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Darkness in an Urban Environment: Managing Light on the Streets

Lesson 7 of 9

Shoot: From One Light to Three Light Setups

Joe McNally

Darkness in an Urban Environment: Managing Light on the Streets

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

7. Shoot: From One Light to Three Light Setups

Lesson Info

Shoot: From One Light to Three Light Setups

So obviously we've changed locations. We have gone from the staid, muddied environment of Park Avenue where there's the occasional lady with the funny hat or a wonderful person walking a wonderful dog to the more raucous area of town just north of Times Square on Broadway. The Great White Way as it heads down into the intersection of the world, Times Square. Behind me are all the lights that everybody knows about and has heard about in Times Square. Neon city, LEDs like crazy, advertisements, trademarks, logos, movie marquees, everything you could possibly imagine. So what we're gonna do is try to minimize that and just come up with a photograph that shows the glow of the city in the distance. Up front, our up front activity or gesture is gonna be a little different. We did some some simple stuff so far, tiny little soft box, one model, what're gonna do now is enlarge our surface area of light. We're gonna go with a big Octa. It's a two speed light Octa made by the Lastolite corporatio...

n. I use it a lot, it's a lovely light and it covers the waterfront and specifically on enlarged the light source in response to the fact. I'm gonna have two subjects now, we're gonna do a simulated kind of engagement or romantic couple portrait of Andre and Sabina. And we'll do all those things that you ordinarily do. Arms around each other, affectionate, looking at camera, not looking at camera. If you have a very specific light source such as we had before, there's no way you're gonna get coverage on two people. Hence a bigger source, a more lustrous source, something that's more wrapping and frankly more pretty than the other light. We're also gonna introduce a flip off the floor. We're gonna throw a TriGrip down on the floor silver side up and flash a little light off of it as skip fill. Simulated kind of a beauty clamshell type of deal but that's really stretching the point. It's not really a clamshell which is classically over and under but a little bit of low pop because in the city lights bounce off of everything. They come at you from all directions and there's really nothing more flattering than a little bit of low glow. It's very romantic and it really treats people well, and it kinda sparks the eyes and glams everybody up a bit. And one of the reasons I'm doing that is Sabina's in this wonderful red fancy dress, you know, so she's changed persona from the denim jacket of earlier to the more elegant dress of now. So I have to correspondingly change up my light, you know? It just is something that you do. You don't use the same solution all the time for every kind of subject you run into. It's the nature of being a photographer. We have to be fluid in our responses. All right, so we're gonna do a quick test. We're waiting for a wardrobe change for Andre so what we're gonna do is use the time... Oh, there he is, there he is. Okay, why don't you still stay on the wings for a second let me get a couple of exposures down of Sabina then I'll bring you in. You're looking good, you're looking good. All right. So, I said earlier we changed up the light source. There's two speed lights into this soft box. It's a nice light, you can see pretty sizable, relative to what we've been using. All right, so Callie's gonna come in from camera left and drift, maybe Callie, if you could get on that small green dot there. Yep, just making sure we've got everything set. Good? First exposure. Okay, let's do this. Let's take it a step at a time. I'm actually gonna shut my flash off. Shutting the flash off, Callie, shutting the flash off for a minute. First thing you do, let's get the background exposure down. Let's lay down that exposure template for the background. So, for this instance, I'm gonna be wide open on my lens at 2.8. I am going to just ratchet through some shutter speeds to get the proper density for the neon and the LEDs down the way. Important, I think, to stay in manual in this instance. If I'm in aperture priority, and all of a sudden a marquee flashes, or maybe I catch a headlight or something like that, it's gonna change my aperture priority exposure. Definitely gonna change it. So, I'm gonna go manual so I don't have that fluctuation. One of your jobs, as I always say, on location as a photographer, is to eliminate variables. So aperture priority right now would be a variable for me so I'm gonna X that out of that equation. I'm gonna know lock-solid what my background exposure is. So, just take a look here. (camera clicks) it's pretty solid at 250 at 2. but I'm gonna get it a little bit brighter. (camera clicks) I upped by ISO to and I dropped my shutter speed to a 60th of a second. Now, you would say maybe, hey, you have no business shooting this size of lens at a 60th of a second, but the flash is gonna give me the sharpening power that I need. The flash has this quality or aspect of it that's called flash duration. Flash fires very very fast. Even my shutter speed is in the middle range not-so-fast. Okay, turn the flash back on, let's do a quick test on Sabina. All right, Callie, here we go. See what I mean? There you go. That was like a plus three EV highlight that just drove by, you know? (camera clicks) This is