It’s All A Matter of Balance

Our Friend Luke Pickerill joins us today with this especially thorough post on balancing flash & available light. Luke shares his thoughts on choosing equipment, camera settings, positioning lights.

If you appreciate this kind of detailed instruction you can find more like it at Luke’s website  www.ExpertPhotoTraining.com. Be sure to watch his “Workshop” page for your opportunity to train in a small class, where each student can receive Luke’s personal attention. Current workshop dates are September 16th in L.A. and September 21st in Central Florida.

It’s All A Matter of Balance.

Today I want to walk you through an image and show you step by step how we set it up, what we we’re thinking and how you can get these kinds of shots with your Quantum gear!

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Camera:  Nikon D3s Lens:  Nikon 70-200mm Why:  Because I love this lens. The depth of field it can produce is awesome! Plus, it’s pretty sharp when used at it’s widest aperture.

Camera Settings:  1/160 – f/3.2 – ISO1000

Aperture:  f/3.2 Why: Because I wanted maximum depth of field. The lowest aperture I could have used would be 2.8 since that’s the lowest the 70-200 lens can do.  However at 2.8 it can be just a little soft. Stopped down to 3.2 the lens is tack sharp.  To summarize, maximum foreground and background blur while still staying sharp all the way through.

Shutter Speed + ISO: 1/160 + ISO: 1000?Why:  I am putting shutter and ISO together because I used them as a team for 2 reasons:
1.  I wanted to keep my shutter speed as high as possible to minimize camera shake. A Nikon D3s has a max sync speed of 1/250th of a second. So, I started there and then opened up just a little to allow the window light just out of frame left to add a little highlight to our bride.
2.  The Window just out of frame right was throwing a nice highlight onto our bride. We know that our aperture is controlling our flash and our shutter speed is controlling the amount of available light. Adjusting the shutter speed will let more or less available light in.  In this case by lowering my shutter speed we are letting more available light in, which will produce a more visible highlight.

So, setting my ISO to 1000 allowed me to set my shutter speed to 1/160 and get the amount of highlight I wanted.

Image 2
Lighting:  Quantum QFlash with a shoot through umbrella. Why:  My Quantum QFlash is always with me on weddings and is one of my go to lights. It is battery powered, so it’s super portable but much more powerful than a standard speedlight. This is nice when shooting in bright sun or when you need more power.

How To Get This Kind Of Shot:

1.  Meter for the available light: Below is the test shot I took before bringing my bride into the frame. As you can see my assistant is really dark which is exactly what we want. Remember we’re going to be using flash, so we only care about the highlight being cast by the window just out of frame right.
First, I set my Aperture (The why is above) Second, I set my camera to Spot Meterting Third, I metered for the highlight on my assistant. Fourth, I am in the ballpark with where I want to be with my shutter speed (Reasoning above)

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That’s it. One test shot, looks good, let’s bring our bride in and get the shot.

PRO TIP:  If you’re unsure test the setups with your assistant prior to testing on your bride. Let her sit down or rest, get the shot all set up, then bring her in and shoot.

2.  Bring in The Flash: Start with the flash on a low power setting and raise up the power until you have the exposure you want. In this case I had my QFlash at 1/32 power.

I fired off a quick test shot not worrying about pose or expression or even focus. I just wanted to see that I was getting a good exposure with the flash.  I asked the brides maids to move because you can see their reflection in the mirror back there and we’re ready to get the shot.

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PRO TIP:  The more you do this kind of shoot the more you’ll get to know your gear. Eventually you won’t have to start at the lowest setting and bring your flash in you’ll already have a good idea where to start based on the settings you’ve chosen.

3. Compose Your Shot & Get a Good Expression. I liked the reflection in the bar and the reflection in the mirror so I wanted to use both. I was shooting at a focal length of 105mm and standing about 15 feet away from my bride.

Image 1

Final Thoughts: I took the first test shot of my Assistant at 12:31 pm and took the shot above at 12:34 pm.  So from start to finish it took us 3 minutes to get this shot.

Pro Tip:  Experiment with the framing. Once your all set up try some different angles and composition. Your light is already set, so don’t worry about looking at the back of your camera to check each frame. Just knock out some great images and move on.

Below: I quickly changed up the composition to get a great detail shot of our bride’s ring.?

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Luke Pickerill
Pickerill Creative
(818) 391-9541


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