On Location Shoot: Overpower Sunlight with Strobes
We are going to look at a behind the scenes of me shooting at the park and I had the ability to stop this. And, maybe, if I could explain something. I don't want to stop too much, but here we go. So, I think I'm gonna do this right. Okay, Cliff, let's put this on here. Our 24 inch beauty dish and we're gonna clip it in here. One of the things that I do, is I always run my bone horizontal, like that. Perfectly horizontal, that way there's only one axis side to work with. 'cause if you're on an angle you got two axis' you have to work with. So, that makes that easy, let's raise her up. Grab, yeah grab that, now tighten her down. And this probably just a little off so let's straighten that up like that. And this is a painter pole, it's, ya know, Home Depot. Home Depot product, about 18 bucks. And then a painter pole adapter, which you get from Midwest Photo Supply. Alright, so let's go over here. Let's get Sophia. Sophia, let's get you over here and we'll take John out, whose not quite as...
good looking as you. Sorry, John. So, let's get you right on the edge here. Alright, so, I want to make sure I clear. So, let's go a little higher here, just a little higher. When I'm outdoors I take a 24 inch beauty dish and I run it about three feet. Indoors I run a 24 inch beauty dish at 24 inches. Two feet at two feet. But, outdoors I can get away with a little bit backed up. Alright, so I'm about two inches down, here. Two inches down. So, let's go... Whoa! Okay, got it? So, now just move it just a little bit away, no, no the other way, the other way, right there. We're gonna be dead center right over the top of her. And the reason why I do that is, because those shadows fall straight down. What we're gonna do is, we're gonna start with horizontal here, let's just go right here. Actually, turn a little bit. Yes, scoot into the seat just a little bit and just relax. Like, there you go. So what we're gonna do is, I'm gonna go to my sunny 16. Which is not actually sunny 16 yet. Because, we don't have the fuse. But, we're gonna go there anyways. We'll go to sunny 16, which is 100 at 16. And, I dunno the power of my flash yet. But, we're gonna fire one off here. Okay, so, because we're in Seattle and not Arizona let's go to sunny 11. Or, no it should actually be about sunny 9, F9. Okay, see what happens there. So, that should be.. On her face looks beautiful. The background still is too dark. So, let's go and now knock it down. So, that was at 100, so let's go down to 50. ISO 100. Whoops, sorry, I'm just waitin' for these guys to come through. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna walk down my shutter speed until my background start to show up. It's really simple. Okay, Sophia looks wonderful. Okay, now my backgrounds just starting to show up. So, what I gotta do is, as an artist, I gotta go and play with this balance. So, let's go, I'm gonna make sure I'm focused on you, Sohpia, here. 'cause I'm a little off on my focus point. Okay, right there, that looks good right there. Alright, now look at me, right there. There. Gorgeous, beautiful. So, I would say I'm a little, I'm a little too dark on the background. So, let's go to F, or let's go to 30th of a second. Boy, she's got a good look. So, that would say, that's a pretty good, clean balance between my background and my subject. If you notice I'm on a tripod. So, a lot of you have a hand held, right? So, that's fine if that's what you like to do is hand held. But, if you notice if you're on a tripod that gives you the ability to have a variable that you can go down, you're not stuck at 100th of a second or whatever. It's always going to be sharp on a tripod. Even if your 200th of a second, it's always going to be sharper. That's old school way of thinking. So, having the tripod also gives me the ability to frame up my image. Then I can go move around, come back to it. Move around, come back to it. But, it also gives me the ability to walk my shutter speed down and still be able to pull it off, right. So, at third of a second, she's going to be fine but if I'm hand holding, can't do it 30th's of a second. Does that make sense? The thing is, right now my F stop is at F9. So, lets do this, we're gonna go and walk up from a 30th, 60th, that's one. One 25th, that's two stops. So, let's go F9, 7.1, okay we're there at F3. One, two, three, so, we're gonna go to F45. Let's see if we can get a little bit shallower depth to field. But, see I did not calculate then, I didn't calculate my strobe output. So, now I gotta go, whoops! I've calculated to get a little shallower depth of field, which is whiter aperture. Not at 2.8 yet, we'll do that in a minute, or later. But, right now, I gotta now change my output of my stroke. Too much power, so now we gotta knock the power down. 