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Strobe Exposure Essentials

Lesson 21 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Strobe Exposure Essentials

Lesson 21 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

21. Strobe Exposure Essentials


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

Strobe Exposure Essentials

hi um I just wanted to ask what was the ordeal lighting our wattage of life yeah I had a really good question because I talked about like yeah you want more power if you're trying to overpower the sun and she says well I'm not trying to overpower the son I just want to be able to shoot outdoors so what too much too little like what's a good place to start of course I would always say like oh yeah depends on what you're shooting but um I've been very happy with around five hundred watt seconds or a little less if you're not trying to overpower the sun here's why uh if I am because I'm in a really small studio space for example a small room maybe I'm going on location it's in the bride's bedroom and I'm trying to use a studio strobe five hundred watt seconds all these different lights they have exposure range like the highest power in the lowest power in sometimes if you have a thousand watt for example I can't turn it down weak enough to be able to shoot with in that room and not over e...

xposed my subject or to be able to shoot at a wide aperture so like sometimes a higher wattage is I can't turn them down enough to be able to get the effect that I want so I like five hundred as a nice immediate middle of the road because I can I can get close overpowering the sun middle of the day if I want to give me a lot of reach but if I need to turn it down and really really dim situations I can still do so so that's approximately where I stand I wouldn't go for like you know two hundred you know that realm and go a little higher than that but five hundred's a happy medium and that is one of the benefits of being in here in person is being able to actually interact with the instructor there on your other students and have the just discussions during breaks off set something that you want to do to be here for a creative live event in person go to creative live dot com slash front row c all the upcoming courses and applied to be here just one throw that out there excellent okay guys so we're going to start talking about strobes and exposure now but I wanted to tell us something that becomes very important with speed lights but more important with studio strobes and it is your sink speed are your sink speed is the maximum shutter speed you can shoot at and still be able to shoot with a stroke and have them talk and be friends because if you shoot at a faster shutter speed than your cameras sink speed when the stroke flashes you actually catch the shutter and you may have seen those black bars on the top or bottom of your frame this becomes very important when we start dealing with exposure with studio strobes all right so my suppose it I'm shooting with a cannon five d mark three and I believe supposedly my sink speed is one two hundredth of a second I have found when shooting in this this is maybe because I used my camera so much it's getting older maybe it needs a tune up okay but I have found when I shoot against a white wall with this strobe totally white like a white out scene if I shouldn't want two hundredth I see a little bit of grey at the bottom of my frame it's supposed to be totally fine but if I am shooting on wait I know I have to shoot at one one one one sixteenth of a second a little bit slower in order to not catch my shutter so what I'm extending to you is everybody needs to look at their manuals like you have to look our dune night manual go should search online what's the saying speed of my camera some are one to fiftieth of a second um the guy had an old film camera that was one one twenty fifth of a second go figure what yours are nowadays most around one two hundreds of a second but test your camera so do that go into a room with a white wall shoot with a studio strobe you know any subjects there's fine and see how fast you can go before you start getting that shutter um yeah so I've had to compensate so I don't know maybe I do need a tune up I'm not sure but I figured that out myself yeah triggers your transmitters because I noticed sometimes different cameras like it'll be okay and one two hundred three my cannon fighting mikey but on some it's like I gotta put it once one sixty yeah so okay so triggers actually do have the ability to make a difference the thing is it is your camera your camera is what is controlling it however uh the communication with the trigger and your camera just even like a slight delay could make a difference and for the internet out there there are work arounds and tricks with special triggers and special circumstances where you could exceed your camera sink speed like they're actually our if you go into forms you read online they're certain types of triggers in certain situations with certain lights where you can push it a little further some medium format cameras will go up tio some of them go up to five hundred some go even higher than that most of us it's it's just playing one two hundred of a second and that's why I just have to test it because it's like it's really inconsistent and depends on the light on the trigger and so for me it's one when sixtieth when I'm on location I still shoot at one to hundreds of a second like I still go up that far because I'm not going to notice that a tiny tiny bit of a little bit of grey of the start of the shutter but if I'm shooting at a white studio background I absolutely see it so I recommend giving it a try so I did want to explain for a second what sync speed is like how it works I just have a little bit of an animation to show you guys um and then this will become important tomorrow with understanding something called high speed sync which does not have to do with anything we're talking about today but you gotta understand cinque speed first and it's relevant all right so here's my little animation so all right so this is the first carton of your shutter raises up and you start taking the picture you're exposing your scene all right your flash