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Controlling Time and Motion with Flash

Lesson 6 of 8

Shoot: Freezing Motion with Strobes

Erik Valind

Controlling Time and Motion with Flash

Erik Valind

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Lesson Info

6. Shoot: Freezing Motion with Strobes

Lesson Info

Shoot: Freezing Motion with Strobes

Let's go ahead and take a test shot of where we're at now. Thank you sir. Uh huh. Alright, and I'll have you over this way just a little bit for me. Perfect, cool. And you can just stay still for this one. (camera shutter clicking) Excellent. Let me go back to my normal camera settings. I always do one first shot just to keep me honest. So let's go to 200 ISO, F11 and 1/200 of a second there. And let's take that shot again. (camera shutter clicking) And what I mean by keeping me honest is I want to see how much ambient light is actually affecting this photograph. So if you look at that photograph, you can barely see him. So that means my ambient light isn't doing much at all. And remember, I'm only at 1/200 of a second. So if there was any ambient light, if he was showing up in that photograph, any time he moved it would be blurry. So I want to make sure I'm setting my camera to negate any of the ambient light so that my shutter speed doesn't matter and I'm just focusing on my flas...

h duration. So I'll take this again. (camera shutter clicking ) Excellent. There we go, now he's lit. That doesn't look bad for a first shot right? I'll take it. Alright. I'm just gonna move this around a little. By moving the light forward, what I'm doing is I'm moving it forward, and I'm feathering the light off the front of his face. Which means the majority of the para is actually aimed this way. It's shooting right by him. And that means I'm getting the full width of this modifier, about four feet or so, and I'm getting this four feet of wrapping light coming around the front. I'm trying to wrap him in light. I want light everywhere. I don't want any shadow, or if I have shadow, I don't want much of it because that's the part that's gonna start blurring on me. So let's take this shot again. (camera shutter clicking) Alright. I like where we're at. Look at the rims on him. If you pan over to that shot you're gonna look side to side. Every bit of him has like a white outline. And that's why we went ahead and did the rim lights on both of the sides. And if you look at the background, the background's pure dark, pitch black, so there's no Photoshop work required. We have a great light on the face. And now I'm gonna start talking about this bottom light down here. Okay, it's on, let's fire him. I'm gonna bring this closer. We have another Siros in here, I've got it in a strip light. The reason I have it in a strip is 'cause it gets out of the way. Nice, narrow, I can keep it low, it's a smaller box. And it's long being a strip light. So that means I get light wrapping around on both sides of him. Alright. (camera shutter clicking) Cool. Nice, so there is our shot. I'm giving myself a little more space. So again, any light out there is going to be able to get this portrait. Now let's have him start moving around a little bit. So this isn't totally shadow boxing yet, but just kind of moving around working with your hands. Do you actually have your wraps? Can you start wrapping the hands up a little bit? Another thing I like to do is, when I'm working with athletes is I always like to get establishing shots. I like to get shots of the gym and the location. I like to get shots of them warming up and getting ready gearing up, and all of that usually requires movement. So here, I know my fast flash duration's gonna be able to take care of a lot, but it also gives me the confidence to shoot this kind of stuff. Where normally I'd have to have the subject be like, I'd be like, okay wrap your hand and now hold that. I get my photo. Okay wrap some more or do your cleat. Okay hold it. That breaks the flow. This is more authentic 'cause I can just be like just go dude, I'll just shoot around you. I know I'm gonna freeze everything. So I'll have you keep wrapping if you want. (camera shutter clicking) So as these shots come in, they are tack sharp every single one of them huh? Okay. Cool, can you punch in on the hands in one of these? Let's make sure I got it in focus before he punches in. Missed that one Focus on the back shirt. Oh on the shirt, okay. Cool, so I'll pull back a little bit. I'm at, what am I at? F11 there, okay. F11 Cool. (camera shutter clicking) Awesome, so maybe grab one of those last ones. There we go. So look at that, tack sharp. So as he's moving around I'm able to freeze all those little things and that's super helpful. So now lets kind of just get you kind of at me with your hood on now. And just kind of just eyes straight through the camera bearing down on the camera. And we don't need any hands in this one so you can just kind of tuck that or if you're almost done you can finish it up, it's cool. I'm kind of getting, I'm liking the flair. I like the lens flair. There's a reason why I brought them in a little bit. I kind of wanted some flair there. We're gonna do something really fun here in a little bit. Perfect. Alright, okay. Awesome, okay, so for this, I'm gonna do like a tight upper body shot. So this is just really intense, kind of intimidating me, staring right down the lens and just moving back and forth like that. (camera shutter clicking) And you can move pretty quickly too if you want to. (camera shutter clicking) Okay, now I guarantee you if we were shooting with anything else, or shooting in actual light, I mean there's a reason your try not to get hit more than you get hit, right? I mean that's one of the goals. So him moving his head and moving around like that is what makes you a good boxer, and at the same time makes you a really difficult subject. 