'Cause we're at 4.5. (camera clicking) still is a little bit too much power, so I'm gonna knock it down to 3.3 on the scale. There we go, so now I've shallowed my depth of field a little bit, which makes a little bit cleaner background. I don't need my ND filters yet. But, this is just play with the ambient and the stroke, you gotta balance the two. There's two variables that I gotta deal with right now. Shutter speed, well actually three. Shutter speed, F stop, and the output power of my stroke. So, that gives me a pretty simple variable to work with. Now I got just a little bit of light coming through the leaves there and so that bugs me. So I'm just gonna move my camera just slightly and then just, Cliff, swing the light this way just a little bit. Keep moving, right there, okay. Beautiful, beautiful. Now you notice the stance I have. That's important, you have to have the right stance. The photographer stance. (camera shutter clicking) Okay, so let's go vertical this will be good vertical line here. Let me adjust my focus point, right there. Beautiful. We're gonna move in a little tighter. So basically once I... Oh, that looks beautiful. Once I sort of start playing with my variables I can go and let's just do this. I'm gonna take now and I'm gonna increase the value of the background. So, I'm at one 25th at F4. and I'm just gonna go to 60th, ready. So, 60th, now the background will just go and pop a little bit more. Softness, that also brings in the ambient underneath a little bit and softens the whole thing. Here comes our buddy, two of them, little squirrels. Sophia looks wonderful. This is perfect. Let's go a little tighter, I'ma really tight on the face. Right there, beautiful. So if I go to, let's go to 30th of a second. And that's a little more lifestyle. So, I'm a portrait photographer typically. So I like darker backgrounds but let's just blow out the background just a tad, just a tad. Soften it up and that's a little more lifestyley. And so I gotta little too much punch out of the strobe. Let's knock that down just a little bit. So, remember when I said that if I start dragging a shutter or making a longer shutter. At some point I'm gonna hit this threshold where my strobe stops showing up. And I'm there. So it's like you have to now go, what I do a lot of times is I'll take something down and I'll go whoop, that's as far as I can go, back it up. Same thing with darker, whoop too dark, come back a little bit. So, I'm just learning, right now I know kinda of like I've gone to a certain point where 30th of a second, where am I at? 30th, at 4.5 or whatever it's at. Outdoors in that subdued lighting I've hit my limit. Does that make sense? So, now I can back it off. I think I might say that but, the point is, is that's the beauty of these variables. All the sudden you get to a point where you go (straining) I can't go any further. I gotta go back the other direction. Ope, too much power. So, now we gotta knock the power down. 'Cause we're at 4.5. Still is a little too much power so I'll knock it down to 3.3 on the scale. There we go. So now I've shallowed my depth of field a little bit which makes it a little bit cleaner background. Still, I don't need my ND filers yet, but this is just play with the ambient and the stroke. You got balance the two. There's two variables that I gotta deal with right now. Shutter speed, well actually three. Shutter speed, F stop, and the output power of my stroke. So, that gives me a pretty simple variable to work with. Now, I got just a little bit of light coming through the leaves there and that bugs me. So, I'm just gonna move my camera just slightly. And then, Cliff, swing the light this way. Just a little bit. Keep moving, right there, okay. Beautiful, beautiful. Now you notice the stance I have? That's important, you have to have the right stance. The photographer stance. Okay, so let's go vertical this will be good vertical. Okay, let me adjust my focus point. Right there, beautiful. So, let's go, we're gonna move in a little tighter. So basically once I, oh, that looks beautiful. Once I start of playing my variables I can go and let's do this, I'm gonna take now and I'm gonna increase the value of the background. And so, I'm at one 25th, F 4.5, and I'm just gonna go to 60th, ready. So, 60th, now the background will just go and pop a little bit more. Softness, that also brings in the ambient underneath a little bit and softens the whole thing. Here comes our buddy, two of them, little squirrels. Sophia looks wonderful. This is perfect, beautiful. Let's go a little tighter, I'm gonna go really tight on the face. Right