Mimicking window light with off-camera bounce flash
Continuing the photo session with Ulorin, we worked inside the hotel room for the next part. The photo above is a candid shot of Ulorin fixing her hair between changes in clothing. Ulorin’s next outfit shown in this article, was more revealing than the previous outfits during the photo session. (Just a heads-up for the Tangents readers who are surfing from their workplace.)
Photographing inside the room, I initially tried to work with just the window-light, but hit a small snag. The indirect light through the window kept changing on me as clouds moved in and out. Instead of changing my settings continually to match the light, I decided to revert to using flash to mimic the window light. This would give me consistent light.
Off-camera flash as window light
This is the quality of light that I was after … soft directional light that still added a sense of drama. The light shown here is mostly flash, with a bit of ambient light. It took a few adjustments though to get to this point where I really liked the look.
camera settings for both images:
1/250 @ f5.6 @ 800 ISO … manual off-camera flash.
The slight change in contrast that you see in the light on her face, is because Ulorin shifted in position relative to the light as she changed her pose. (I edited out the white bedsheets in the top image to see if the image was improved without the distraction of the white bed sheets.)
This is where we started. In these test shots you can see the table and clutter in the background. This is before we moved everything out of the way. What is also immediately noticeable is that the exposures here are different, even though my camera settings were the same:
1/200 @ f4 @ 650 ISO
The available light looked good (as in this image below), but it was too inconsistent. I’d rather be concentrating on the photography, than have the rhythm of the photo session be broken by constant adjustment of settings.
1/250 @ f3.2 @ 800 ISO .. available light.
I then thought I could mimic the window light by placing an off-camera flash in the window. The flash pointed outwards and up, bouncing off the glass of the window. I had the flash-head zoomed wide.
The result was a flood of light into the room. I guess this would’ve looked like window light on another sunnier day. And with the room not facing another hotel across the narrow road. It just didn’t look like I wanted.
The next step was the Big Adjustment. I moved the light to the left of the window frame, and rotated the flash so that it pointed to the left. Now the light bounced off the glass towards the top of the window pane. Yes, even though I am pointing the flash outwards, enough light will bounce off the glass to make the difference.
And now the direction of the light is exactly what I was after. I had zoomed the flash-head to a tighter angle to make the swathe of light less broad. I wanted the light to accentuate Ulorin’s face. And here is the result …
And in case anyone needs convincing that bouncing the flash off the glass had any effect, here is the shot without the flash.
Camera settings for both images .. in fact for all the images with the flash positioned here:
1/250 @ f5.6 @ 800 ISO
The manual off-camera flash was controlled in the same way as for the photo session with Ulorin in the red latex outfit. The speedlight was controlled via a PocketWizard FlexTT5 on which the flash was mounted. The output of this flash could be controlled as manual flash via the FlexTT5 and AC3 ZoneController on the camera.
As photographers we needs to pre-visualize what we want to achieve with our lighting .. and work towards that by figuring out where we need to place our light. Then we also need to figure out what we want to achieve with the light.
As shown in the previous post with Ulorin in the red latex outfit, the lighting set-up that we end up using can be quite simple. It needs some thought and adjustment and experimenting to get to where we want to be with the lighting. As in the previous post, a simple speedlight offered unexpectedly good results.
- Off-camera bounce flash
- Directional light from off-camera bounce flash
- Change your position to change the direction of light
Photo gear (or equivalents) used with this photo session
- Nikon D3
- Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S / Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II
- Nikon SB-910 Speedlight controlled by PocketWizard FlexTT5 & AC3 Controller
or alternately, the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite controlled by Canon ST-E3 Transmitter
- Manfrotto 1051BAC light-stand