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.
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.
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.
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.
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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