You know that whole thing I told you about not mixing color temperatures with flash and so forth, and matching ambient? Well, we’re going to through that whole rule by the wayside in this tutorial.

I’m going to show you a situation where we can get really great effects by doing this. It all comes down to that ambient to flash balance.

What makes this image work? What makes this balance between a warm ambient light that’s 3600 degrees Kelvin versus a cold or 55 degree Kelvin blue flash?

What makes that work is the balance between ambient to flash. That’s a very fine tuned kind of thing. It’s all about refining.

What are we trying to do here? Well, we’re shooting inside of our hotel room and we’re doing our lovely fine art boudoir type shots. I see this mirror. And I go, “this mirror is gorgeous. Can you stand in front of that mirror? And do this. I want you to conceal but bring the hand up to the face.”

Kind of conceal not using the actual hands because again concealing with the hands is not really implied. It looks intentional. You’re covering up intentionally because you want to protect yourself. I want her conceal in way that looks very natural. That’s why we don’t have her conceal with the hands. We have her conceal with the arms and the elbows, and so forth.

We bring the hands up to the face to draw attention at an angle. I love that. I love this look right here. Hold that for just one second. I take a shot on my Canon 85mm 1.2L. Again the Sigma version is a fantastic version of that lens if you can’t afford the 1.2L. There’s also a Canon 1.8 which is 400 bucks which is another great version of the lens. Either way we’re at F5.6 so it doesn’t matter which version you have here. But I shoot this lens because again I don’t want any distortion with this type of shot. When we’re shooting portraits we want to make sure we don’t have distortion. Especially, when we’re doing boudoir and things. We want it to have very soft and good look. We want to exaggerate her good features and not lengthen her forehead which is what 50mm would do. It would lengthen the forehead. It would lengthen things in a kind of unnatural way. When we’re shooting this type.

So, we’re on the 85mm. We’re shooting at 1/50th of a second F2 and ISO 200. This is at 4800 degrees Kelvin. Just to show you what the ambient light in that scene looked like. So, this is what it really looks like to our eyes. So, for the composition my main thing here is I want the frame to be in the back and I want the mirror as my background. It perfectly frames her body, her face, and so forth. But, I want to create some separation there. Anywhere between F2 and F5.6 its still relatively blurry in the background. We have good separation there so, anywhere between that is totally fine. All I need to worry about is my ambient to flash balance. So, I’m not too concerned with deciding which aperture and everything I want at that point.

What I do is I take this shot. Then I say, “Okay love hold perfectly still let me just put this gobo up.” I’m going to put the gobo up. We have the same gobo that we used earlier. Right? We place the black side to flash. We’re using Phottix Mitros we place this off to camera left. We place this close to her face. We fire through it using a grid so that we don’t get light spill in other places. And then we end up with this shot. So this is at 1/50th a second, F2, ISO 200, 4800 degrees Kelvin. But, this is with the Phottix Mitros, with the grid firing through the gobo at 1/4th to 1/8th power.

So we have the exact same exposure here between ambient light but, now we have added flash. The light direction, the light quality is great. I love the lines on the face. I love the way everything looks.

By the way, remember how we talked earlier about gobo positioning? This is a shot where we wanted a sharper edge to that gobo. You notice that if we compare it to a previous shot with her sitting on the bed because this is a thick gobo you’ll see a separation of the edge. But here you don’t see that separation as much. Here it is very very fine compared to that other shot. The whole reason is the distance of this to the subject. We talked about it before if you bring this closer to the subject it makes that shape more defined. When you breing it further from the subject it makes the shape puff out and becomes a larger shape. It gets less defined.

The same thing with flash. The closer you bring the flash to this gobo the more it’s going to bloom. So you’re going to have the light wrapping around the gobo instead of hitting it as a hard light source. You’re increasing the size of light source. This gives you a softer gobo effect as you bring it up close. As you pull it back from the gobo you’re decreasing the size of the light source in relation to this gobo. Which creates a harder light and that gives you a harder definition. To create this harder definition. That’s more straight lines without that double edge we bring this up close and bring they flash further back. We grid the flash so that it is not spilling on to everything else.

Okay, So what’s the problem with this number two shot? Well, with our test shot, our number two shots reveals that … It looks cool. I’m on to something I really really like. But its not working yet. And the whole reason it’s not working … This is where most photographers would quit. They would quit right at this point. Or they just might even see the crappy light in this scene to begin with and they might quit before they get started really. I want y’all to hammer into your head when you’re visualizing a shot and it’s not turning out the way you want. Don’t freak out. Don’t throw you hands up and be like, “awww it’s not working!” I know none of you would ever do that but … either way don’t freak out in you head. Just think, one thing, the reason this is not looking like I want it to is most likely because my ambient to flash balance is not correct. Okay?

