Subtle Light for Natural Portraits | Transcription
Now, when it came to the Natural Light Couples Photography DVD, we showed you basically how to pull off pretty much the exact same results as this but using reflectors. In this tutorial, I want to show you the exact same results but this time using flash. Now, what is the benefit of basically doing something with flash that you could essentially do with reflectors? Hopefully, this makes sense to you right now.
With flash, we have control in any scene in any situation regardless. If we are working in the shade, it is hard to catch enough sunlight, unless you happen to have some direct sunlight coming through to throw that light in the places that you want with a reflector. But in shade, with flash, we can put the light wherever we want and we can have it be as subtle as we want, like a reflector would be, or we can have it be powerful. Either way, we don’t have to rely on the existing light and to shape that light with just a reflector. It is a little bit more versatile in the way that it works.
What we are doing in this scene here is we are going to basically just add a little bit of light using our Phottix and just a simple Westcott Umbrella. We are bringing back the umbrella. We are going to show you another use for it, which is just to basically turn the umbrella into essentially a natural light reflector but using flash. It’s not really natural light but it is going to look like that.
Here is what we have here. Now, on our first grouping right here, this is the first scene, or basically the first set of shots, and this is the same scene with a second set of shots. What we have here is you can see we are shooting on the Sigma 50mm Art, which is this guy right here.
We have the camera set to 1/100 of a second at F2, ISO 800. We have a 5-stop ND on there. Why? Because it is midday sun. We are shooting at F2. It is kind of like overcast-ish and we are in the shade. We need about 3 stops to be honest, if that. We need maybe 2 to 3 stops of ND. We could probably get away with dropping down to low ISO if we want to and raising it up to 1/200 of a second for our shutter speed. You notice my settings are a little bit wonky, to be honest. Why is that?
Remember how we talked about earlier, sometimes I like to boost the ISO up a little bit to get to a more natural and kind of filmic look. By taking my 5D Mark III up to 400, 800, 1600 ISO in midday, we reduce a little bit of the dynamic range. We reduce a little bit of the detail by adding a little bit of fine grain to it, and we create kind of a softer and more organic look to the images. If you want to take the images and create kind of a more filmic look, this is the way to get there more successfully or at least to replicate a filmic look with more success than if you just shot it at 100 ISO.
At 100 ISO, you have so much dynamic range. You have so much sharpness and so forth that when you apply a filmic filter over it in general, it still looks like just an HD camera. It looks like a camera that was very expensive that was used with a filter applied over it. It doesn’t look convincingly filmic.
I want to get that natural and organic look to the image. Whether I apply a filming filter over it … I generally don’t apply those kind of filters over it but I do like that natural, bright, and kind of organic look to the shots, and so I’ll do this from time to time.
Here, I am using the 5-stop to give me enough cut down in light that I can run it up to ISO 800 or 1600 if I want to and shoot these kind of shots.
The actual background exposure over here is just a little bit too bright. The reason why that I am kind of noting that is that they seem to be just like basically the same as the background. Everything is kind of just balanced in a way that they all look identical. The background and them, they are the same brightness, and so they just kind of fall into it.
What I do is I stop the background down just by 1-stop. We go to 1/200 of a second. We are now in a F2. We are on ISO 800, 5600 degrees Kelvin. We are on our 5-stop ND.
This is ambient light only though. Just so you can see, basically, what we have done is we have cut away the ambient light but we don’t have any additional light. What ends up happening is they get just a little bit dark.
What we do here is we have our three Phottixes. They are set up on that triple bracket. We don’t need 3 but generally I just set up 3 in case I need to run high power and then I have 3 there for either high power or for better recycle time, using lower power.
We have 3 there. We have the Westcott Umbrella stuck right through that little umbrella holder and we are firing roughly around 1/8 to 1/16 power, again, depending on position from the subject. All I want is just a little kiss of light to come in and hit them just to brighten them up a little bit to get them a little bit brighter in the background. Then, we get to a very beautiful and natural look in the shot. It looks really nice.
This setting is just a little bit more powerful than a fill, a bump reflector. Essentially with this, it is like we took a silver reflector and we caught the direct light and we filled it into their faces.
How difficult would it be if you are working the shade to find a spot of direct light and for that spot to be just the right distance from the subject, where you can get it into the right spot and fill both their faces? With the umbrella, it is easy. We can do this very simply. We don’t have to bust out our reflector and try and find the light and then worry about what if we don’t have direct light? What if we are working overcast? What if we are in the shade? All of those different what-ifs that prevent you from getting a good boost of light like this? We would need direct sunlight to be able to get that. Flash gives us that versatility here.
Now, down here, we take the flash power down even further. Now, we are using it as a bump. This is what we refer to when we take that silver and we put it basically underneath to give us that bump to just kind of fill the shadows in an overcast scene like this or basically in a scene in shade like this.
Once again, we are running 1/200 of a second at F1.4 this time, ISO 1600. Again, it gives us that nice organic look. It reduces some of the contrast. It reduces some of the color. It reduces some of the detail and we get a really soft, beautiful look to it.
This is ambient light only. Ambient light only, you can see that there are deep shadows underneath her chin and on his side too. I like the shadows. I like everything about it but if I was shooting this with a reflector, I would use a little bump.
What is the problem with trying to do a bump in this scene? How am I going to do a bump? Where am I going to hold the reflector if I’m shooting a full-length shot? Generally, when we do a bump, we hold it right at their hips so it fills light just into their shadowy parts of their faces. It gives them a nice catch light but we don’t have the option of shooting wide like that. We can’t cover their entire body. By using a reflector, we run into those limitations. We have limitations as far as its placement, as far as how much light we can catch, as far as how much light we can throw. If it is windy, it becomes more difficult and so forth.
With our flashes and our umbrella, we dial the power down to 1/16 or 1/32 worth of power, very light, very soft, acting just like a bump would. Then, we fill from the left side just to fill in those shadows a little bit. It still looks natural. It doesn’t look flashed. We get a beautiful fill just like we would with a bump. I can work in wider to get their entire bodies. I can work in tighter to get just their faces and their expressions, and I’m not limited.
This is, again, another one of those subtle uses for flash and for lighting. It takes the place of essentially the reflector. I’m not saying to not take reflectors with you. I still take reflectors on my shoots but when it gets to these type of situations, I do prefer using my flashes along with modifiers to get to my results because it gives me more consistent results. It is much easier for my assistant to just simply hold the flash with the umbrella. Just up and just like this versus trying to constantly catch light and to stand in the right place, and to work with the wind, and to do all that stuff that you would need to do with the reflector. I get more consistent images.
I get better pops when they laugh. When you get these expressions that are just fleeting moments that you’ve just got to capture in that split-second. Well, I don’t have to worry about my reflector being off for that split-second that they’re laughing or anything like that because my light is going to be consistent every single time.
This is a case, where once you get more used to using flash … I want to kind of help you all to realize that in a lot of the scenes where we used to use natural light and modification, and all that kind of stuff via reflectors and everything, now you can utilize flash in those situations. Still bring along your reflectors because maybe you are going to bounce off them. Maybe you still need them as a fill, whatever it is, but now you can use flash to a more consistent effect to get to the same results.
Now, once again, the last thing I’m going to remind you all is that if you are not getting these kind of natural results, what’s off? If your image does not look natural, if it looks flashed, what is going on? Your ambient to flash balance is off. Again, don’t throw up your hands and get frustrated. Don’t do anything other than just tell yourself in your head, “Oh, you know what? I’m going to need more ambient light and less flash power if I want this to look subtle and subdued. If I want it to look dramatic, more flash power, less ambient light.”