Outdoor photo session with kids, using off-camera flash
When I posted photos from this session on FB, there were questions about the lighting (and whether I had used off-camera flash), as well as camera settings. There were also questions about which lens I had used for this sequence – whether it was perhaps an 85mm lens. The surprise perhaps might be that this isn’t out of the ordinary from how I usually approach a photo session – Checklist for portrait photography on location. A systematic way to make sure I get images that look really good.
With kids being their usual rambunctious selves, I need to be able to concentrate on them, and their expressions … rather than be overly concerned with camera settings.
My camera settings were fairly conservative for this sequence:
1/250 @ f/4.5 @ 125 ISO
The f/4.5 aperture was still shallow enough for the 135mm focal length to give me separation from the autumn foliage in the background. The 135mm focal length (on my 70-200mm lens) was tight enough to fill the background with colors. Had the patch of color in the background been smaller, I would’ve zoomed to a longer focal length – that would have “enlarged” the background because of the perspective compression with me moving even further back. This is a topic touched on in a related article – Using tele-converters: Extra lens compression for tighter portraits.
Lighting was done with my workhorse Profoto B1 battery powered flash (B&H / Amazon). The softbox was the Westcott Rapid Box 36 XL (affiliate), because it is so easy to set up and collapse. I used TTL mode here (with negative FEC) to get to the initial exposure, and then locked it in manual flash mode via the Profoto controller on my camera. Elegance … while laying flat on my stomach on the ground. The reason for shooting from so low down … a better perspective.
In a sense then, there is nothing new here about shooting like this. It’s an accumulation of a few essential techniques, applied again. It works every time.
Camera settings, and photo gear (or equivalents) used for these photos
- 1/250 @ f/4.5 @ 125 ISO
- Nikon D4
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II /equivalent Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
- Profoto B1 battery powered flash
- Westcott Rapid Box 36 XL
- 75″ tall Gitzo monopod to hold up the light
This pull-back shot will place everything into context and give you a better sense of where we were shooting.
And two more photos from this sequence:
A little bit of homework
I used a powerful flash here. Would these results shown here be possible with a single speedlight and a softbox?
- Checklist for portrait photography on location
- More spontaneous portrait photography
- more articles about Off-camera Flash Photography
- Dramatic portraits of kids – Lighting and intent
- Using tele-converters: Extra lens compression for tighter portraits
- More from this Family & kids photo session, NJ
Video tutorials to help you with flash photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.