Strobe Lighting on Location

Lesson 6/31 - Balance Strobes with Ambient Light


Strobe Lighting on Location


Lesson Info

Balance Strobes with Ambient Light

How do we do this balancing strobe act? And so this shot I just did with that beauty dish that I just announced, the 24 inch Westcott Outdoors. That's not in I would say full sunlight because were in kind kind of a canopy of trees, but it is during the full time of the day, four o'clock in the afternoon or whatever. And so it gives you this gorgeous light on a subject. So, in fact, Clip, you were there, weren't you? Yeah. So, Clip, we happened to be in Arizona the time we were shooting that. So, balancing, it's a balancing act that we're gonna do with strobes. So, let's talk about that. In photography, there are four basically variables that you need to think about when you're trying to get the perfect exposure or whatever to fulfill your vision as an artist. Number one is the aperture, okay, so we know that, the f/stop. And that's in the lens that allows how much light coming through the lens. The shutter speed, which is based on time. So, this is pretty much-- We know that, this ...

is what I've been dealing with since the eighties. Y'know, the aperture and time. And of course, the sensitivity of your sensor or film. We know ISO used to be ASA and now it's ISO. If you go back far enough, right, some of you remember ASA? That was back when I was in high school. (laughs) And then, a new variable which I didn't really understand or know about was the ND filters, neutral-density filters. That actually blocks the light coming into your lens. And so that's kind of a new variable. So, I would've say, three years ago, I would've only had three of those up there. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Now, I have one more variable. We're gonna talk about how to use ND filters as a option to give you creative choices to give you some really cool looks. Alright, so here we go. Let's talk about these a little bit. Aperture is tied to your strobe. So, think about this. Aperture's tied to your strobe, shutter speed's tied to your ambient light, and ISO and ND filters cover both, okay? So, that is important when we go to doing HDR portraits. So, and I'll explain how I discovered using HDR with strobes because I've been waiting for 10 years to do this. And all of a sudden, using the CamRanger, which is a product, I'm gonna show you how to do that in a minute. Now, lots of things we're gonna cover. So, but the-- So, I didn't really understand the ISO bracketing as an option years ago, and ND filters. These are new arenas of working with. So, like I said, I know aperture and shutter speed pretty well, but the ISO and the ND filters is a new arena. But they cover both the ambient and the flash duration at the same time. So, that's important to understand. So we're gonna build on all this knowledge as we get toward those two things, the ND filters and the HDR. So, this image here-- Actually, because it's in a slide show, it's cropped, but this image of our guy with his chopper, was shot on location, it's not a composite. On location, for late afternoon, five o'clock in the afternoon. Because I used a shorter time exposure on my camera and I had a lot of power out of my strobes, I was able to get and knock the background down. So, it's this kinda scenario that allows me to bring my subject to the front of the frame. And when I talk about dramatic portrait, it's building drama in my images, right? So, I have this technology, a flash that I said before that allows me to have a creative-- Or fulfill my creative vision, which is he pops off the frame, and the background goes dark. So, if I wasn't using strobe, I couldn't do this. All the background would be that same-- Similar value as him. But with strobe, I can knock down the value of the background. So, I've been doing this for literally 30+ years. And it really launched me into doing people. So prior to doing-- I was doing landscapes and architectural work. And then when I saw someone shoot, my studio mate, shoot a picture with strobing outdoors using the shutter speed, have stop, the power, the strobe. Got this really cool portrait, I was like, "I could do that, what a fun thing?" And so I've been doing it a long time. So let's look at some of the options today on the market. We have the standard sync, which is really what I've been doing for 30 years, right? So my camera sync speed cannot go above 1/200th of a second. Some cameras go 250, I think even-- Hannah's got one that'll go 320, I think. In the, I say the days prior to digital, the old days, the good old days, we had film, we had cameras that had-- We had cameras that had the shutter in the lens. So, I'm not gonna go into a lotta detail here, but the cameras that we have today, most of 'em have a focal plane shutter, and that goes in front of the sensor, so you have basically two curtains. You have a curtain that's blocking the light from hitting the sensor, and then when you push the button, it drops and another curtain falls. And then it blocks the light, and then it resets. Amazing technology, when you think about all the working parts that have to go into that, it's crazy, okay? So, it's blocking the sensor, it drops, curtain falls. So, at one second, it looks like this, it'd be like this. So let's say this is the sensor. It goes, expose, one second, close. So, it gives you one-second expose so as you shorten it, it goes faster. It goes bump bump, bump bump, it just keeps doing it, right, bump bump? Now, it gets to a 200th of a second on my camera. That's the last time it's opened all the way exposed with a full sensor. So, at 400th of a second, the curtain drops. Good thing I have a six-pack. (laughter) Actually, it's a good thing I have a one-pack, this is a smooth surface, okay? (audience laughs) It drops, and as it drops halfway, it follows it. So, the sensor never