Doug Fairbairn asked me about this image from a recent post on my wedding photography blog, where I showed some images from a Las Vegas destination wedding:
Great photos. I’m wondering about the lighting for the second photo – B&G and wedding party walking to camera with sun in background. How did you get so much light on their faces? Was it just reflected from the walkway or what? Too far away to use flash it would seem.
Doug .. thank you for the compliments!
About the look of that image and the way their faces are lit – this has less to do with the use of flash than it has with starting off with an image that is correctly exposed, and then tweaking it in post-production.
Two important things to note here:
- I shoot in manual exposure mode only. This gives me consistent exposure from frame to frame, and more accurate exposures. The strong back-lighting would’ve fooled any automatic metering mode.
- I shoot in RAW. This allows me all the flexibility in post-processing that I may need.
Let me take you through the steps that I took with this photo in post-processing:
For a comparison, here is the original image directly out of the camera:
As you’ll notice the white balance is incorrect. In this case I had the WB set to Auto, which in itself is unusual since I normally prefer the WB to be set to one of the presets like Daylight or Cloudy. Changing the WB to a pleasant white balance is easy in raw workflow, with no loss of info.
Also, because of the sun directly hitting the front element of the lens, there is flare and the contrast is reduced. This also needs to be fixed during post-processing.
Here is a screenshot of what my default ACR settings look like with that image pulled into ACR.
(Click on the image to get the larger image and see the actual slider settings.)
This image will look slightly different than the original because my default settings will change a few of the parameters. The red areas show where detail is lost. This can be controlled to a large extent with some of the sliders, such as Recovery. A change in white balance will also affect what colors are blown out, and hence affect the red areas showing lost highlights.
Adjusting the image in ACR:
I will firstly change my white balance and exposure to get to a basic image that looks good. And then I will finesse the other settings until I am happy with what the image looks like on my screen. (A calibrated monitor is essential.)
By now the image looks like this …
… but I would still like to have the image pop some more …
.. and for this I use a select few actions. I don’t often use actions, since I prefer my photographs to have a natural look to them, with little processing being visible. So most of my images that I show on my website or give to the labs for proofing are directly out of the raw converter. This is mainly because I want a fast and efficient workflow. Finessing a large number of images in Photoshop would be too time-consuming.
But this image I felt could do with a bit more snap to it. So I used one of the Totally Rad actions. As to which specific one … well, I’ll keep that a mystery. ;)
It might seem like a lot of work so far to edit the image. But, aside from the use of the action on this individual image, the rest of the post-processing workflow is fast since I usually edit images as groups. Because sequences of images will have the same WB and exposure, it is easy enough to select them all together in my raw converter program and adjust them simultaneously.
Back to the original question regarding how much flash was used – the EXIF data says that the flash was on in TTL mode and dialed down to -2.3 stops flash exposure compensation. The group was turned away from the sun, so the light on their faces would be fairly even. And I therefore just needed a touch of fill-flash.
So, as I mentioned at the start, the look of the image had less to do with how I used flash, but more to do with correct exposure, and then a touch-up in raw post-processing.
And for quick comparison purposes, here are the original and final images again, next to each other:
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