combining flash and ambient light
Going by the emails that I receive, one of the areas that many photographers struggle with is that of combining ambient exposure and flash exposure. This question is also expressed in other ways. It can be a frustrated, “where do we even start?” I also often see it expressed as an involved step-by-step deconstruction of technique, making the entire process more complex than it is.
In reply to that, and many other emails I’ve received in the past few months, I’d like to offer an analysis of a few images from a recent shoot.
One of my favorite clients has the most adorable baby boy that she wanted some portraits of. I had to shoot fast, since his attention span was .. oh, zero. He’s still a baby! I also wanted to be able to cover myself in getting some available-light only portraits, and some with bounce flash. I didn’t want the flash to be overwhelmingly bright. And in bouncing the flash, there was also less chance of disturbing the baby. So I had to mix it up in order to get some variety, and be sure of images that worked.
The image at the top was shot with the Nikon D3 and the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S
Lighting here was a combination of available light and bounce flash. And as usual, I used the black foamie thing to flag the flash so NO light from the flashgun fell directly on the child.
camera settings: 1/100 @ f4.5 @ 640 ISO, using TTL flash
The FEC was not recorded, but would’ve been around 0EV because my flash isn’t merely fill-flash here, but fairly dominant.
Now where the settings look like they might be informative, I also often feel that these numerical values are a diversion. Too many photographers will get hooked on the choice of f4.5 over another aperture. Whey 1/100th of a second? Why 640 ISO?
The truth is that this could’ve been a different combination of settings. What is important here, is the quality of light. It is our major concern here, and should interest us more than f4.5 at this moment.
The light on the baby’s face is directional. There is more light coming from camera left .. and from this you should be able to deduce that I did indeed bounce my flash to my left. Using that piece of black foam to flag my flash, I was able to get directional light like that.
The light is soft. Since I bounced my flash into the room, and it bounced off the walls, and furniture, I will have soft light.
So those two aspects of the light from my flash is easily understood – soft directional light.
Now let’s look at how I chose to balance my flash with the available light …
Learn more inside…