Shoot: Studio Strobes on Location Part 1
So we are going to move over here and shoot. I want to show you the gear that we're using. It's so cute with this umbrella on it. So we are using, arrrrgh this is so heavy. We're using a Prophoto B1 and this is a battery powered studio strobe. We could have used any number of studio strobes outside but since this has a battery built-in, it makes it much easier to work with. There are many different types of studio strobes that you can either plug in, like the Alien B's have a little vagabond thing you can plug in. Prophoto's got some battery packs. I know that Broncolor has the same thing, but this one I love because it's very, very small and the battery lasts forever. So that's what we're using. It's a full studio strobe outside. The other thing that we have going on here, we have a pocket wizard that's attached to this and we're using that for metering and then the last thing we have is this also works with an air remote with the ability to use TTL with this and so we'll do that as w...
ell. And so to show all of this stuff, in a minute we're going to bring Lex out. I'm not going to bring her out right now because it's still rainy and we don't need her right now but I need to show some things. So I've got my camera over here. Thank you. It's raining so we're trying to keep the rain off the gear. This is so much fun, isn't this a blast? This is awesome. There's about 20 people up here. It looks like it's just me but there are people everywhere. It's so much fun. This is cool. Okay, so what I have on my camera, this is cracking me up John. We're shooting in the rain on the rooftop. This is awesome. So on the lens here, I actually have a neutral density filter. This is what I showed you a while back and what we need to do is because our studio strobes have a sync speed barrier of 200th of a second, sometimes 160th of a second, if you want to shoot outside and you want to shoot with a wide open aperture, let's say of 2.8, that's very problematic for our cameras. So, for example here, I'm going to take my neutral density filter and I'm going to rotate it so basically it doesn't exist. And what I'll do it I'm going to use my through the lens metering to figure out how much light is coming in over here. Just of the ambient light. So I'm not using my light meter right now. Just going to use my built-in light meter and I'm going to point it back here at the background because that's really what I want to balance to. So when I do that, at 2. and I'm in manual mode by the way, at 2.8 I can see that I need to be way beyond 200ths of a second. Let me get my pocket wizard if you will. There we go, thank you. Yep, I need to be way beyond 200th of a second. So right now at 2.8 my shutter speed is at and so I would have significant issues if I try to take a picture with a studio strobe mixing in ambient light. All I have to do with this neutral density filter is very, very simple. I'm going to go ahead and set my camera to a shutter speed of 200 and aperture value of 2.8 and my ISO's at 100 and what I'll do is I'm going to point my camera again at this background and then I'll just rotate my neutral density filter and I'll just watch my meter inside go from over exposed to perfectly exposed and when we do that, we'll see that it all works. What I'll do it first I'm going to shoot at 200ths of a second at 2. (camera clicks) and you'll see this is going to tether... John, I'll let you do the tethering for this. So this shows up as way over exposed at 200ths of a second. Did that show up?
Yeah, it's pretty bright.
Yeah, very bright, it's over exposed, so what I'll do, I'm not gonna change any of the settings on my camera. I'm just going to rotate this neutral density filter using my built-in light meter, shooting in manual mode, I'm rotating that, rotating that and now my camera's telling me I am properly exposed (camera clicking) taking the same photo. Matt's gonna come in and I guess I should turn off my flash. I keep firing my flash. And that's gonna come in with the proper exposure, so has that shown up now?
It looks dark up here but we're in the sun.
Yeah, we're in the sun, so should, based on the histogram, should be a proper exposure and I'll just look at my histogram. Yeah, so we've got a good exposure there. Again, John's looking at this and saying it looks over exposed, or under exposed here. But we can't really tell because the bright sunlight here is hitting the screen of the laptop. We learned yesterday, we shot outside yesterday, is that right? Or day before?
Yeah, so it's all running together. When we shot outside before, one of the things we talked about was don't trust the screen on your computer. Don't trust the screen on the back of your camera. It's gonna be wrong. Look at your histogram. So what we've discovered here is just by twisting my neutral density filter, I can get a proper exposure, keeping my camera at 2.8 and 200. So what that means is now, I just need to adjust my flash so that I have a proper exposure at 2.8. So now, we're gonna have Lex come out and it looks like it stopped raining. Yay, the drizzle is over. So we're gonna have Lex come out here and I'll put this over here. So Lex we'll have you stand about right here-ish, we'll see if we can get that crane not in the shot. We got power poles and all kinds of fun stuff going on. Yeah, we'll do about like this. Okay, so I'm going to bring this about like this. And we have cheerleaders cheering us on from below it sounds like. That's awesome. Okay, so now we have this light set up and I have this set so it's going to illuminate the front of her face. We're gonna get sort of a tall, we're gonna shoot the tall side of her face, so I'll be shooting this way, she'll be looking that way. I'm going to shoot from this direction and then I'm going to get my light meter here. I've got it, I hid it from you John. And what I'm going to do is I'm going to meter this towards the camera and I'm metering the same way that I would as if I shot downstairs and what I want this light to meter on Lex is 2.8. That was the aperture value we pre-determined. So I'm going to meter this light and it meters at 10. So we'll go over here and I'll let you do this from now on. I'm going to lower this way down. We'll try this again. That meters at 7.1 so let's see if we can go even farther down. That's still at 7.1.