'Cause it's like he's trying not to have his portrait taken kind of thing. So if we look through these photographs, we can probably turn auto advance off maybe, and then we can grab one of these and you can zoom in. Let's zoom in on the eyes on that one. So one thing we're looking for is the auto focus performance of our camera. So the D850 looks like it's doing a good job. But then look at how tack sharp that is. And I mean his head was like whipping around. So this is why flash duration really kind of opens up doors for you once you understand what you're doing there. So outdoors we talked about how to get still photos with ambient light, but the reason I learned flash was for this. So I could really kind of freeze things down and take an instant, a very narrow window of time, and show it. So it's really cool. Now we can go ahead and speed things up a little bit. So let's get you kind of actually shadow boxing now. Alright? So can you just kind of show us what we're going to be looking at. I want the camera to get this. I want to see how fast those hands are gonna move. How fast of a shutter speed do you think we need to freeze that? Something pretty serious right? Okay so here is where we can start going beyond just a fast flash duration. Now on a lot of flashes and stuff, while I'm talking, let's go ahead and swipe over and see if we can get our bronControl app up and connecting here. So what we'll do is we'll go here, and then just go to Bron-Studio1. And so what I'm doing now is I'm actually getting on the wifi. So we can pull over and look at this. I'm actually getting over onto the wifi. All these flashes have wifi built into them. So if we're on the studio, they can join studio wifi, or they make their own wifi network. And what I did is I grabbed Bron-Studio1, which is the name of the wifi network they're generating, not CL Guest, we're gonna go to Bron-Studio1, and I'm gonna get an app called the bronControl app. It's right here. And this is a free app that comes, you can get it on the store for your iPhone or your Android. You can get it here for your computer, and I love this because it allows me to wirelessly control my strobes. I've been firing from my trigger up here, my wireless trigger, but now I can actually get some readings and change some advanced settings here on the computer. So let me go ahead and open this up. It's gonna look for the strobes that we've got set up around the studio and it's gonna connect to them. Let's give it a second. And when that comes up, it's gonna give us access to some advanced modes. Now I'm gonna zoom in a little bit here so it's easier for people to see on the screen grab. But what it is, is these are the four strobes that I'm using, You can see they're Siros 800 L's. You can see where my power settings are, you can see I'm at five or six. And look below them, that's the flash duration. This is really cool, really nerdy stuff I know but you guys tuned in for freezing motion and time with strobes so you're in it for the nerdy stuff. And I love this 'cause I'm looking down and I was like, this is cool, I can see exactly the speed of the light or the shutter speed equivalent of each one of these strobes. The problem is, 1/2000 of a second is gonna be good to freeze a runner and things like that. But I mean, his fists look like bullets flying at you so I don't think that's gonna be fast enough. So there's a lot of flashes, or some flashes out there have what's called a speed mode or an action mode. And look what happens when I hit that. All of a sudden it went to 1/7000 of a second. I'm probably gonna break everything. Let me turn it off and turn it back on again. Turning it off, 1/2000. Turn it on, 1/7000. What that means, a couple of these flashes are gonna fire at almost an equivalent shutter speed of as fast as your camera can even go with shutter speed. So it's incredible. When you're really trying to freeze fast motion, look into maybe a flash that has an action mode or a speed mode. And what it does is it basically says, hey we're going to cool down the color temperature of the light just slightly and we're going to optimize speed. It's switching gears, it's like being normal mode in your car, and then going into high performance mode in your car. Who's got a Tesla? What is it, insane mode or something like that? Insanity? Yeah, it's basically like switching into that mode in your Tesla, which is gonna put you in the back of your seat. So it's a really cool app. I use this a lot to control the flashes but it's also really cool if you don't have one of those Sekonic flash meters that show flash duration. If you have like a Broncolor Siros you can see it in your iPhone or on the app which is kind of cool. So now I feel a little more confident going ahead and doing this. Alright. Let me see here. Cool. Alright, so let's go ahead and get a tighter frame. Alright, and go to town. (camera shutter clicking) Okay, he's moving so rapidly, I'm going to have to switch over to handheld to try to keep up with him. This is quick. Cool. Awesome, okay. Nice, oh I like the uppercut one, maybe grab that. This one? Yeah that one, yeah. And zoom in on the hand. (laughs) You can see the fuzz coming off of the wraps. I mean like, I'm laughing, this is cool. I mean I do this all the time, but every time I see it I'm just like, how? Like it's insane. Okay cool, let's do a couple more of these. I want to make sure we get you some shots. Can I get you to move over this way just a little bit. Little bit more, little bit more, perfect. Okay, now I'm gonna slide my lights over. That's why roller stands are so great, I can just totally move around. Awesome. Alright cool. (camera shutter clicking) Alright, we're gonna step this up a little bit more. I'm gonna go into high speed continuous mode. And what I'm gonna do now is I'm going to turn my ISO up so I'm increasing the sensitivity of my sensor from 400 to 800. Okay so I made it two stops more sensitive. So we can see that, let's go to command t here, and we can see the camera down there. So I'm at 800 ISO, so that means everything got two stops brighter. So let's go over to our bronControl. And what I'm gonna do is now go down two stops. So from power six, to power four overall. Hope I don't break it. There we go. And I'm gonna give them a second all to register. (beeping) Alright so they've more or less caught up. (assistant speaks off microphone) Yeah (camera shutter clicking) Okay cool. So the reason I did that is I made my camera a little more sensitive to light so I would need less light out of these. So I was able to turn the power down on them. That did two things, that made them even faster, but it also allows them to recycle faster. So now I can shoot burst mode on my camera, the flashes will keep up recycle speed-wise and they now became extremely, extremely fast. So let's try this again (camera shutter clicking) That's just ridiculous (audience laughs) (Erik laughs) So Capture's going to have to take a second 'cause these are D850 files, so like 50 megabytes a sec, or 50 meg files. Yes, questions. Eric, Can you explain for folks again at home about focusing, and where are you focusing in this whole situation. Yes, I'm just trying to keep up. (laughs) How are you, yeah? Good question. So for focusing, focusing