kind of why I like TTL. First exposure out of the gate is bang-on perfect. So when it works, it works. So, okay, and it's nice light, it's pretty light. All right, just a test, not the proper framing. Kay. All right, cool. (camera clicks) Beautiful, Sabina, that's gorgeous. Nice, nice. Okay, relax for a second. Okay, so, I don't know if you can see this or not or care to, but, that's kind of the look that you're looking for in the city. You know, that's the bright lights big city aspect of this. So, okay. Now where's Andre? Andre, go on the camera right side of her please. All right, so, why don't you do a traditional kind of couple's pose. Yeah, shoulder into the middle of his chest. Maybe you bring your hands grab her hands lift your hand up sweet, kinda come across like that. That okay? Everybody comfortable with that? Okay, nice. Callie, we're gonna need a little more wrap. Okay, cool. Go ahead. (laughs) And a family of 17 just walked by. (laughs) Wonderful. Nice, perfect you guys, perfect. Nice, pretty. Awesome, awesome. Beautiful. I'm getting a little low here so I can slide under that. There you go Callie, there you go. Good, keep everything up, your hands up just a tiny bit. There you go, good good. Beautiful. Beautiful. Okay, relax for a second. Okay, and you know they're kind of very sweet together, right? Even though they didn't know each other until two hours ago. This could be the start of something really amazing. Kidding (laughs) all right. Gonna check my sharpness. If you notice one of the reasons I posed them the way I did. I'm at 2.8 with a long lens so he's got his chest into her, she's leaning this way, I have to keep their eyes in the same plane pretty much because if he's way back from her he's gonna be soft. So I gotta keep them right in the same neighborhood. All right, let's do the same pose. What I was just saying you guys did actually perfectly intuitively. Get into your pose if you don't mind. You gotta keep those eyes on the same plane because otherwise if someone's not even you're gonna be out of focus. So, you're perfect right the way you are, okay? All right. Is that height all right? Go up a little bit higher, cool. Actually hold on, let me extend this real quick. I think I just broke it. There we go. Cool. Nice. Way to go, you guys. Perfect, perfect. All sorts of romantic. Going off on the honeymoon soon. Beautiful, beautiful. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Nice, nice. Way to go, way to go. That's it, that's it. There you go, there you go. Nice, perfect. I swear to god they look like the real thing. Can I see that real quick? Can I see where we're at? Sharpness looks good. I'd have them do that again, I just noticed in the very end when he crunched into her a little bit see her hair in the back? Yeah. So I can just um We'll get them into the pose and I'll fix that real quick. Let's do this. Let's get a little more wrap and dimension out of the light. Okay, here we go. So that group in that light is group A. Two lights, operating in tandem, through that soft box. Sup, Jeff? All right, we're gonna throw this down. Does that mean you need another flash? Yep. Here, I'll hold this. Got it? Yep. I got it. I got it. You guys look beautiful. (Sabina laughs) The two of you look like, you know, like hey, we've known each other a million years. We look like a couple. We do. Okay, exact same thing, guys. Exact same pose, you look absolutely fantastic. Just watch when you guys kind of like Let's see, scooch a tiny bit this way. Okay, good. When you kind of lean into him your hair last time kind of popped up a little bit. So maybe when she leans into you just kinda bring your head back and then let it drop and then come back in. Got it. All right. Okay, let me do a quick test here, just relax. This is just a test. Here we go. Beautiful. Nice, nice. Good look, you guys, good look, good look. Perfect. (camera clicks) Tickle each other or do something. Nice, nice, nice. Cool, cool. Perfect, perfect. You guys are great. Cool, cool, cool, nice, nice. Sabina just pull your hair back a little bit. Okay, another set, here we go. All right, nice, perfect. Great, great look, great look, great look, great look, great look, that's awesome. Perfect, you guys, perfect. Perfect. Nice. Nice, nice, nice. Awesome. All right, relax for a second. You guys look wonderful. Oh yeah, that's fantastic. That bottom light's really nice. I got it. So what happened here, and you'll see this kind of, you know, when you take a look at the video, is the little low light puts kind of a nice little glow into their face. It's very sharp. I'm on ISO 400, I'm hovering between. I'll let you take a look. I'm hovering between a 40th and a 60th of a second. If you notice I just gave the camera to Callie. I emphasize, this is a team effort out in the field. Like I'm not gonna charge off location, I'm gonna get another pair of eyes on what I just shot. Believe me, I'm the most fallible person in the world, I'm a photographer, you know? So, Callie backstops me, checks sharpness and stuff like that, makes suggestions. We are a team in the field. Back in the studio we have Lynn Delmastro who's been our studio manager for 26 years and she does our production, big massive productions and she works so hard at it. Annie Cahill in our studio handles all of our social media marketing. I'm the first one to tell ya, this is not just about this one lone photographer out there in the field, it's very much a team effort, and that's an important thing to always remember as a shooter. All right, here we go, here we go. Good, way to