there, beautiful. So, if I go to... Let's go to 30th of a second. And, that's a little more lifestyle. So, I'm a portrait photographer typically. So I like dark backgrounds, but let's just blow out the background just a tad. Just a tad, soften it up. And that's a little more lifestyley. And, so, I got a little too much punch out of the strobe. Let's knock that down just a little bit. Beautiful. That's still a little too much. So, there's a point in which I can't go any longer shutter speed because now my strobe doesn't even affect it. And, that's kinda where I'm at right now. So, if I go back to, let's go back to 60th of a second and see what we got here. I know that's where my limit is. And then let's bring up my light again. 3.3, right there. Beautiful, beautiful. Gorgeous. Can't get any simpler than that. So, really, that's just playing with those variables, I can fine tune what I want. So, if I also move my background. Let's see, I'm gonna raise it just a little bit and then go just right about here so I get a little softer background there. Okay, change my focus point, right there. Just pull the hair back a little bit on that one side, just on that one side, right there. Beautiful, beautiful, ah, gorgeous! That's very simple. Very easy, this is just about as simple as you get. There's no sun but I'm still working with ambient light. So, the question is, if I can feather that shutter speed that's gonna give me a lighter or darker background. That's my creative option: lighter or darker. And so, again, only you as an artist can determine what that is. Or a client, a client may say, "I want lighter, darker." but, I typically think for lifestyle you go a little lighter. For portraity you go a little darker. That's kind of my little way of determining what kind of value I want. Alright, she's obviously not, she's kind of sitting on a park bench, right. Probably not the most creative, you know, scenario. But, you watch me work with my background. I move my background just a little bit. A little bit too much light coming through the hedges there, the foliage, so I move it a little bit. So, background is very important. Look at all of my images. Backgrounds are huge role in what I do. So, I'm watching that and so you need to learn that to. Horizons going across the eyes, or the lips, things like that. Watch things that are in the background. That was at about, what, I think it was a five, six, some where around there. I'll show you a sample side by side of F8 and 2.8, side by side and you can see how the background (snapping fingers) gets knocked out, really soft. So, you could be just about anywhere. Any park, any you know, constructions going on in the background, still looks fine 'cause you're out of focus. So we'll do that later. But, moving the camera around. But, really the key to that is giving you the ability to control the two variables to get you to where you wanna go. So that could be high school senior portraits, it can be ad campaign, it could be lifestyle, it could be anything. I say this, I've been to over 50 countries shooting, I use to call them, guys in hardhats. Some gals put hard hats on to but, anyway it was construction type workers or power plants. Been to over 200 power plants around the world, all shooting this technique right here. Huge income in the 90's for me. One light. Show up, boom boom boom. I go from power plant to power plant, whatever. I had a client that I literally would go to, one day it was coal mining. The next day was a pig farm, the next day was harvesting cranberries, you know, Ocean Spray. Next, it was Sunkist in California. I was going from scenario, to scenario, to scenario, one light shooting outdoors. It's not that difficult. Now, we have the radio. I use to have all cords, I mean, I literally didn't have a radio trigger type system. Now I can change the power up and down, things like that. But, the point is, you can do a lot with this. Once you understand the basics of blending those two variables. And you notice that, I kind of fumble a little bit, right. I'm going (purposeful stuttering) you know F stop, moving stuff around, I went to far here, but I'm looking at the back of my monitor. That's the key to the whole thing. One you have that, use to be Polaroids, but now it's that monitor. I can fine tune my stuff, it doesn't take that long. Give me 10 minutes I can figure it all out. Get that perfect shot. I've had billionaires walk in, I shoot, three minutes their out. I got my shot. 'Cause once I fine tune it.
Joel, we have a couple of questions.
From that video, if that's alright. We have a question from Linda of Bureau, who says, could you still adjust your ISO up or down if you hit that limit of your F stop and shutter speed?
