This photographer combined long exposure with flash for great effects
There is a lot of really good photography posted on social media these days. If we follow even a handful of photography groups, we’re inundated with it. Sometimes, though, something sticks out, as is the case with these images from photographer Raul Farfan.
It’s an interesting technique to use in the studio, combining slow shutters with flash. All of the photos are self-portraits, with the camera locked off on a tripod. DIYP chatted with Raul to find out how and why he shot the images.
The idea for doing these as self-portraits rather than of other subjects appears to have been a product of the pandemic. Unable to go out and see other people, what was he to do but sit at home and watch YouTube videos and play with his camera gear?
And that’s exactly what happened. But first, a little backstory, as Raul explains:
Since childhood, my fascination with sci-fi and futuristic movies has been unwavering. Among the plethora of films that captured my imagination, “The Chronicles of Riddick” stands out prominently. One scene resonates in my memory — the battle between Riddick and Lord Marshal. The latter possessed the remarkable ability to move with incredible speed, leaving behind a trail reminiscent of a stellar phenomenon.
It’s an idea that had been floating around in his mind for a long time. Something he’d seen in his head but didn’t feel he could create. But that changed while at home during the pandemic.
Fast forward. One day, as I immersed myself in a live presentation by Adorama, a renowned photography resource, a presenter (Seth Miranda) skillfully demonstrated the shutter drag technique. In an instant, my mind flashed back to that iconic scene from “The Chronicles of Riddick.” The presenter’s explanation of capturing motion and creating dynamic effects through photography echoed the visuals of Lord Marshal’s movements.
We all know what it’s felt like to have an image rolling around in our heads, just hoping we’ll one day figure out how to create it. And sometimes we can find help at the most unexpected times. And a global pandemic surely was unexpected.
Restrictions in place in Peru at the time meant that movement and contact with others was difficult for Raul, if not impossible. So, he embarked on a solo mission. Self-portraits.
Planning a project like this can be tough, especially if you’re shooting in a little home studio. Raul had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish, though, and had created a checklist of things to do.
He needed to find a suitable room in his house to do the shoot. After all, he needed to set up a backdrop and lights. His model situation was sorted as he was going to be sitting in front of the camera himself. He also needed an outfit and props, some of which he made himself.
He bought EVA foam, metallic paint, and glue to begin his project. He also managed to find a few props on eBay, including a king’s crown and some goggles.
Finally, Raul needed to make sure his gear was up to scratch and realised that he was missing a couple of things to meet his needs. He needed some kind of RGB light and ended up buying the Godox LC500R RGB LED Stick (buy here).
Setting up and shooting
Raul’s setup for the shoot was quite modest. A black reflector clamped between two light stands acts as a background. The Godox LC500R sits camera left with a Godox AD200 (buy here) camera right with the Joe McNally Ezybox Speed-Light 2 Plus (buy here).
As for the camera itself, that’s the Sony A7 III (buy here) with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens (buy here) attached. The camera was set up to shoot rear-curtain sync. This means that the flash fires at the end of the exposure instead of the beginning.
This way, he could capture a long exposure with some blur and then a sharp capture with a pop of flash at the end. He did face some challenges along the way. Not only did he have the typical challenges of a shoot, but he also had to photograph himself as the subject.
As he was photographing himself, Raul had to rely on a tripod to do the job, along with a remote trigger for the shutter. Capturing motion and timing everything while trying to fire a camera shutter remotely is not an easy task!
He needed to ensure he was located correctly in the frame throughout the duration of each exposure. Raul also needed to be in the plane of focus throughout the exposure. Or at least when the flash went off.
The most difficult part, Raul tells DIYP, is the timing. As mentioned, he needed to be in focus when the flash went off. But he also needed to time his movements so that it got a good image during the ambient exposure and he was in the right spot when the flash fired.
Shutter speed is a vital aspect of this type of shot. It needs to be long enough to capture the motion you need, but not so long that you’re waiting for it to fire when you’ve made your movement.
The small screen of the camera didn’t help much. On such a small screen, blurred textures can appear sharp. And when focus is critical, one needs to be sure. So, Raul tethered his camera to his computer, allowing a view of each image on a larger screen.
To edit the images, Raul used Capture One Pro. Capture One Pro allowed him to tether his camera to the computer in the first place. It also allows him to apply a preset to the raw file, giving him an idea of how the final image will look.
In that final look, he increased the contrast a little and saturated the colours – to great effect, I think. He also sharpened the images to give them a little crispness. It’s easy to oversharpen images like these, and I think Raul did well.
It’s an excellent technique to experiment with, and Raul’s done good work with these. I’ve tried this in the past myself a couple of times, although my results were nowhere near as good. Raul’s almost look otherworldly – or like that scene where Dr Strange pulls Spidey’s soul from his body.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.