go, you guys. Nice. Perfect, perfect. (camera clicks) Nice. Perfect, perfect. Hang in there. (muffled talking by models) I'm making certain adjustments at camera here. Going back and forth in my ISO a little bit, putting a little contrast, little pop in the upper light, just playing. It's basic math when you're kind of involved here it just is, you know, so you're kind of like, oh a little stronger, a little less. You're adding and subtracting light and it's like cooking, like a little more salt, a little more pepper, whatever it might be. There's not an exact science to this it's about the feel of the photograph. Perfect. Nice. Cool. Height's all right? Yeah, light's good. Nice, stay with me. Okay, perfect. Nice. Nice, you two. Cool, cool, good, good. Nice, perfect. Nice. Awfully pretty, awfully pretty. Way to go. (camera clicks) All right, hang in there, we're gonna do a little more. Quick test. Cool. All right, again, here we go here we go. Good, good, good, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice. (camera clicks) Perfect, perfect. Awesome, you guys. All right, gotcha. Okay, now, let's put in that backlight please. Let's push that backlight. No, you guys are fine right where you are. So what I did there, a couple of moves that I made. It's like an insurance policy. I was happy at 2.8, they were kind of operating in here and I was sharp, I was fine, but paranoia strikes deep into the heart of any photographer. Am I screwing up? So what I did was I doubled my ISO, kept the ratio of the lights the same, and then pushed to F4. So, yeah, lose a little tiny quality but, you know, on a D5 pushing to ISO or something like that is no big deal and so I pushed my ISO up a bit so I could gain more F-stop and I didn't have to bother altering the basically pleasing ratio of my lights. So now I'm at F4 which is a safer F-stop to be. So, now I pretty much know I can leave that set up behind. I've introduced now a red backlight. There's so much red in the background. I have a third group of flash on the floor. It's radiating up at the back of their heads. I'm gonna dial that in that's gonna be my group C light. And I'll just run at full power for laughs. I'll start it at full power just see what it does. All right, here we go again. Is that too far, or does that feel pretty good? No, I think that's good. Group C is programmed? Group C is programmed. Annie, you okay? Yep. All right, quick test, guys. Come on. (sighs) 200 zoom? I'd kick it more left but it's in the bike path then. (Annie muffled talking) All right. Want me to move with them? No, here we go. Hang in there. Annie, I'm gonna shut your light off. Callie, I'm taking your light to manual. TTL just kinda going back and forth? It's bouncing around on me a little bit. All right, relax guys, just a test. (sighs) Backlights still going. (camera clicks) Not getting a read? No, am I getting green on that? Yeah, fire it again? Let me see that. Group A manual. Here, I got it, Callie. Can I see this for a sec? (camera clicks) Here, can you hold this? I'm just gonna pull them out and let me see real quick what's going on. Yeah, they were just working fine for awhile. (Annie muffled talking) Now it's in B for whatever reason, it was just A. So, what I did was in short order, I re-geared everything. We found the problem, two lights had shifted into group B. My fault, not theirs. So, we're back in group A. Then I rebuilt the photograph on manual, got a really good shot on TTL but because I've added a backlight which occasionally can drive TTL brain a little bit wonky I dropped everything into manual. So now my values are main light is manual around a 16th power, the fill is a stop below that at 32nd, and the back light is full blown one over one giving a little reddish quality to the background. I don't know if I like it, but I'm gonna try it, okay? All right, here we go. Way to go, guys. Nice, pretty. Nice. (camera clicks) Perfect, perfect. Little higher, Callie, little higher. Feather it so it hits more of Andre. Nice. Good, good, good. All right, relax for a second. That was weird, backlight dropped for like 10 frames. Yeah. That's looking like it hits a good spot there. Yeah, it's not bad. A little bit, it gives us a little bit. Yeah. That's really nice Yeah, that's pretty. That feel of, go back a couple to like that light cause I just want to see the difference. Actually, I prefer without the red. I do too, I do too. We're gonna kill the red cause the red doesn't work. But I just, you gotta try it, right? So we went rapidly to a three light setup or a three group setup. Two flashes and this, one off the floor. Let's kill the red altogether, let's kill the power, pull it out of there please, Annie. Couple more of these and we're done with the couples portrait. Though I have to say, I don't think our actor and actress are minding doing this. I think they're enjoying themselves. And the wonderful thing about talented models and actresses is that they're projecting. They really do look like they've known each other forever. It's great. All right, here we go. All right. Cool. Nice, nice. Pretty. Come on, camera. There we go, there we go. Nice. Perfect. Perfect, nice. Cool, you guys look great, hang in there. Cool, stay with me. Very pretty, very pretty. Just gonna wait on traffic, give me just a second. This light goes. Get back here? All right, here we go. Nice. Perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect. (camera clicks) All right. Bravo, bravo! Nice job. All right, there we go. Kind of bright lights big city kind of fun. All right, next objective, motion.