Absolutely, now I was at a hundred so, I only have one stop to go down, to fifty. Tons to go up, but only one stop to go down. And, I have to actually go into my menu and set that in my camera. So, and I use the fifty ISO a lot on different things, but it's not your, when I say this it's not your native ISO. So, generally you don't want to go to fifty unless you have to. You want to stick at a hundred or two hundred. Right around that range, would be the cleanest ISO. But, at fifty you never see a difference, I'm just saying. They say that in the manual, or whatever, you stick to your native ISO if you can. As it gets darker, like as the suns going down, then I start playing with my ISO, maybe pumping that up.
Alright, this is a question. Why did you choose that particular lens? A couple people were asking about the distance from you to the model and does the telephoto lens set further back, or add something to the photo?
Yeah, it's compacting the background. So, on a park situation. Yeah, if I had a field of wheat, a farmer in a wheat field, I wouldn't use that lens. 'Cause I wanna bring the environment in. So, I'm usually a wide angle guy. Typically, I'm shooting wide angle. But, with that scenario in the park, literally to the left we had a bunch of bums laying on the park bench to our left. They were former photographers. (laughing) They just, you know, didn't understand the sunny 16 rules so they never made it. (laughing) But, the point is, is yeah, I was trying to cut out the environment as best I could. That's why I chose that lens. That's a good question though.
Working outdoors like that, looking at your monitor, the sunlight's out there, what do you do to be able to see that monitor?
Well, I do have a little Hoodman that I can look over and block the light. I've taken a black T-shirt, pop it over the top and just look underneath it. Or, black cloth. That is, in full sun light's a little bit of a challenge. Yes, there are some new options in the market. Which, I hope they'll start to incorporate in some of the pro-consumer type cameras. And that is, it's electronic view finder to where you put your eye up to the eye piece and now you see the image in the view finder, or inside. So you're blocking the sun, you just look and you can view it. On the mirror less cameras that come in to play. So, that's a very cool solution. But, a little Hoodman I'll use. I have my iPad, which I use my Camranger a lot. We're gonna talk a lot about Camrangers, I'll show you how to use it. I use that and you can put a little, or my laptop, I can put a little sunscreen on that and I can look. So, if I have a big Shoot with a client, usually it's going right to the iPad. And they're siting underneath a canopy , or whatever and they can look at it. But, I can tell you this. And this happen when I shot Polaroid, the old days. I shot black and white Polaroid, even if I was shooting a color shoot, I would shoot black and white Polaroid. 'Cause it was a faster processing time. And I got to where I could look at the Polaroid and know my adjustments. Even though the Polaroid was kind of contrasty, and a little flat, or blown out in highlights a little bit, I knew that on film I was getting it. So, you just learn how to read the two, does that make sense? So, it's a little bit bright out there and you look at it. I go, "I know I'm good." I just get use to reading that monitor. Yes?
Now as a continuation of that question, are you ever looking at your histogram or have the blinkys set on to see if you're over exposing?
Okay, so I gave a talk once and I got up and I said, "I never use a histogram." and then, a photographer behind me said, "I always use a histogram." they live by the histogram. So, no, I don't use the histogram unless I'm shooting a gray background. Which I'll show you guys tomorrow. I look at the gray background to see where my gray value is hitting, so I want it dead center. But, no I never use a histogram. Here's why, do not let a technical instrument make a creative decision for you. Does that make sense? Now, blinkys I have used on occasion. That drives me crazy though, 'cause (imitating blinkys device) I'm like oh my gosh, I can't even see my image, alright. Where gonna talk about bit depth tomorrow. And I'll explain how bit depth falls more detail in your highlights than your shadows. So, bit depth gives you the ability recover in your highlights, but not your shadows, typically. So, I'm not worried about my highlights blowing out. Yeah, there's a certain point, yes. But, if there's a little blinky on the nose, on the tip of the nose, I'm not worried about that. Or, a little bit on the cheek there, I'm not worried about that. If the whole face is blinky, I'm way over. But, I can see on my monitor. Right away I go, "I'm way over expose." So, I typically don't use the blinkys or the histogram to make a creative decision for me.