SPLOTCH-LIGHT / SPOTLIGHT.
On Friday, Michael Dunphy and I finished co-teaching our "Fall Environmental Portraits with a Kiss of Flash" workshop. And what a gorgeous sun-drenched day it was!
The trees were more bare than expected, so it was hard to avoid the sun -- the perfect challenge for a workshop exploring the use of off-camera flash to shape otherwise difficult lighting conditions. (May as well look on the "bright" side, I say, no pun intended!)
One of the students, Linda H., wanted to see how off-camera flash might be used to deal with splotchy sunlight. So we placed our model Rachel on a small grassy hill that was lit unevenly by splotches of direct sunlight, falling on and all around her. To overcome the uneven sunlight, just a kiss of flash was definitely not going to get the job done. We needed an overpowering flood of flash -- i.e. a flash flood!
To create the portrait above, I positioned a Qflash in a softbox just outside the frame on camera left to mimic the direction of sunlight. Placing the softbox close to Rachel and using high power, the flash replaced the sunlight as the main light. Because I'm exposing for the direct sunlight, the splotches of sunlight around Rachel are subdued. And, because of the off-camera flash, the unattractive splotchiness of the sunlight on her face is now gone.
The effect is as if Rachel were illuminated by a clean spotlight of the sun streaming through the trees. The only indication to the contrary is that Rachel is not squinting! Instead, we see Rachel relaxed and comfortable, with her engaging, beautiful smile.
Splotch-light to spotlight, we did ourselves proud!
WHAT STUDENTS THOUGHT ABOUT THE "KISS OF FLASH" WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE:
"I felt great about the things I learned! The workshop was just as described. It followed very well on the indoor portraiture class, so that I could apply what I'd learned there to a new shooting situation. My favorite part was shooting the same scene with and without flash. Even though I have often heard that good natural light photographers can "control the light," I didn't really know what that meant in practice. Now I realize that a photographer benefits from a background in studio lighting in order to then apply that knowledge to outdoor/natural lighting. Most come at photography the other way around; they don't invest in studio lighting and they add those skills AFTER they do outdoor work. But real learning comes when you know studio lighting and then move to natural light. That was an aha moment for me!" -- Linda H.
"Great workshop. For me, I thought the workshop was perfect. We practiced techniques that I sort of knew how to use, but seeing them in action made me feel more comfortable in their use." -- Jim C.
"I thought that the workshop was great. I learned a great deal. My favorite part was listening to you and Michael, watching how you worked with the models to make lovely portraits. Learning to use the small flash and trigger was most helpful. Most of all I was very impressed with your skills in teaching so many skills in a relatively [short] period of time and at the same time making the learning most enjoyable for your students. On top of that you made lovely portraits of your models!" -- Ann S.
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My Northern Virginia wedding photography and portrait photography studio is conveniently located in Ashburn, Virginia, between Dulles International Airport and Leesburg, just north of the Brambleton shopping center.