More Power? Medium Strobes FTW! | Transcription

We’ve talked quite a bit about pocket strobes and the limitations when it comes to just having enough power power, particularly in mid-day type scenes. I wanted to walk through now, more power with medium strobes or medium strobes FTW, For The Win.

This is basically as bright as a midday sun scene is going to get. We’re working in the desert, we have our gorgeous model Yvette dressed in a red dress and there’s no clouds in the sky pretty much whatsoever. It’s dang bright. In this kind of a scene, there is no way a pocket strobe is going to make any dent when it comes to lighting our subject. That’s where we basically bring in the Bolt VB22 or the Profoto B2.

Let’s talk through both these shots. We have two very different shots here. I want to talk through the process and tips in kind of both these and why we ended up going with basically this shot as the final. I like this shot, too, but you know there was kind of a reason there.

Now, composition attributes. The foreground sand and the background dunes are desired. I was thinking of starting this off at F1.4 and the whole thing was, when I got this first shot, I liked it and I thought it was really cool and it had a really interesting effect; but I really couldn’t tell we were in a desert versus just putting her over a desert backdrop in the studio. The depth of feel that 1.4 is just so shallow that we don’t see enough detail going on behind her. Immediately, I bumped it up to F5-6. We go up to F5-6 and we get a much better background look, we have more detail back there. This is where I would say, “Look, if your backgrounds are beautiful, show them. You don’t need to shoot everything wide open. If the backgrounds are grey, if there’s a lot of detail there, if it doesn’t detract from the composition, then stop down your aperture and show that.”

We end up with 5.6 basically for my preferred shot. I’m not going to tell you that either one of these is wrong. If you prefer the F1.4 shot, go for it. I personally prefer the F5-6 shot.

So, sync at midday in desert sun, F1.4 is going to require five stops worth of neutral density goodness. Or high speed sync. Now, the only high speed sync you can get is on a Profoto B2 or a Profoto B1. Either one of those full strobe or full feature strobes. This guy isn’t going to give you high speed sync because we’re using puck wizards to trigger the bolt. That means if we do use high speed sync, we’re going to get a minimum of four to seven stops of light loss on that guy. Well, if we use a five stop ND, we have an immediate five stops of light loss; but it’s better than seven stops because if you keep speeding up the shutter, you’re going to keep reducing overall light. Why? Because again, Lighting 101 states that as shutter speed increases, that guy has to basically strobe multiple times and if it’s firing multiple times to fit one of those flashes in there, you’re losing power in order for that to be able to do so.

Again, my preferred methodology is to use a neutral density filter. For this shot, we’re using a five stop. All right, so, ambient exposure. Let’s take a look at what we have. These two shots have two slightly different ambient light exposures, but I want to show you these two images over here on the left. These are basically a shot with just ambient light so you can kind of get an idea of what the scene looks like. Right here, we’re in the Sigma 50mm Art, that’s this guy. We have our 5D Mark III, we’re set to 1/60, F1.4, ISO 50 and we’re using a five stop neutral density filter at 5300 degrees Kelvin. This is exposed for our highlights in the sky. We’re basically preserving the highlights so you can see how dark she’s getting. She’s about two, three, four stops off where we need to her to be as far as her skin tones.

This shot down here, Sigma 50mm, the only difference between these two is that this is at one fortieth of a second, F1.4 ISO 50 with a five stop ND and 5300 degrees Kelvin. Basically, we brighten this up two stops between this, just so you can see this is more exposed for her skin and now our background basically starts to fall away. We still need to bring her skin up, I believe, like one more stop, even, to get up from there. You can see the background is almost completely going to be blown out by that point. We have a decision to make here: do we want to go with a more light and airy kind of look to the background or do we want to go with a more dramatic look to the background?

Let’s show you, basically, what the two look like. Let’s go ahead and show. The two levels of ambient exposure, the top ambient exposure in this shot is about one stop brighter than this guy. Essentially what we’ve done here, is the top shot is at 1/160 at F1.4 ISO 50 with a five stop. The bottom shot is at 1/60 of a second, F5.6 and ISO 400 with a five stop.

Let’s compare those two. Five stop, five stop, that’s identical. Those, that’s a wash, right? 1/160 of a second versus 1/60 down here. Basically, what we did was we cut the light, or we added from this shot to this shot, we added about 1.3 stops of light, right? F5.6 from F1.4, so F2, 2.8, 4, 5.6. we lost four stops of light from going to F5.6, we added back three stops of light. So, ISO 50, 100, 200, 400. So we added back three stops of light to the ISO. We reduced four stops of light from our aperture and we added back basically one and a half, one and three quarters, or one and a half stops of light from our shutter speed.

Why is it that this looks that much brighter in the background than this image? Really, in reality, it’s only like a half stop at the most of a difference between these two. This is where we talk about, again, that natural lens vignetting that you get when you shoot wide open is going to be far more dramatic on this shot than it is on this shot. As soon as you start closing down the aperture, you don’t get that natural lens vignetting that comes with a wide open aperture. Why does this shot look to be more bright than this one? At least it looks to be more than just a third of a stop or a half stop brighter than the top shot is because we also are reducing all of that natural vignetting that we would get around the lens by being at F5.6 naturally, it brightens up just a little bit more.