Look at the image and then just analyze. What needs to happen? My flash is a little bit too bright. My ambient is little bit too bright. Okay. Let me start making adjustments. We take this same photo. This time we went to F5.6,  F2 to F5.6, so we’ve dropped from 2.8, to  4.0, to 5.6. That’s three stops. We kept the ISO at 200, we kept the white balance at 4800 degrees. We went from 1/50th to 1/30th of a second. Which is almost twice as bright. We almost added one stop in the shutter speed. So overall we darkened by just a little bit more than two stops. Because we did it with our aperture we darkened the flash and ambient by three stops and we increased ambient by nearly one stop by slowing down the shutter speed. So, the flash came down threes stops. The ambient came down 2 stops.

We take the shot again and look at this; we get a beautiful image. The whole concept behind this is that I want this almost blue light coming in, very neutral coming in lighting her up as if, there is light outside and it’s night time. It’s lighting her face through the blinds. While we have a warm light on the inside of the room that just gives shape and definition to the shadows. I want to show her form. I want to show everything. Now, this shot is great! Notice how the lights come right over the eye like that. That’s intentional. Again, we’re using that flash test button to make sure that our gobo is placed in the right spot. To make sure our model is in the right position. And we make micro-adjustments if needed. So use that test button so you can fire off that temporary… that one second strobbing action so you can see where that light is falling.

Now, look from this, from number three to number four to number five. I labeled all of these with check marks. Because to me anyone of these is acceptable and you just need to decide what you want your ambient light to be. So if you notice on shot four and five I actually bought my shutter speed up to 1/100th of second. The aperture is still a F5.6, ISO still at 200. On both of these shots. What we end up getting is a background that is a stop to a stop and half darker now. It’s actually, a stop and half darker than it was here at 1/30 of second. So you can see the background dropping down. I dropped to the point where I still see shadow and shape in her body. But we just see less of that ambient light. Now, anywhere between I would say is great. It’s up to your discretion to chose what ambient light balance to flash balance looks right for you and your style you want to effect over your image. So, I loved all of these.

For the last shot I had her look into the camera. I had that light just streak right across the eyes so we can see that one eye. This is not Photoshop. If you have light directly entering the eye like that. That’s how it’s going to look. It’s going to look very bright and beautiful. You don’t need to do any additional brightening into it. So this is that shot.

Now, if I wanted to in Photoshop I could go through and a little bit of the gobo off to the side of these. I’m actually okay with that for the most part. The reason why is it ended up looking like the window. Like the window blinds were, actually, just in the shot. If you don’t like it you can always just take a piece from the other mirror and just clone it out. Or whatever. You can do that in Photoshop. That’s totally up to you. Or you can place the gobo a little bit further back so it’s not in the reflection. The one thing was is that I wanted those sharp lines and to get the sharp lines it had to be that close. Which meant it was going to be a little bit in the reflection. I was okay with that. I made that decision to be okay with that.

Key components with shots like this is the analyzing step. You’re going to take several test shots. I think we took four to five test shots on this particular image to get where I wanted. You’re going to take several test shots. Analyze the shadows, analyze the highlights. Make sure you gobo is in the correct spot. One little tip. If you have something like a GL-1. A GL-1 is a Gun Light. Or a LED something. Something that is a constant light and can mimic a flash. The GL-1 is fantastic because you can zoom it and you can throw it right in to that gobo. I had one on hand so I use my GL-1. The GL-1 is a very expensive light, it’s 6 or 7 hundred dollars so don’t go out and buy it for this one single purpose. It’s a fantastic light which we are going to get into in Lighting 301. But if you’re using it just as a modeling light, which I’m going to mention, it’s kind of over kill.

Anyway, I was pointing the GL-1 right where I wanted and I was firing that constant light to get a gauge of where I wanted to put my gobo and where I wanted to put my flash in relation to that gobo. So that way, I could have my assistant hold the G01. I could back them up I could bring theme closer. I could get that all right. I could visually see it because it’s a constant light. Then, based on where I had that I placed my flash and then I placed my gobo, and so forth. It helps to make scenes like this go a little bit quicker. Although, you can do the exact same thing with the flash test button and moving a little bit more and kind of manipulating a little bit more as it takes just a bit more time. But if you’re going to get the GL-1 it’s a fantastic tool in this kind of situation to just help you out. It’s also a great light in general and we’ll be using it a lot in Lighting 301.