fires and then the second curtain closes okay if your curtains go too fast there is no point where you're tired entire scene doesn't have a shutter over it there's no clear point for that flash to fire and not catch one of the curtains someone is plate one more time so for my camera this is it one two hundredth of a second okay there's no shutters in the way I can fire perfect now the other shutter closes even if I push it just a little bit at one five hundredth of a second it will do this and it kind of slides in order to go fast enough so now the other one starts coming in and that's when you see the shutter so that is what is happening when you exceed your sink speed so we're going to talk about tomorrow there is a work around for that but it is only four speed lights for us using studio strobes you are stuck you're stuck here stuck at one two hundred the second for your shutter speed why it matters is you're going to see right now I'm going to now explain to you this whole segment will be about how to set the exposure for studio strobes and ambient and how your shutter makes a difference there and it does so just know one two hundred of the second is your top out fastest shutter speed before that becomes a problem all right so so when you're working with with is this supposed to say strobes it's both speed lights and strobes but when you're working with strobes you actually making two separate exposures they have some overlap but there actually are two separate things and then they're just couple little elements that overlap you've got one for your ambient light the light that already exists in the scene it may be the sunset it maybe the lamps in the room you're making one exposure for that and then you're making another exposure for your flash they just happened to co exist and so whenever you're doing a shoot you have to think about them both separately and together and so I'm going to explain how that works but you've got a different parts of your brain have to think okay well this thing I change to effect my flash exposure this thing I changed to affect ambient and if I change these things it affects both so that's what I said in the beginning of the day that this is like the constant knowing all the variables and switching them out on dh so hopefully you'll be able to go through a scene and say ok I tried that that didn't work here's another thing I can change so let's take a look at this all right so you know normally normally right here when you are making just a normal picture regular exposure you've got your aperture your s o and your shutter speed that's what's affecting the exposure you get of any picture you're making when we go ahead and we have your ambient light and a flash exposure at the same time the thing that makes the biggest difference to your ambien exposure is going to be shutter speed so we'll see this more in depth like we'll dive into this but what I want you didn't think is ambient shutter speed ambient shutter speed ambience seriously think that over and over again ambient is shutter speed lock that in all right the next one flash exposure how bright that flashes the strobe the important element the most important one is your flash output how high up were to turn down is your flash but then also think af richer aperture will make a big difference to how bright your studio strobe appears so we're going to get into this a little bit more in depth we're gonna keep diving into it so think ambient shutter speed flash it's the power of my flash in my aperture all right so let me pop over here okay all right so here's what you want to know about ambien you've got a picture that you're looking at your flash fired you've got ambient light when you look at it if you want more ambient light in your picture you need a longer shutter speed you leave your shutter open longer to absorb more light in that picture that shutter speed does not affect the brightness or darkness of your studio strobe whatsoever unless you exceed your stink speed and then it just messes everything up so this is all within the confines of one two hundred of the second or whatever yours is so the brighter that I want my ambient light the longer I leave that shutter open the darker I want my ambient light the faster I make my shutter says when you've got those two laying on top of each other you got your flash got your ambient shutter speed controls your ambien okay so for example in this picture take this is taken in columbus circle in new york city and it was really fun shooting this was a lot of uh people standing by to watch it's always very amusing in new york all right so if you're looking at this picture I went ahead and I shot at one two hundredth of a second one point four I like to shoot really what open and see if I can get it in focus it's a good challenge I s o a thousand notice over here exact same thing here the flash is the same the aperture is the same the I s o is the same the on ly thing that I changes my shutter speed and what it does is it takes that ambient light and makes it brighter but what will happen is if there is any ambient light whatsoever hitting your subject they will start to appear brighter because the ambient light on them got a little bit brighter so what it wants you to know is I wanted to start off with this common misconception I looked at all the examples in the books where they have a picture of somebody with ambien and they'd have the the lamp way back behind them and the subject in the foreground that have the lamp is the constant like and then they'd have the strobe on the subject and they were totally separate and then I get really confused because I do exactly what the book said I made my shutter speed longer to brighten up my ambien it's not supposed to affect the flash and then she'd get brighter and I was like wait I this isn't what it's supposed to be because I didn't realize when you leave that open longer any ambient light is on you're subject they will appear brighter but that did not affect the strobe the strobe state exactly exactly the same okay all right so it's kind of the first part we'll take a look at the next variable we have the next variable we have is our flash output so I kept everything the same one one sixteenth