with this, because I have such a dynamic subject, he's moving all over the place, normally if I'm in a portrait I'd be in single. So I mean I lock my focus with either back button, or a half shutter button depression and I lock focus and then I can recompose. In this case I'm using continuous auto focus. So I've got it over there on continuous. It's constantly seeking focus so even though I have the button pressed and I'm taking photos continuously, I think seven, eight, nine photos per second in this case, it's constantly searching focus. And I also have it in a area mode so it's just using all of it's phase detection, all of it's contrast detection. Every sensor in the camera is all continuously trying to grab focus. So with such a fast moving dynamic subject, and a subject who's occupying the majority of my screen, there's nothing in the background distracting, I want to let my camera go. I'm gonna be like, you've got 300 something crazy sensors, just use them all. You know, whatever. So that's when I start to lean on the equipment. These are instances where we're doing things you can't do with old film cameras or previous generation stuff. I have a lot of confidence in the newer auto focus systems and I lean on 'em. So continuous auto focus, and then using full area so that it's able to use all the sensors and all the different kinds of sensors to get focus. So that's a great question. And I'm still praying that one of them comes out because he's moving so fast. Cool, do we have any other ones, I can take one or two? Yeah. (microphone bumps) Sorry That's great, I actually have a question about the color of the light. Uh huh. So often I adjust that the light is daylight balanced so it's whiter Yep. Would you ever gel the light to match the color of the skin so it would be ever less obvious that you're using the light so the light matches the color of the skin and it does not stick out. Have you seen my class notes? No. No, okay. So I'm thinking about gelling a little bit here at the end. We have, we're going to bring out a constant light, actually an LED, that I want to do some stuff with and you can change the color temperature on that. But yeah, the question was basically, do I ever gel my lights to match skin tones or look more natural, right? So I do actually. I use a quarter cut CTO gel a lot. So a full CTO is gonna, is a color temperature orange gel. And what's it's gonna do is take my color temperature from daylight, so like 5,500 kelvin, down to 3,200, which will make someone look orange if I don't change my white balance. But a quarter CTO is just gonna add a little bit of warmth. So I do that a lot where, I'm from Florida originally, I'm in New York now for eight years, but I still feel like everyone in the north could use a little more of a tan, so I put a quarter CTO gel on most of my strobes and it just warms them up a little bit so it looks more natural. So when do you decide when to gel and when not to gel. When do you emphasize the color of the light versus trying to match the skin tone? Oh, good question. So, a lot of times I'd be shooting on a location, so I like to use motivated lighting, so if I'm shooting near windows I'll leave it cooler like this. See the cool highlights on his temples? Because window light coming in through a building is gonna look cooler tungsten or fluorescent bulbs. Or if I'm shooting somewhere where there might be ceiling lamps that are a little bit warmer, I'll make my strobes, I'll add some warmth to them with a CTO gel so it looks like the light hitting my subject might be coming from those warm lights in the background. So I really let my environment dictate the color temperature of my rim lights. That's a great question. When you have something like this in all black it's really easy for me to put like a color filter and a luminosity mask in Photoshop on that and just tint my highlights. So by shooting clean white it just gives me a clean slate to put this in a composite later. Warm background, I'll add some warm in Photoshop. Cool, I'll probably leave it as is. So it's easier to shoot without gels, so if I don't know where this is gonna live, I'll do it without gels. If I'm on a location, I'll match the light to the location. Yeah, great question. 'Cause that's a whole thought process I have to go through to make it look consistent. Hey, stand up, yeah. Why the umbrella this time and not a soft box? When do you know when to use a soft box, and when do you know when to use an umbrella? Okay, great question. A couple different reasons on that one. So when you're using a soft box, the soft box has a couple layers of diffusion in there. Normally there's a layer of diffusion in the middle, and then there's a layer of diffusion on the front. And every time the light has to transmit through something like that I'm gonna loose intensity. So If I had a soft box up here, I might be at power setting, I think like five. I'm at like 2.7 I'm at a low power setting now. But I was at five earlier. I'd probably have to turn that up to power six or power seven to get the same exposure because my soft box is absorbing light. So I knew here I wanted a lower power setting so I could have faster recycle and faster flash duration. So I thought a soft box might be too costly in the power intensity arena. And then also, the soft boxes give you a very soft light, which is good for portraits, but its a very flat light. When I have a parabolic like this, we'll talk about more tomorrow's class too, it actually has very three dimensional, shapely light, because the light isn't coming from one direction, through one white panel, it's actually coming from a bunch of little panels. So all of these guys up here, the light is reflecting off of all these little panels up there, I can turn the modeling light on so maybe you can see, and what it's doing is coming from all different directions. So where as a soft box is just going to give me one uniform push, and it's gonna be one highlight, one shadow, the para gives me almost like a little ring light that illuminates all over the place and it makes people look more three dimensional. It's just like 3D light is the simplest way to describe it. So any kind of deep umbrella, or para especially, is designed to give you more three dimensional light. So it's gonna be more power efficient, so I get faster, quicker recycling light, and I also like the shape. So when I shoot athletes who I want more volume to and shape, I'll always go deep umbrella or a parabolic. So, great question. Yeah, 'cause it was definitely a conscious decision for sure.

