Portable Lighting

This workshop prepared us for on location shoots that involve professional lighting. We used portable flash equipment on the streets of Bath while being lead by our course leader, Kellie Hindmarch. Portable light kits provide a more powerful light source while on location instead of using speed lights.

We learned how to balance artificial lighting with the ambient light to generate additional impact into an environmental portrait.

On Location Setup:

Flash off camera on a lighting stand with reflective umbrella, triggered by radio slave with camera tripod mounted. The camera was in manual mode to synch the flash speed  with the camera. We began by selecting our desired f stop for depth of field.

Steps:

  1. Subject metered for the flash output for the settings on the camera e.g f8 and 1/125th shutter. This setting needs to be at least as bright as background to be effective as else the ambient light will be the dominant light source.
  2. Take a photograph.
  3. The background will appear darker than the main subject. With extremely small apertures backgrounds can be made to appear black even in daylight.
  4. Level of illumination of the background can be adjusted by adjusting the shutter speed as this allows more ambient light to illuminate the background thus giving a balanced exposure. So called “dragging the shutter”
  5. Accordingly the level of background illumination can be adjusted to taste either to give a neutral, balanced effect with the flash and background ambient light contributing equal amounts of light or create and increasingly dramatic effect to improve the contrast of the foreground subject compared to the background
  6. This technique works on the basis the flash duration is so rapid and bright (1000th of a second) that by slowing the shutter speed to allow more ambient light on the background it has minimal effect on the main subject.

Takeaways: 

  1. When using very slow speeds and/or long lenses are being used it’s essential to use a tripod, preferably with a cable release, to eliminate any motion blur.
  2. Shutter speed must be slower than the sync speed as using a faster speed won’t allow camera shutter to close in time and part of the photo will be obscured by the shutter curtain.