of a second three point five I s so one hundred ok keep everything the same but in each one of these I increased the output of the flash or the studio strobe by one stop the background stays exactly the same and on lee she gets brighter where this will screw you up and this is also a mistake I made is I was testing this out in a small room and that background capital lucky was getting brighter because what we talked about before some of that strobe was hitting the background so in this instance it works out perfect because as I change the output of this trove it's not hitting the back on the backgrounds really far away so these two things are totally independent your shutter speed in order to change the ambient and your flash output those are on ly control those things and do not overlap in any way shape reform the rest of the things that we talk about we'll have some overlap so I want you to repeat that over and over again shutter speed for ambience flash output for your flash exposure okay so here's where it gets a little bit more complicated but not too bad it's just got to kind of work through the variables here alright your aperture your aperture does affect the brightness of your flash because what you did is the flash output was exactly the same I'm not you're not changing the flash output but the whole toe let light into your exposure got bigger so it let more light and so the flash will look brighter but you also let in a bigger hole for the ambient so it effects both when you change your aperture so if you're looking at this shot I went from three five two one point for both the light on her face and the background appeared brighter the studio show got brighter the background got brighter so when I'm going through my head and I'm saying ok so that stroke I've turned it up to full power still it's still too dim for what I'm looking for I can open up my aperture and make it appear brighter so I'll go ahead and open up my aperture lets more light in that stroll will now appear brighter but it also makes the background look brighter so I can go back to my shutter speed and make it shorter to make the ambient look darker so that this is exactly what goes through my head every single time I do a strobe picture on location and this is basically what you'll see times a million over and over again for the rest of the day and different environments I approach it I say ok great I put my flash there I've got my ambien looking what I looked wanted to look okay great when adjust my flash output to see if I can get it right I get it right perfect I'm done not quite okay what tools do I have to make that look brighter and it's that that dance trying to see what tools I have available so one more is the I s o makes everything look brighter as well because it's basically how sensitive is your sensor to like and so if I go ahead and increase my eye so from two hundred two thousand to two thousand everything gets brighter at the same amount like it's equal because you're increasing how sensitive it is too light so those air how different elements of your exposure effect so you get your flash output you got your ambient for with your shutter speed and then aperture effects both and I also affects both and you're just going to kind of leave them all together so that is the thing that if you have a cell phone out there or you got a screen capture thing take a picture of that into state over and over again flash exposure flash output and exposure shutter speed and then the money stuff in between that will be dealing with the whole rest of the time that's the most important part of the whole day but you should still watch the rest of day e tell you how to handle all the problems that come up against all right so here's the video just showing me shooting this all in action working with studio strobes you were always working with manual settings ok well gets a little bit more complicated that technically there's some new fancy strobes that have detail but let's talk about the reality of what exists for most of us is that you are working with manual exposure on your stroke so I want to take a moment to explain how the exposure between the ambient light the light that's around us and the light coming from the strokes how those interact how does that all work all right here's what I want you to keep in mind shutter speed controls ambient light the longer you have your shutter speed open the brighter the ambient light will be faster your shutter speed darker the ambient light will be so for example if I'm shooting this scene and I go ahead and I go from one two hundredth of a second to one one hundredth of a second you're going to see that background all of those buildings back there they're going to get significantly brighter okay so just think about that for studio strobes and how it affects exposure the other thing you want to remember is well is you're limited by your cameras sink speed and all of different cameras they have different sink speeds typically it's about one two hundredth of a second summer one two fifty a summer less make sure you take a look your cameras manual to figure out what you're saying speed is so as I'm saying if you want to have darker ambient you want to go ahead and close down your shutter speed it except for you can't go past one two hundred of the second whatever you're saying speed is all right so you've got that under control when you take a look at your picture and you want more ambient you go okay longer shutter speed okay how about your studio stroke what controls that exposure your studio strobes exposure is controlled by two things its controlled by the power of this trove actually ramping up the power and it's also affected by your aperture all right so what does that mean I look at my picture and I say okay strobe is too powerful I can go ahead and turn down the power of the stroke alright but let's say that stroke has already turned down as far as it goes it has it's ed's lowest power settings I could also go ahead and close down my aperture so for example if I was at five six I could go to a tow and it would get darker so you have these two different exposures that have some overlap but that's how you control it so think ambien shutter speed stroke