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Archive 2012 · How do i make this better?
  
 
cgardner
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p.2 #1 · How do i make this better?


The backlit person wouldn't be the "victim" in your scenario, the observer (photographer) facing the sun is the one in discomfort. The primary reason for photographing people with their backs to the sun because when people face into the sun they squint and that doesn't make for a flattering portrait.

With B&W film / prints it wasn't necessary to use flash to record a full range backlit portrait as seen by eye because the dynamic range of the film/print could be adjusted to handle the contrast. That's not the case with color film or digital. When exposed for sunny highlights in backlight you get this result...







It is possible to pull more detail out of the shadows in a RAW file, but that also amplifies the noise in the darker areas.






One could opt to expose for normal rendering of the shaded side of a backlit face, but that will blow out the background highlights and the detail on any sun lit skin and light clothing. If the goal technically is to record a full range of tone on the foreground subject as in this candid shot...







... it is necessary to first exposing the ambient lit sunny highlights BELOW CLIPPING before adding any flash, then to the extent possible keep the flash added to the shaded side from overlapping the sunlit parts. Lighting the front shaded side with flash then becomes no different in concept that lighting a face with flash indoors in a dark room: some strategies will be more flattering than others.

Before adding any flash a subject in sun at their back will have the same lighting on their face as the would standing on the north side of a building in the open shade of the shadow it casts: the face is modeled by the downward angle of the skylight with a "butterfly" pattern. In backlight without flash you can opt to expose for a normal faces, blowing the background and nuking the hair and get this natural modeling.

What happens if you take that natural downward skylight modeling and add a single flash on the camera near the lens is the same thing that happens when you use a single flash on the camera near the lens indoors: flat light hits the face. Outdoors it will overpower and eliminate most of the natural lighting.

But as in the example above if the flash is raised on a bracket and kept centered on the nose the flash will also create a "butterfly" pattern, just as it does indoors...












Moving the flash off axis vertically changes it from flat "fill" to directional "key" light which creates a flashed "mask" highlight patten on the face where the flash hits, with the parts of the face not hit by the flash remaining illuminated as before with the skylight.

Here's the thing to take away before adding flash the skylight as two components: downward modeling "key" and omnidirectional "fill". The face is modeled by the downward "key" component because it is slightly brighter than the other light hitting from all other directions. The flash WHEN RAISED ABOVE THE SUBJECT'S HEAD matches the key angle of the skylight becoming a second brighter "key" lighting. When exposure is adjusted for the addition of the flash the net effect is the same natural modeling, the same exposure in the highlights, but with darker shadows than seen in an ambient only shot exposed the same way in the highlights.

Here's an indoor flash taken with a bracket blurred to better show how the downward flash created the "mask" pattern of highlights...







Here's an outdoor shot in sunlight, backlit with flash on a bracket added in front...






Exactly the same "mask" pattern of highlights which naturally define the 3D shape of the face. Why is it natural? Because natural light, sun and skylight, come from overhead during the day.

Making flash look natural is not rocket science. You just need to understand the direction of natural light and match it with the flash. Why wasn't fill flash needing in that outdoor shot? Because with a centered butterfly strategy almost the entire front of the face and body are highlighted by the flash and there is fill coming from the skylight form all directions. I created the same effect indoors in the portrait of the man by standing on a chair with the top of my flash diffuser against the ceiling to create an omni-directional skylight fill effect.

Wedding shooters started using flash brackets about 50 years ago because they discovered that cause and effect. Raising the flash directly over the camera HIDES MOST OF THE SHADOWS! What happens when no dark unfilled shadows are seen? The lighting seems "softer". Keeping the flash raised, but centered, eliminates the need for using fill. Indoors even direct flash will spill some fill off the ceiling if there is one. Outdoors the skylight is the fill.

Indoors you don't use a bracket or other means to raise the flash and have it hit the face at a downward angle (stand / bouncing) the angle of the flash will be unnaturally low and the results look unnatural.