gets completely exposed all the way. So it's like bump, follows it down. So at eight 1/8,000ths of a second, it's a little slit coming down. So if I go and take a strobe picture, which many of you have done this by accident. I did this at my first wedding when I was 19 years old. I looked down at my sync speed, it was 500th of a second. So, luckily I caught it, but the first images that came back, had-- It was a 250 sync speed camera, so everything was half frame, black. So, what happened to me is, as the strobe dropped, boom, strobe goes-- Or the center drops, the strobes goes off and only exposes the part that's being exposed on the sensor or the film back in those days, so you get a half frame. If you're outdoors, you might see the head lit and the body's not lit, like "What's going on here? "What did I do wrong?" Most cameras now allow you-- They don't allow you to use your strobe unless you have the parameters set right. So, unless you do everything manual, you can't override it. If you do program or aperture or whatever, it won't let you screw up, that's a good thing. But, the point is, if I go above my sync speed, I have a problem, okay? High speed sync, beautiful technology, is that when the first curtain drops and the second half starts to come across, it fires twice. Fires the first part and the second part. So, it covers both sections of the sensor as it goes down. (imitates camera) So it goes and as you go to the 800th of a second, it'll go four times. (imitates camera) At some point, it's covering all this exposed sensor. That's high speed syncing, and you can only do that typically with a speed light or some new strobe systems now are building that into their units. And this is new technology, it's great. Now, however, you can't go and multiple burst at full power. Usually, you're gonna have a smaller aperture output or throw of light, which creates some issues. Actually, it could be a good thing. It gives you the shallows of the field. So, we'll talk about that when we get to the end of these filters, but let's not jump ahead. The point is that's the technology where it has strobing across the sensor as it goes down, the curtain drops. Hot sync is this new Priolite strobe that someone just recently-- Actually, I heard about it about a year or so ago, I looked it up, and then recently someone tipped me off and it's a new technology which is, remember I told you, the bell curve, it's actually giving you a longer strobe duration output that covers your sync speed or anything above your sync speed. So at 200th of a second, it's staying on. It's almost like it's a strobe but it's a continuous strobe. May we use that term, a continual strobe burst that covers slower than your sync speed. And so this is amazing technology in that. Now, I can go to 1/8,000ths of a second and get freezing action outdoors using strobes. Now, I don't know this unit, I've never used it, so I'mma hopefully get my hands on one soon and I'll test it out. The unit's a little bit bigger, I say a little bit bigger than mine, looks like a little bit bigger, I'll have to look at it and get my hands on it, but the battery's built into it, you can use it to regular syncing, standard syncing also, but you have ability to go what they call hot sync, so, check that out, that's just an option. So these are options that we have today. Three different types of syncing to cover our needs and hopefully to fulfill our vision as an artist. Now, when you create an income for a client. This is one of the things that I talk about, natural light. Someone says, "I'm a natural light photographer." I go, "That's cool, wonderful. "Now, what if a client comes to you and it's dark?" And they say, "We need this picture "or you're shooting and you're losing the light." And all of a sudden now, you've still got three shots left, and you have no light left. What are you gonna do? So, when you have the ability to go and say, "I've got options here that now, "I can go and create an income with." So when a client says, "I need you to freeze action," you know how to do it. "I need to shoot at midnight," you know how to do it. I need to shoot whatever, you have it covered. You gotta climb 300 yards up a mountain with all your gear, you got the gear to allow you to do that, to get to where you need to go. So do you see why it's important to understand all these little things? It's important if you're gonna go create an income. And one of the things that I loved is when a client comes to me and says, "Can you solve this problem?" I go, "You bet I can." Now, there have been times when I said, (laughs) "No, I don't if I can, "you're asking too much, I dunno. "There's nothing on the market that can do that." But hopefully, I've got my ducks in order and I can cover any scenario that someone throws at me. And that way it makes me more marketable in the marketplace. Alright, so, let's go to the next thing. We're gonna talk about... So, if I take a picture in a dark room, so let's say this is a studio environment, the windows are blocked off, that if I have the lights turned off and I go and set my lights up I take a picture, the shutter speed has no effect unless I get past my sync speed. Then I'll have that chopping, cut off block. So really, the shutter speed has nothing to do with freezing action in a dark studio. It's your flash duration that freezes. So people come to me in emails all the time. "Alright Joe, I got this athlete, "this class asked me to do this shoot "of this ballerina jumping through the air, "and my camera only goes 1/200th of a second. "How can I freeze action at 1/200th of a second?" I go, "You're not understanding it right. "You've got to look at your flash duration "as what's gonna freeze the action, not your shutter speed." 'Cause in a dark room, your shutter speed has no effect unless you go past your sync speed, which is that no-no zone on typical stirrups.