That's all the way down to two here.
Yeah so the thing is, ha ha. The thing with this is, I forgot to change my light meter, right. So the reason that this is metering differently is, remember we adjusted the exposure using a neutral density filter and so I have to compensate for that on my light meter. The other thing, I'm going to walk really close to this camera. So tell me when you can see this. The camera guys love this. Is that close enough that you can see this? More? Less? We good? We're good, okay, I'm getting the nod. So there's a little teeny percentage right there and right now it says 0%. What that means is 0% of the light that this light meter sees is coming from the flash. And the more flash that comes in, this percentage is going to climb until I might see 50%, 80% or 100%. So if it said 100%, that means this meter sees no ambient light, only light from the flash, 50% means it sees half the lights coming from the flash, half is ambient. Right now it's saying it only sees ambient light. The reason it only sees ambient light is that I forgot to compensate for what my neutral density filter is. So right now, it looks like it's about... It's got a little scale on the side here. It looks like it's about four stops of light. So what I'll do is I'll adjust this by four stops really quickly. Yeah, so right now it's saying 1.6. So let's increase that.
Give it another stop of light there.
Even more. Just a bit more, like two more stops of light.
There we go, we're at 2.2 right now.
You want 2.8?
Now we're at 2.5, one more click. 2.8. And this says 70% of the light is now from the flash. So now, let's see if I made my adjustment correctly because I'm not sure I did. I'm just guessing at that. And that's one of the things that's great if you have... Instead of invariable, if you have constant neutral density filters, you'll know it's exactly two stops or four stops or whatever the stops are. So let's take a peek and see how well I did. All right so Lex is going to look right at me there you go, perfect. Perfect. Yeah, and did that flash fire, I know I have to turn it on
I didn't see it. No, it did not fire because I didn't turn my pocket wizard on. There it goes. Keep forgetting to turn on my pocket wizards. Okay.
Yeah, it's all good, I just didn't have it turned on.
Did it flash?
Perfect, got it. All right now if you can do this John. Looks like we have our exposure dialed in. You can see that we have a balance, I under exposed the ambient light just a hair.
The background's out of focus.
Background's out of focus which is what we want. We got rid of that nastiness. Susan is dropping things there.
Half a blink. That's cool. Half a blink?
Just one eye.
All right just look right at me Lex. Beautiful. (camera clicking) Beautiful, just like that. Excellent. And now we have that balance between a very gray Seattle background and a very bright sunny Lex. Which is really good. And so that's how that works. It's pretty simple. We can try some other things too. Let's try, instead of shooting with a beauty dish here, what we're going to try to do is we're gonna try to shoot with a four by six soft box, just to see how we can evenly illuminate that and it will be similar. John, uh, yeah let's do this. We're gonna bring this over, if you hold that I'll lift this.
It's got two sandbags on it. (grunting noises)
Here we go, turn. Yeah, you don't need to stay. Don't move. (grunting noises) You stay. I'm going to put this down because it's getting really windy. It's getting very, very windy. Also shooting outside, we had planned to do some stuff with some big deflats but it's too windy. They will definitely blow away so we're gonna not do that. And we also have a big umbrella that we might shoot with if it doesn't get super windy but the problem with the umbrella is if it's really windy, we have a potential of breaking the center column when it falls over. Okay, perfect. That's good and I'm going to raise this up just a bit. Perfect. I'm gonna move this over. All right Lex, let's have you take a step let's have you be right here. Right there is where we want. So on this, first let me adjust again my ambient light because it's changing a bit. It's changing a bit. So again, I'm going to look through being in the background, brighten up just a hair. So we need to adjust the adjustment on the meter. So it's going to be about 3 1/2 stops. Let me do that. Let me show you what I'm doing on this so again, should I come to you? Okay, perfect. So how's that? About right there? So on this meter, what we can do is if we push both ISO's, and get this adjustment. What I'm saying is hey, we're underexposing by four stops because that neutral density filter is blocking four stops of light. I just adjusted it a little bit so I'm going to go down to about 3 1/2 stops of light. I'm using the scale on the side of my neutral density filter to estimate what that is. This is just a little estimation. We have a question over here.