Outdoors you don't use a bracket or other means to raise the flash and have it hit the face at a downward angle (stand / bouncing) the angle of the flash will also be unnaturally low and the results look unnatural because the flash will overpower and cancel the natural downwards modeling of the key light.

The shots above where taken with 8" diameter modifier so there is evidence via the specular highlights that flash was added. Bigger modifiers create more diffuse (less hard looking) highlights on skin but don't lend themselves very well to the logistics of running around with a camera shooting candid shots of the wife when out for a walk by the river or when you can get a 5 year old to sit still for 30 sec. and smile at her birthday party.

When I add an off camera flash as slave the one on the bracket winds up as fill. I can dial in back to zero or make it as strong as the key light depending on how dark I want the shadows to appear in the photo. The concept of using key overlapping fill basic to artificial light photography and made necessary with digital camera by the short range of the sensor.

To understand the need for fill when flash is moved off axis go outside at night in the driveway with no ambient light, put a flash centered directly above the camera, hitting at a downward 45 angle and take a shot. The flash will create a butterfly pattern, highlighting most of the face and body similar to natural light, but without any fill at all.

Next keeping the flash at the same height move it 45 to the right and take a shot. Now more of the subject will be in shadow with no fill.

Repeat the test with two flashes both at equal strength and distance adding the second flash just below the lens about chin level with the subject. Again shoot with the raised "key"flash centered, then at 45. Compare the results with the single flash shots.

Post the results here and we'll discuss whether or not fill makes the lighting more flattering

Repeat the same tests with the same subject, lights, power and distances indoors in your house and compare the results with the outdoor shots and you'll understand how much spilled light affects fill in indoor photography with flash.

Repeat the same test outdoors during the day in backlight and compare the result and you'll see how the skylight fill and the fill bouncing off your ceiling indoors in the course of normal (non bounced) use of direct flash have similar cause and effect.

If you take the time to do those systematic controlled tests you'll better understand how to control the results in situations like the shot the OP took here, avoiding the problems like the oddly placed highlights by keeping the subject's backs to the sun then making the flash look more natural by getting it off the camera and up over it and their heads. It's not rocket science and something that is quite simple but you need to try and compare it with other method to understand the cause and effect and see it will work better, nor not, for you.













Mar 03, 2012 at 04:09 AM
silvawispa
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p.2 #2 · How do i make this better?


Very good, Charles. /patronize.

In case you hadn't noticed, I do have a full working knowledge of lighting gathered from years of studio work. I am also fairly competent in it's application.
I do you the honour of assuming you know these basic details you just posted, please extend it in return.

Also, go and re-read the post about on-axis light positioning. I'm talking about mimicking a situation with on-axis flash. You got hold of the wrong end of the stick, or light, completely.



Mar 03, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #3 · How do i make this better?


Thank so much Paul. You post was great, I think you should use it as a teaching template like you described. I checked out your work/website, great work. I will be looking into Strobist 101 right away. I did a flash-less night shoot with my son and indeed I learned alot. I have been experimenting with my new flash, old school 380ex. So far so good with your guys help.

Aperture vs Shutter (in regards to fill flash)...mind melting. Im sure 101 will help me immensely.

The Tamron 28-75 f2.8 I received was so disappointing, serious front focusing issues. So ill be trading it for a 50mm f1.4. I was hoping to use it for more background bokeh with zoom flexibility.

Here is a sample from today with my 18-135 f3.5 lens and 380ex:

f5, iso 400, 1/800, 45mm

Mar 03, 2012 at 08:49 PM
dmacmillan
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p.2 #4 · How do i make this better?


That's a handsome young man!

It's good you kept the sun from creating hot spots or casting shadows on his face. It's not a bad flash fill to ambient ratio. The catchlight in his eyes help give them character. I'm thinking the eyes could be lightened some. Notice, though, the flash temp is higher than the ambient which is putting some blue in his face. You're probably getting a little blue from his sweat jacket reflecting in it as well.

