The easiest way to balance flash with ambient light when shooting outdoors

Oct 14, 2022

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

The easiest way to balance flash with ambient light when shooting outdoors

Oct 14, 2022

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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If you’ve been a predominantly natural light shooter then the prospect of adding a flash or strobe to your images could feel a little daunting. Suddenly your way of controlling light just doesn’t seem to work anymore, and it can be incredibly frustrating just trying to get the beautiful subtle effect that you’re probably going for.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Adding a hint of strobe to ambient or outdoor natural light is a great way to take your images up a notch. And as Pye Jirsa shows us in this video from Adorama, it really doesn’t have to be complicated or scary.

You can break it all down into 4 simple steps. As you get more used to it and practice, it will become second nature and these steps will flow effortlessly.

Composition

First of all, forget about your strobes. The beautiful thing about bringing your own lights versus relying solely on natural light, is that it opens up a lot more variety of composition. Effectively, you can create anything you want now that you aren’t only using the sun as a light source. So go ahead, knock yourself out, and try for the best composition you can find.

Ambient

Next, you want to set the ambient light exposure. “Just decide how you want the background to look,” advises Pye. If you want it to be more dramatic, expose it to be a little darker. Remember to stay within the sync speed of your camera. That’s usually around 1/160 to 1/250 depending on your camera brand and model. If you’re not sure, just look it up.

Add light

Now you can add your lights. Think about the angle you want the light to hit your subjects. Now add your flash. Pye simplifies it by saying that if you want a dramatic look, you need more flash power. For a more natural brighter look, you need less because the ambient light and exposure will do more of the heavy lifting. Generally, I would begin with the flash settings at 1/8 power and then modify it from there. Pye uses the same principles in the video.

Photograph

Now that the lighting tests are done, you’re ready to photograph. This is the fun bit and much more similar to just shooting as you would in natural light now that everything is set up.

To conclude, adding a bit of flash or strobe to your outdoor shots can open up a lot more variety in your images. You’re much freer to move around and try different compositions that wouldn’t normally work using only available light. With a little planning and following these steps, it doesn’t have to be complicated.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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One response to “The easiest way to balance flash with ambient light when shooting outdoors”

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    Most informative article I have seen, and it is so well explained, thank you very much for posting this article, keep posting more such informative articles, from which we get more help. For more information you can visit our website.