stroke power and aperture okay so that sounds nice and simple right um it's not quite that simple because you have a couple other things that affect exposure all right well first of all we have s oh well the good thing about s o is that it effects both your ambient light's as well as your light from your stroke so if I increase from one hundred to four hundred eso both it is going to be both more sensitive to the studio strobe and the ambient light hey that looks great all right so here's a little complicated thing aperture yes it controls and effects how much light appears from your studio stroke so if I am taking a picture at five six and it looks too dammit open up to four o and so now that is going to look brighter because basically opened up the hole for the light to go in and now there's more light that can get in and so it's going to be a appear brighter okay we got that however it's a little more complicated because we also let in more ambient light you've got this little dance of how to control things so let's say I went from five six two four oh toe let more light in from the studio stroke well by letting more light and now my ambien is going to look brighter and if it's brighter than I wanted to be I'm gonna have to go with a faster shutter speed because I want to darken down the ambien so you're doing this little dance and I want to show you how this all looks and I'm going to go through and show you what this image is how it's affected by changing my eyes so by changing my shutter speed by changing the output of the show of all those different elements and so I'm gonna talk you through it and what's going on in my head as changing here we go right and I'm getting down low so that I can see her against those buildings in the background and I know that it's very dark and I could take a picture beforehand without the studio strobe on I can take a picture beforehand just of that ambient light in the background so I'm gonna just give this a test and see how it looks so I'm taking a look and right now I'm shooting at one one twenty fifth of a second two point eight at s o two five twelve fifty and it's a little bit dark so the controls that I have is I said before is to control the ambience I can go ahead and have a longer shutter speed so I'm going to go and I feel comfortable for this lens it's a fifty millimeter lands I feel comfortable handholding at a sixtieth so I can take that and they did indeed get brighter in the background by the way the light that you see on me is not actually a little bit on my subject with barely actually light off camera just to illuminate me and we haven't feathered off so it shouldn't affect my exposure it's very very minimal I just wanna make sure that it's not on her let me take a quick shot and I have put on my studio strobe and it is set to manual ok manual exposures house studio strobes work unless you have a fancy one but we're shooting manual so I'm going to just take a test shot and what I know is that since I'm shooting at two point eight if I use a light meter what I can do is I can meet her so that the light coming out of that studio stroke is two point eight so I took a picture right now and she looks a little bit too bright for my taste so I would say okay well what controls do I have all right stephen what is the settings on that right now the settings are currently on three for this particular strobe and I know that it goes down to two so I could say ok turned that studio stroke down great says now it's on to and so now the light on my subject should go ahead and get a big bit darker and it does okay now let's say say you know what I definitely want that background brighter um I'm at a sixty second okay perhaps I could hand hold a little bit more maybe to a fiftieth but honestly that's pushing it so what I'm gonna do is I'm can either go ahead and increase my eyes so but already sixteen hundred so that's I mean I don't want to go maybe higher than that maybe that's that's always come through with my camera so then the next thing I could say is all right well I could go ahead and open up the aperture let more light in unfortunately that causes me problems because now that studio stroke will appear brighter and it's at its lowest settings so I do have a couple options but not that many so let's just say I do that I go down to two point oh no way take a picture and you'll notice the background definitely got brighter but she got brighter as well uh give options that you have is you could take the fusion material additional diffusion material and make sure you have your inner baffle on this uh off the box so I could make sure it's defused they're also diffusion material that you could buy that cut down on light uh but I could also back the light up a little bit we've talked about the inverse square law and you can back up just a bit and so that's going to cut down on the light but remember what we've also said the close of the lightest to the subject and the bigger the light is relative to the subject the softer it is unfortunately the further back that we go the harsher that light gets so we back the light up and so it's probably going to be slightly less sauce but it wasn't too far so I'm going to take another shots and I think that that is a really really beautiful in between so we shoot a little bit of that and then we're going to change all those elements once again so you could see it really time beautiful and one hands off your neck and well more and stephen can you raise that light up just a little bit I'm having him raise it up just because I want a little bit better angle to the late good and now drop your left arm just have it nice and loose and can you cross your foot over and bring your knee up yeah there you go good for fix something else to know is I do have the modeling light off because what happens is when I have that constant modeling light on it actually will pick up in my ambien closure and affect the look of the model let's take a look at how shutter speed effect damage all right so right now I am at let's go to one two hundredth of a second my maximum sink speed so I take a picture there notice the background is a little bit darker let's go to one one twenty fifth background getting a little brighter