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Lighting set up - will this work?

LoriclappLoriclapp Member
edited September 2013 in flash & lighting
I have an engagement shoot tomorrow night around sunset. It's a fireman and his fiance. We are going to park the trucks in front of the fire station with the lights on, and put the couple out in front of them with an umbrella. We are going to use a firehose to make "rain" coming down on the couple.

I am trying really hard to learn off camera flash - I've been using it for awhile, but am not very confident that I'm doing it right. So here is what I plan to do - suggestions are more than welcome - and I am more than willing to throw my lighting plans out the window and do it "right"!!

I will obviously use a tripod -
To start with, I will meter for ambient light - to expose the trucks with the lights. And I will set the camera to that exposure. I'm not sure if I should use Ettl flash or manual - I'm thinking manual. But I'm not sure where to aim my soft box to light the couple, but not get a reflection, or any light on the fire trucks. If I have my light off to the side, aimed at the couple, I will get shadows on their faces, but if I aim the light more straight on to light their faces evenly, I will also light the background...right?

Also, what ISO would be a good starting point for a shoot like this? I will be using my 5D MKII, with 580 EX II Speedlight, and I also have a 580 EX speedlight if I need it. I also could use my studio strobes if I need to, instead of the speed lights.


  • Watch this video. If you get the softbox close enough to the couple you can decrease the amount of light you need to illuminate them thus not lighting the fire trucks. Get some separation between them and the fire trucks. So I'm thinking, on axis, softbox slightly above you would work OK.

    Try both ETTL and manual. What harm can it do and it will be good practise. Not sure which light source. Strobe always offers more power if you need it but if the light source is close enough the speedlight should do it.

    ISO? As high as you need to set it to keep the shutter at or below sync speed. If the water is on the couple only the flash will freeze the water. You can control the background exposure with the shutter speed. Depending on fall off and the amount of water behind the couple some may blur a little more with a slower shutter speed which may make it look interesting. Of course this is all about distances and what is in the frame.


    What aperture are you planning? Blurred background or trucks in focus. Important to know because this will also effect your background exposure. Pick that first, then ISO based on shutter speed you want.
  • Oh yeah. If you try the flash on manual do you have a flash meter? If not you can judge the exposure by viewing the LCD after. You will have to do this anyway if you shoot TTL.
  • The more I think about this, the more I don't know what I want. I'm thinking I want the trucks in focus. I also think I want manual flash, only because for some reason, i have problems with TTL flash. I just seem to get totally different results with every shot on TTL. I do have a light meter.

    Since you are so good at giving me advice, how does this sound?

    I will have the lights going on the fire trucks, and I will meter for ambient light, but underexpose a little - I want the trucks a little dark, and I want them lit by the flashing red and blue lights. I will put the couple about 10 feet in front of the trucks, with my flash very close to them, set to manual. I know the flash will freeze the water, which I'm not sure I want to do, but if I start trying to figure out how to blur the water in all this, I will go crazy.

    I don't know why off camera flash is so confusing to me. I think I have tried to learn it from so many different people, and they all contradict each other. Some use HSS, which is totally different than never using HSS - and then I get the techniques mixed up and nothing works!

    Anyway Zenon - thank you for the video - that helps. And thanks for all the advice!!
  • LoriclappLoriclapp Member
    edited September 2013
    This is pretty much what I want, with the couple out in front. I don't want the couple very bright, just a subtle light on them. I shot this fire truck at ISO 500, f22 for 5 seconds. Since I am using live people and water that is moving, I know I can't shoot for 5 seconds - so should I up the ISO and go to f14 or so? I would like to shoot at f22 for the effect on the lights. I'm going to try some different lighting tonight at the fire station.

    Oh, I will also need to use 2nd curtain for my flash - right??
  • Some people prefer second curtain sync. I don't think there is difference if nothing in the background is moving. It is designed for capturing the direction of trailing lights. I have tried both 1st and 2nd and the flash will freeze your subjects so they can have slight movement before or after the flash and will not be effected. Actually if some ambient light catches the water drops it may look odd frozen then trailing down so perhaps 2nd curtain may be better. Then again it may look good. Try both.
  • if you are a Canon shooter, use AVERAGE instead of EVALUATIVE. You can change this in the flash menu. AVERAGE will give you more light consistently than EVALUATIVE. It make the flash think it is the main light source. But I would just go with Manual flash for this...
  • with ANYTHING moving and slow shutter speeds, use 2nd curtain. And with really slow shutter speed, the flash will not always freeze your subjects so have them not move. Also, no need to go to f18 or f22. For everything to be in focus you can get away with f8ish depending on focal length and distance to subject. In other words, at 50mm and f8 for a full body portrait you have 5 feet perfectly in focus (at the focus point) and then the dof fall-off is not very rapid
  • Travelintrevor - I have been trying some different setups tonight to get ready for tomorrow night. I had kind of decided to go with TTL now because there is less to think about - if I want the background darker or lighter, I can just use SS, and not have to think about all the other adjustments I might need to make. Plus, I will be moving around to get different angles. Is there a reason I should NOT use TTL?

    Also, I wanted to use the smallest aperture I can to get the starbust effect from the lights. Thank you!
  • well...the small f stop will make your flash work harder. Moving around with ETTL will give you different flash exposures since the pre-flash is bouncing off different things (different reflectivity). You may find one position where ETTL will give lots of light and then you will need to decrease the FEC and yet another spot where it is the opposite. Manual will give the same every time as long as ISO and f stop do not change. Your shoot sounds fun and challenging and I wish I was there....

  • Rudy, thank you! The more I thought about it last night, the more it made sense to shoot in manual. I wish you were here too - lol, I could use some help!! I will post the results!
  • Hi Loriclapp,
    Your shoot sounds great, looking forward to seeing your results and hearing how it went and what settings you decided to go with. You say your not very confident in what you're doing but it seems like you've thought it out and considered your options thoroughly. Personally I would always go with a shutter speed I could comfortably hand hold so I could move about and have my flash set to manual in these situations so the exposure on the couple didn't change. Then my iso would be determined byt the f stop I wanted.
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