As far as my preference, I prefer the ambient exposure in this shot. Little bit brighter, a little bit more natural, and I really dig the overall look to it.

For light direction and quality, let’s analyze this for a second. Light is placed on the camera left and we’re basically using, again, the sun on the camera right. The sun is coming top down from camera right, it’s hitting the side of her hair, which we’re using as a hair light. We’re using it as a shoulder rim, and it just creates a beautiful edge light just across her body and so forth. Look at the light coming from the natural light just on these two images, right. We have our sun as the rim but most of our light, the natural light is coming from the opposite direction from that sky. It’s coming from camera left, so what do we do? If we want to match that, if we want to create a very natural look overall and we want to retain the natural shadow in the image, then we need the light from that same direction. We place the lights on camera left, we light with that existing fill that’s already there and then we create our look overall. We’re using the three foot Profoto RFi Octa and we have two Bolt VB22s mounted to that Profoto RFi Speedring.

These guys have quite a bit longer of a flash recycle time than a Profoto B2. A B2 with a battery pack, again, what you’re paying for is the convenience, you’re paying for the quality. You’re getting 1.4 full, 1.4 second full power recycles on that guy. This guy, without the regular … With the regular able, we’re getting around five, six, seven seconds worth of time for full power recycles. With a splitter cable, we’re getting half that. We’re getting around three seconds, but again, we’re using two of these flashes. With two of the flashes, we’re again drawing from the same battery pack which draws out the recycled time further. What I’m trying to do basically, is use two of them on that flash bracket with the single battery and slow down the power basically a little bit. We’re trying to reduce power to one half, one quarter power so that way we get faster recycle times overall.

We’re probably running about half power on each of these, which again, either way, two of these guys running at half power versus one running at full power is still roughly the same recycle time. Either way, the Profoto or the Bolt, pick your poison, you’re going to be needing roughly five to six pocket strobes worth of power or about 250 to 300 watt/seconds of power to be able to get enough light on her in this kind of a scene.

With the test shot, we started shooting at 1.4, this is that first shot. I liked it, but again, I desired more of that background kind of … We had a beautiful background, I wanted to show off that depth of field, so I increased to F5.6. I also wanted that more natural look to the image that we discussed, so I brightened up by about a third a stop, plus we reduced the vignetting by going to 5.6 so we get a brighter look overall.

Next, our light color, or white balance, it looks fantastic where it’s at. We’re shooting 5300 degrees Kelvin here and it looks great. We’re not going to gel or do anything like that. Pose, frame, and shoot. There’s a couple of things that I wanted to mention right here. From the first shot to the second shot, I really liked the fact that her hair was kind of streaming down in this shot. I thought it looked really cool and her hair looked fantastic; just that it looked very healthy, just long and shiny, especially with the hair light on there. One thing I want her to do is I wanted to reveal more of the necklace and I also wanted to kind of get that sunlight to catch her jaw and her neck and kind of the area on the right just to create depth and dimension to it. I had her pull her hair around to the other side, brig her hand up with a little bit of sand in it and just kind of release the sand in her hand as we kind of captured the image. I thought I had a really cool overall look as she gazed in the camera.

Lighting pattern-wise, we’re going for more loop lighting here. You can see that we have that nice loop shadow just across the nose. That light is placed on camera left, top down and it has this beautiful effect where we just get this nice amount of main light that balances really well with the rim caused by the sun. It looks absolutely wonderful. Now, in these kind of shots, again you have a lot of things that you want to be careful of. There’s a lot of things that can cause shadows, reflections, and so-forth. One thing to note is that jewelry that’s bright like this, when it’s hit with light, it can cast kind of unnatural reflections around the underside of the chin and so-forth and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes, you can get the light position to be in a position where you don’t get it. Sometimes, it’s just simply something that you have to fix in photo shop. Kind of identify which it is when you’re shooting and try and fix it if you can.

Again, with the pose, I have her posed so that we have this beautiful kind of hourglass shape to her hip and it kind of opens up at the chest and it looks really nice. I love the overall look of this.

With this kind of a shot, just be sure to watch those shadows closely, especially if she has a limb kind of sticking out. We want to make sure those shadows don’t drop too deep in it. Again, when it comes to this kind of a photo, getting the right image all comes down to that balance. Making sure that your main is balanced well with that rim light. If the rim light is too bright in comparison to the main, it’s really going to throw things off and it’s not going to look quite right.

All right, so that’s it for our tutorial. Just remember that with this type of a midday scene, when you’re modifying your light, you’re going to need at least two hundred fifty to three hundred watt seconds worth of power if you’re going to be modifying it and even then, it still needs to be pretty close to where your subject is going to be. Also, remember that when you have a beautiful background, we have our shot here at 1.4 versus our shot at 5.6 … When you have a great background, it’s not overly busy, it doesn’t subtract form your subject, by all means, stop down the aperture and utilize that background. Show it off in the image, because that is why you come out to locations like this, is to have amazing backdrops to feature in your images