Class Description

In this exclusive class, join legend Joe McNally, on the streets of New York to see how to bring light to one of the busiest and most dynamic backgrounds. He'll walk through how to prep your gear, scout for locations, direct your models, and incorporate flash to make your subject stand out on the city streets. He'll discuss how to set your exposure and plan your shot to achieve the "bokeh" look of the city glow behind your model. Learn tips for planning your shoot so you're within the city regulations as well as techniques to help work through any troubles you may have while on location. Gain the confidence and know-how to photograph your subjects with flash in what can seem like an impossible environment.

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Janis Shetley

This behind the scenes class is great for those that already have a solid understanding of how to use their flash off camera. I really learned a lot watching Joe work with the models, seeing where he put the flashes, where he stood, how he framed the shots, how he had the models move - especially in the "movement" segment. The three light segment was also interesting - I would have never tried putting the reflector on the pavement with a flash firing into it - so cool. If you need detailed instructions on using your flash and camera - this is not the class for you. If you want ideas on how to get the most out of your flashes on the street - this is it. Great class. Plus Joe is just a great teacher and fun to listen to for 90 minutes!

Benjamin Lehman

One of Joe's most magnificent qualities is his ability to be *real* while teaching a class: Is everything going haywire, or are there troublesome problems that are challenging to overcome? Joe doesn't shy away letting you, the student, realize that even the pros have to deal with constant, unexpected problems. His other strength is showing you how to persevere and overcome those hurdles; and one of those biggest hurdles all photographers run up against time and time again - Light! Joe will go down in modern history as the father of small (and large) flash photography. He's not afraid to use the entire US output of flash watt seconds on a single photo, but he's also quick to remind us that flash is a tool, and not a crutch. This was a great course for those photographers who want some experience out on the street before ever leaving their house. As you grow and learn more about your camera and what it means to be a photographer, you can always come back to a class like this and learn new things that may have seemed alien to you the first go-around.

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I like the class. It is a good primer for getting an idea of some of the things that you need to think about when you are doing a night shoot. This is a quicky class Joe just touches on a bunch of stuff so you don't get a lot meat and potatoes on this class, but I found it helpful. Worth the cost.