Yeah, I just wanted to know the placement of her and the softbox. Like, is she dead center or is she on the side?
No, she's to the side so we're about a 45 right here. And we haven't really dialed it in yet. We're going to have to sort of move this over and see what we get. Yeah, but it's about a 45. On something like this I would normally, and we might do this in a second, do an on-access where I'm shooting very close to this soft box and the other thing that I would try to do is our sun is about here. So I'm going to have the soft box in the same direction as our natural light, if possible, to try to make it not look like we've thrown a bunch of artificial light in here. This is not really apparent right now because we have zero shadows. There are no shadows here. If we had shadows, I'd try to make sure that the natural light and the artificial light were aligned so that we don't have weird cross shadows going. So that's what we're doing. And the other reason we're adding artificial light here, besides the fact that it's a workshop, and we're trying to teach this is this light is so flat right now. There is no form really so by adding some artificial light, what we can do is we can under expose the natural light and expose our artificial light correctly and actually add shadows where shadows don't exist. And that sort of is also what we want to do. Okay, I'm going to go and meter this very quickly. I'm metering to that and that meter's at two so let's get about almost a stop of light. I'm going to have you turn in this way just a hair. Yep, like that. (beeping) That meter's at two still.
Huh, that's a full stop.
Yeah so bump that up because it's getting no flash. (beeping) Still at 10% so keep cranking it up, give me another stop.
All right. (beeping)
That's 2.2 so give me a little more. (beeping)
I'm all the way up to full power now.
You're all the way up to 10?
Yeah, try it.
Okay. So this is a 500 watt second light. There we go.
That felt stronger.
That did feel stronger so there we go. That's at 4.5 so something wacky must have happened.
Okay I'm coming down.
Power down. (beeping)
We're getting radio interference it looks like so let me try metering from this side. Sometimes the pocket wizard system or any radio system outside if you're next to high power lines, which we are, those power lines or lots of metal, there's lots of electrical stuff will interfere with the radio signal so we're gonna do the best we can here. That's 3.2 John. Let's take it down a little bit more.
So that's at four.
I went down and you went different.
Yeah, so it needs to go down in power just a bit.
All right now we're at 2.5. Okay, so we might not have been doing, might not have been refreshing all the way so that may have been what was happening. (beeping) Yeah. Now we're at 2.5 let's try that. We're gonna try it and see how this responds, I want to show you something though that's gonna really you'll see. I'll show you how to do this very, very quickly. All right so now we're at 2.8 and now we have this beautifully lit, well balanced shot. Just like that. Did it come in?
Uh huh, yep. So let's just play just a little bit. Let's have that, excellent. Turn into the light just a bit. Beautiful. Okay. Excellent. Easy schmeasy. As long as your radios are working, it's pretty simple to do this. It's very, very simple to do this. And normally what I do, if you don't have a variable a variable ND filter get like a four stop three and a two stop and then you can just change them out and then you can know on your light meter exactly what the compensation is instead of guessing based on the little scale on the side because it's not a really accurate scale. It's just a sort of ish scale. All right we have lots of time for questions. Before I make everybody go oh, that's why this is so amazing, let's answer the questions on how to do this.
How about let's take a question from Donna who says could a circular polarizing filter be used in place of the ND filter assuming it's stops down enough for your circumstances?
No, a circular polarizer, what it does is it takes light that's refracting at different angles and it eliminates all of them but a certain one and so what it does it eliminates stray light, it doesn't change the exposure. It just eliminates stray light and so that would not work in this situation.
Let's see, there's a question from Bill in Boca who would like to know what would change in full daylight conditions? Would the artificial light be used to neutralize the natural light shadows or how would you measure the amount of artificial light needed in full daylight to accomplish these things?
Okay, it's the exact same thing in full daylight as it is right now. The only difference is right now our shutter speeds are well we're at 200ths of a second and we're using about 3 1/2 stops of adjustment. In full daylight, we'd be using probably six to nine stops of adjustment on our neutral density filter, so that's one thing that would change. The other thing that would change, we talked about it earlier, we'd be paying attention to the sunlight's shadows in trying to match where those are but one of the things that we're not gonna be able to do is if we're in full sunlight and we have really nasty shadows coming across somebody's face, it just really doesn't work to add artificial light to eliminate those shadows. You'll still have those shadows, they'll just be softer. Sort of the stuff that we saw downstairs with the little flag and the two lights coming in. That's the kind of stuff that you get and so what I like to do, if it's a full sunlight, is the first thing I would do if we were shooting out here is we have these V flaps, the same V flaps that we used yesterday. We would take those and we would build a box around Lex and we'd create an artificial shade, little space, and that way we've eliminated all the nasty shadows and then we would fill her in with the artificial light and balance to the background and so the first thing I always do shooting in natural light, in full sunlight which is what we normally get in Phoenix is find shade. Gotta find shade immediately so that we don't have to compete with horrible shadows so fortunately we have nice diffused light here and we don't have to worry about that. And it's warm out isn't it? (laughing) Alexis is freezing. You okay?