Class Description

Using flashes to freeze motion is a great way to add more energy and excitement to your photographs, but the technical aspects of setting up the shot can be challenging. Renowned photographer Erik Valind is here to give you all the tips and tricks you need to use a variety of lights—from small speedlights to large studio strobes—to control time and stop motion.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Make your images look sharp as a tack.
  • Strike a balance between ambient and strobe lights.
  • Create a blurred effect with your flash.

If you’re looking to up your photography game by creating wow-worthy, stop-motion images with a variety of lighting options, then this is the class for you!


Dave Sincere

Let me say.. Erik Valind is my new favorite CreativeLive presenter. His videos are clear and precise. He doesn't waste time rambling about other things, he sticks to topic and subject at hand. This is my second class and I must say I'm presently impressed. I've been shooting for 2 years and I learned a few new tips on each vid.


I really enjoy Erik Valind’s instructional video. I think that I have seen them all – B&H event space, Kelby One, and now, Creativelive. This is another useful video and a lot of information. HOWEVER, I cringed every time (and I’m sure that Einstein did too) that Erik said that the strobes changed the speed of light!!! It was almost unbearable to listen to lesson 4 on flash duration. I know what he wanted to convey but what he said numerous times is wrong – the speed of light is the universal constant “c” such as in E = mc^2. It does not change. Erik likes Broncolor because their output is “powerful” and consistent enough to deliver a fairly high intensity of light over a short period of time – duration. But the speed of all the light emanating from the strobe is constant (the constant c) whether the duration is 1/500 or 1/5000 of a sec. Again, I really enjoy Erik’s work but this was like fingernails on a blackboard.

Adrian Clarke

Quick and to the point was always his style and this was no different. I was learning at a fast comfortable pace as he was along, another great tutorial Mr V. Now I want to do some boxing self portraits