let's go to a sixtieth background getting brighter gets and let's go to a thirtieth so now you'll notice that huge difference as you foot through these images the background gets brighter the ambient light gets brighter the light in the environment the longer my shutter speed is it okay now let's take a look at what your aperture does all right so let's go from two o we'll take a quick shot of two point oh to two point eight okay and you'll see that the studio strobes goingto look darker and let me turn it even to four point oh and the strobe gets dark early we take one more of those one more so as we went from two point oh it's two point eight two four point five point six you'll notice that the studio stroke appeared dark light appears darker but also it's still affect the ambient light he'll get a little bit darker there so okay so you've seen what the shutter speed is done you can see what the aperture is done all right how I s so so right now we're at four o and a fiftieth of a second I s so sixteen hundred how about a ramp up the I s o two five thousand alright so let's ramp this up to five thousand what you'll notice is even though I'm still at four point oh and a fifty second now the light from the strove appears brighter and the ambient light so basically the esso is affecting the camera sensitivity to light so everything is getting brighter all right well what's our final element that we're looking at the final image that we're looking at is output of that studio stroke and I can turn it up and couldn't turn it down so stephen would you do me a favor and would you turn the strobe up to five and so what you'll notice the background stays exactly the same as the shot before but now she is significantly brighter so I'm gonna have him ramped it up move it down you'll notice the background isn't going to change it all so you can leave it on the ground can you just uh bring it all the way down in power and then slowly up tell me when each time all right so teo three for five so let's take a look at that background everything is staying exactly the same so just keep that in mind those air all of the elements that you have to work with and they all kind of interact with one another but definitely the power of the stroke is independent the shutter speed is in that right there is independent of the uh flash exposure the shutter speed is totally independent and on lee affect the ambien so since all of these different elements are intertwined er there's a couple things you want to keep in mind some things that might hold you back when you're making all these changes is one of them might be your shutter speed and how long you feel you can hand hold the shot so for me I'm shooting a fifty millimeter one point for lens by sigma and I feel comfortable maybe too about a fiftieth of a second but that's pushing it if I really want the lights in the background to be tack sharp so that might be a limitation where is when you when you go ahead and you reach that low shutter speed you might need to make other uh changes I might need to open up my aperture I might need to increase my I s o but you also might be held back but how comfortable you feel with the grain in your eyes so so perhaps with your camera you say you like the grain up to sixteen hundred eyes so but after that the image starts to fall apart so you have that constraints you keep all of these things in mind I do want to show you something to do with hand holding no uh right now there really isn't ambient light on her face I've separated those two planes right now it's just the strobe on her face and then in the background you have the ambience separate well let's say that I go ahead and I'm gonna go back and I'm gonna set my camera to keep with that back down to two please I'm going to go to a fiftieth of a second eyes so sixteen hundred two point eight let's take a quick shot okay I like how everything looks there but I think the background needs to be a little bit brighter and I met a fifty s and I you know what I don't think that I can hand hold any lower than that I could go ahead and get a tripod because there's no ambient light on her so if I put on a tripod even if she moves is on a problem she's frozen in place by the stroke so no problem at all however I'm not worried about that I don't actually care if the lights in the background are intact sharpe focus anyway and so I'm actually going to go to a twentieth of the second and I'm gonna move my camera on purpose so this is called dragging the shutter the longer you have that shutter speed open the brighter that background gets and I'm going to drag the shutter and move to create a creative effect so I'm gonna focus on her freezer in place and move my stroke I mean and move my camera so what you're going to see is she is intact shirt focus but then there's going to be a lot of blur behind her and it makes for a really cool creative effect we make sure we can you on feather that totally off me for a second or discover it we try that again good I'm gonna go teo yeah there we go you want to be careful of if there is ambient light on your subject so I've tried this before where I've been shooting at an event or a wedding or something like that and I go ahead and have a long shutter speed and I moved my camera around and then you get really weird ghosting effect because some of that ambient light is affecting is hitting your subject's face and so not only do you get the blur of the background but you get to blow on your subject so this it's best when you have your ambien like just on the background but not also on your subjects you bring that a little closer just a tiny bit good so just to summarize a little bit what we talked about here we've talked about haul all of these different elements come into play how shutter speed how aperture har s o how the power output of strobe all effect ix the exposure shutter speed affects your ambient light but of the strobe and your aperture affect the exposure of your strobe there's a few more nuances in that but keep those general ideas in mind and you're going to be able to balance the exposure and get get the look that you're looking for in a particular scene

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

Student Work