Using the Sun and one Speedlight

Cavannah Richardson, lit beautifully with one Speedlite fitted with CTO (color temperature orange) gel and the setting sun behind and on the left. About her 5 o’clock.
Cavannah Richardson, shot from further back with same lens horizontally. Do you think the blue pipe fixture and white sign is distracting? You bet.

One Speedlight used judiciously can open up a whole new world for your photography.

The key is knowing how to combine it with available but directional light.

Cavannah Richardson was recruited by one of my students to be her model during our location shoot,  but when she arrived with her mother, my student wasn’t ready to shoot.

The sun was fast disappearing and I didn’t want Cavannah and her mum to be kept waiting so I took 5 minutes to take the picture above.

Some Background

Cavannah captured in mostly available light or call this my exposure determining shot.

For a picture to be successful and believable, I needed a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on the Speedlight.

I always start out with a picture taken with available light–this is my exposure-establishing-shot.

From there I make a judgement call on how dark or how dramatic I want some element in my picture to look by increasing the shutter speed while leaving my aperture fixed.

Cavannah’s shadow on the right wall is a very important element in my composition.

When I lit her with my Speedlite, I made sure the flash head was zoomed to 105mm setting to narrow the beam as much as possible so it wouldn’t lighten that all important shadow.

The tell-tale shadow shows that my Speedlite was high and pointing downwards and on the right.

I also raised the light stand high and pointed the Speedlite downwards so that the shadow cast is downwards and not against the wall behind her.

I didn’t want the light to strike the wall behind her and create another distraction.

Shutter speed, drama and camera shake

1/25 sec at f2.8 ISO 100. Camera shake and less drama.
1/250 sec f2.8 ISO 100. Sharp and dramatic

If you examine the picture taken with available light carefully, left picture, you might see that it’s not as sharp as I’d like it be.

I was shooting with a 100 mm lens on a Canon 40D, so it was actually a 160mm lens wide open at f2.8 at a shutter speed of 1/25 sec.

So I was pushing the limits of my human tripodness. 🙂

I wasn’t too concerned because I knew this wasn’t the final image I was after–just a behind-the-scenes type picture for this blog.

Remember also when you’re shooting at such slow shutter speeds, even if I were using a tripod, any movement on the part of my subject will also create an feeling that nothing is sharp in the picture.

Take a look at a behind-the-scenes picture I took of Cavannah chatting with Marta one of my students.

Cavannah Richardson collaborates with Marta Gonzales during a photo shoot in downtown Riverside while her mum holds a reflector. 100mm lens 1/20 sec @f2.8 ISO 100

Peter Phun Photography

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