Let's talk about background control. Depth of field doesn't look too bad, I could live with that. However, the splotchy nature of the sun is giving your subject competition. My eye is drawn away by the bright patch of grass in the lower left and the bright foliage in the upper right. In addition there's the foliage in the hanging basket just to the left of his face as well as the trees and sky higher up. I'm sure you didn't notice this as much in the viewfinder because it was blurrier. Folks starting out forget that the depth of field can be vastly different at shooting aperture. Luckily cameras have a depth of field button that allows you to check the background at the shooting aperture. I was doing some macro work this afternoon, testing out some new extension tubes, and any time I was not shooting at full aperture, I was checking the background with the depth of field button.

There's lots to keep up with, isn't there? Study your subject, then study the background. The more you shoot the more natural it will become.



Mar 03, 2012 at 10:01 PM
silvawispa
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p.2 #5 · How do i make this better?


I'm glad it makes sense, and I'm happy to help. It's a great way of me understanding what I'm actually doing!

It takes a while to get the hang of balancing the aperture, shutter and flash.
It's covered in Strobist's 101 and the only answer is practice, lots and lots of practice. But thoughtful analytical practice.

Shame about the Tamron, I've heard good reports of it, and especially so of the similar sigma, but the 50 1.4 is very lovely too. Perhaps a little delicate, but I've heard the AF motor lasts longer if you keep the hood on it. It's a slight design flaw apparently.

A note or two on the new photo, I'll relate it to my scheme if you don't mind.

Relationship with subject, good. So it makes for a nice picture. Great start.
Lighting, this is where things get sticky. I'd prefer the background to be darker and the eyes to be a little brighter. More later.
Composition, this is the easiest to deal with.
The background isn't too good.
You need your background to complement and enhance your image if you're using something complex like this. You may find quicker success with plainer backgrounds.
The major issue is the horizontals skewering the head. Another problem is the bright patches in the background that are distracting. Don't sweat it, everyone has taken this shot
Exposure, It's not quite balanced between the subject and the background, but it's not so far out either. Lifting the exposure on the subject and dropping the background darker would change the image out of all recognition. It will improve
Focus, spot on.

So not too bad for what it is, and a step in the right direction.

Glad you went for the found light trip, night shoots like that are fun, but tough. You'll really enjoy it with an F1.4 lens

To get the best from your 380 you really, really need a sync cord. I have the 380 and early on I had no money at all.
I did have some ethernet cable, a screwdriver, lots of tape and a soldering iron though! The 380 will never sit on top of a camera again, but I can now use my TTL metering and HSS capable flash within 4 ft of my camera.

I'd reccomend buying a TTL cable, it will immediately help you get photos you didn't believe yourself capable of.

A small softbox or beauty dish will further enhance your photos in a way you will thouroughly enjoy
(My dish is DIY, it cost 4 and a bit of work with an angle grinder, some bolts, plastic film and an old CD. It was what I could afford. I still use it, my last shot of Mark was taken with it.)

Keep on shooting!

Paul.



Mar 03, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #6 · How do i make this better?


edited:

Mar 04, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #7 · How do i make this better?


Maybe my Tamron isnt so bad afterall:

Mar 04, 2012 at 06:31 AM
AuntiPode
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p.2 #8 · How do i make this better?


There's something wrong with the color. Much too green. Also, the color space info in the EXIF data says it's "c2". C2


Mar 04, 2012 at 07:02 AM
 

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Javier Crespin
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p.2 #9 · How do i make this better?


C2, I guess thats bad? Did I change something in Photoshop Elements. Currently I have "Always optimize for computer screens" in the color setting and I save these images as PNG's.

Mar 04, 2012 at 04:38 PM
AuntiPode
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p.2 #10 · How do i make this better?


I've never heard of "C2" color space and I've no idea why it'd in the EXIF. Any folks familiar with Elements?


Mar 04, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #11 · How do i make this better?


Paul, guys...

