the subject pop a little bit more. It makes them jump off the page a little bit more and I’m really excited to show you this later on because we have another technique we want to show you in the desert.
We have another image. We’re going to show you the same technique on when we do flash modification and it looks absolutely brilliant because it just draws attention right into the subject while still preserving the look and direction of the natural light.