Oh man, she's turning blue it's so cold. Okay, other questions?
Yes, from Photographics Miami, what power light and watt seconds would be needed under full sunlight?
Okay, great, it depends on the modifier. So let's say we wanted to use a four by six soft box right here. I would speculate that for the least amount of power that you would need under full sunlight under a summer day in most places, would be around 1,000 watt seconds or more. I don't recommend shooting in the middle of the day. Find a time of day that works, but do we have the magnum reflector?
John if you can go grab that. There are different types of modifiers that you can use and those modifiers will allow you to shoot and you get a much more punch than a very diffused light so if you're using a modifier that is a hard light modifier, you can afford to shoot with a 500 watt second light or 250 watt second light. In fact, we'll do some stuff, we're gonna shoot with this guy and show you... You can shoot from quite a distance and do some pretty amazing things. The other thing I want to clarify though a lot of people talk about overpowering the sun, right? We're gonna overpower the sun with our studio strobe. That doesn't happen. What happens is you take the ambient light, so all the light that's falling on your subject and you just under expose it. That's what you're doing. You're under exposing the ambient light and then you're adding light from a flash to give a proper exposure so you're not overpowering anything, you're just under exposing that thing. That's it. So it's not that you need a bright light to overpower the brightness of whatever you're shooting. What you're doing is you're under exposing and then shooting to a correct aperture value. So if you're inside and your strobe can shoot at F16, it can shoot at F16 outside. There's really no difference. So yeah, you're not overpowering anything, you're just underexposing the ambient light.
Okay great, I think Andrew has a question.
Yeah, so in these conditions here, how much of that light's power are we utilizing?
We're at eight out of 10 but these remember these are exponential. So it doesn't mean that we're at 80%, so we're at 8 and then we have one more stop that's twice as much and then one more stop which is twice as much so we're not even at 50% of the power of this light. At nine, we would be at 50%.
And Mark, that balance that you're going between as far as your light power and your ambient light, is that something that just comes from years of experience or tell us a little bit about how that works out.
Okay there's different ways to do this, you can have a light ratio, essentially between your artificial light and your ambient light and so what I normally do is I will try to expose my ambient light properly first. And so, by adjusting my neutral density filter to get that to say we have a proper exposure, and then second I will try to make sure that my artificial light meters the same aperture value. So if I balance this at 4.5, I'm gonna meter this at 4.5 so it looks like they have an equal balance or a one to one ratio. For me, I like to take the background and under expose it a little bit more, usually by half a stop to a stop depending on what it is. Back here, we have a pretty gray city. I mean, there's really no color, there's nothing. Seattle, right here, is very monochromatic, not very interesting. If we could turn around and look that way, which we can't, there's the Seattle Center and there's the music thing, whatever it's called, it's got tons of color, it'd be awesome. So if we were shooting that way a few blocks down I'd be the opposite, I would have all that color coming in and I would expose equally or even under expose the foreground to get some more saturation out of the back so it really depends on what I'm shooting and what I'm trying to accomplish. If we're in a garden or something with lots of flowers and color, again, an equal balance. It really depends on where you are and what you're doing. Yeah. You bet.
You want to take one more before you move on?
Yeah, one more and then we're gonna move on.
All right well Phil Birdie wanted to know if there was any specific gear that you use when it's really windy or if you have any solutions for that?
Absolutely, people! I use people. So if you're in a windy environment it doesn't matter, I mean, you can have tons of sandbags on your gear. The problem is this is still gonna blow. And so if this is blowing or if you have a very large umbrella, it's gonna be blowing and it doesn't matter that it's anchored securely, it can still break. And with a person, the person can actually hold that and keep it from having some kind of damage and so I avoid shooting in a windy situation if at all possible. In fact, we did a photo shoot where we it was for Prophoto actually and they shipped me a very expensive, very large parabolic umbrella. Now this thing was hundreds of dollars and we went running out and we set it up and we had one shot to get this thing and we took some pictures and it was great and we were like awesome! Now let's turn the cameras on and right before the cameras are on it, this thing went shooooooo and the whole thing just went schnap. And it destroyed the umbrella and so we had to have, yeah, I don't remember what we did. We rigged up some kind of crazy thing but yeah, that was a 600 dollar gust of wind. It was really bad.