Class Description

Get out of the studio, and make the most of your portrait photography by combining strobe and natural light. Joel Grimes breaks down strobe lighting through 11 different lighting setups, including shooting at a boxing gym, a local park, in direct sunlight on the roof and in the studio, so that you can go out on location and capture great images. 

Join Joel for this class as he goes through the basics of strobe lighting basics and how to use strobes to overpower the sun.

Once you learn the essentials of strobes, he will show you techniques on:

  • How to use a neutral density filter and the combination of ambient and strobe lighting, to achieve a shallow depth of field.
  • How to achieve an HDR 32-bit depth final image with ISO bracketing
  • How to create a textured background for a character portrait and stitch it in Photoshop®
Joel is an experienced commercial portrait photographer and a member of the Canon Explorer of Light team. Learn how to create iconic images of your own as Joel shares his extensive experience in the lighting world.


Christopher Langford

I love Joel, even though I'm not a big fan of his style. He's a great teacher, really down to earth, and best of all, humble. He's a true professional and knows the business. Even if you're a seasoned photographer, I believe you will pick up some great tips throughout this course. What I enjoyed most from this course was learning Joel's thought processes and how he takes on challenges.

Dana Niemeier

After seeing Joel at Shutterfest 2016, I am a fan. He is intense, but that is inspiring. I especially like the segment using ND filters as I live in Florida where bright sun can be an issue! His teaching method sets the student at ease. You see him make mistakes and then figure them out! Makes us believe there is HOPE for us in the learning process! I also bought his commercial photography class as an add on. Great to see him work and think on his feet. Thanks CreativeLive for giving artists this platform that reaches out to artists around the globe.

Doug Stringer

This is the first Creative Live class of Joel's that I've viewed live and plan on watching it again and again for the 'nuggets' that he scatters along the way. Compared to other classes I've watched and purchased, Joel's style falls in the category of that of an 'artisian'. As he explained in one of the segments of this course, if he could be anything from the pioneer days in America, he would chose to be a explorer. Joel takes you through shoots and subject matter using his intuition as a compass rather than following a map of prescribed steps. His long journey as a successful photographer and experiences gained are his guide to this course's final destination--you just need to trust his intuition and hang on for the ride. If you learn better from someone who is a 'craftsman' and follows the rule of the tape (or light meter) then Creative Live has scores of other classes that fall in this category. But what's the fun in that? Thumbs up to Joel for his explorer style.