I was wrong about the Tamron....its amazing. User error, it demands Manual Mode shooting. In fact I went back out to the park to shoot my coworker and her son with it. I learned that even at my fastest shutter 1/4000 the background is still too bright.

Mar 05, 2012 at 04:48 AM
silvawispa
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p.2 #12 · How do i make this better?


At 2.8 yes, it might be.

Shooting in full sunlight is hard.

Not only technically but physically. Look at the edges of the shadows, the change from dark to light is abrupt. This is hard light. It happens when you use a small (in area) light source. Like the sun. As the sun sets, the atmosphere dims it and you end up with a much bigger, softer light (the change from dark to light in the shadows becomes more blurred, softer). For a short while the whole sky becomes your light source and this is much more flattering for portraits.

There are good reasons to use hard light in portraiture. When you want to define lines very clearly. Such as when someone is particularly muscular, or you want to highlight, literally, the curves or profile of someone.

Here, it's used because it's what you had. That's OK too, unless you have other options. (It would also suit more active shots better than this 'sat' shot. We percieve it as more dramatic.)

You've definitely got the balance between subject and background better in this shot, and interesting composition in the background that is suitable for the subject too.

The subject however looks like he'd much rather be hurling himself round the playpark, there is no reason you both can't have fun at the same time, and every reason that you should!

If your subject is a kid in a playpark, the obvious shot would be 'FUN'.

As I said before, there's a lot of layers of learning to keep in mind at the same time, it's natural that some areas are going to get dropped while you're focused on others. Eventually it all gels, but only with practice, lots of practice.



Mar 05, 2012 at 12:05 PM
cgardner
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p.2 #13 · How do i make this better?


The latest shots are an improvement. By taking my suggestion to put the sun directly behind the subject the odd patches of distracting sunny highlights have been eliminated.

But with the flash down on the camera the net result of the face after adding the flash is flat...

The shot you posted, color corrected. The exposure is good here with nothing solid above clipping






But this edit shows how it might look of you purchase a flash bracket and raise the flash directly above the lens of the camera:






Here's how I created that edit. I started with the first photo above, your original well exposed but flat in terms of modeling shot. Then using Photoshop exposure I reduced exposure by 1 f/stop to get this...







... then combined the two layers, original over darker using a mask to blend in the original flash shots where the flash would hit the face if raised...







When raised on the bracket above the lens the flash doesn't hit the face flat and cancel the natural downwards skylight modeling of the face as in your flash shot. The flash hitting at a downward angle matches the angle of natural lighting, blending in and complementing rather than overpowering, resulting in what I think is more natural looking modeling.

Is there any part of that which doesn't make sense?

The only somewhat counter-intuitive part, and why I did the edit the way I did, is understanding the need to start by UNDEREXPOSING the ambient before adding flash. I didn't change the highlights here from your original (color corrected) I just made the shadows darker. It's the gradient between the flash created "key" highlights and the shadow the key light doesn't hit when moved off axis which creates the illusion of 3D in the 2D image. Here's one where I used adjustment layers to alter the ratio the way having two flashes and controlling key and fill separately would allow in that situation.







Note that actually doing it with the lighting would do a much better job than trying to simulate it / correct it after the fact in editing so hold the comments on how good the edits are please, they are for demonstrating the cause and effect of the lighting strategy only...

If you start with an ambient exposure which makes the face look "normal" in backlight you will wind up with a blown background. So with flash you first expose the background below clipping, which you should be able to do at ISO100, then add the flash FROM OVER THE HEAD OF THE SUBJECT.

Adding flash level with the face with single flash will balance the exposure by produce unnaturally flat modeling. If you want more natural modeling raise the flash to the same 45 angle the natural light models a face raised into the skylight. In other words for more natural looking artificial lighting on faces copy the angle of the natural "key light" during midday.

You don't necessarily need to use a bracket to raise the flash, but that's the most convenient way to carry and add flash to your candid outdoor shots like this one. I never venture outside with my 580ex on bracket . I might not use the flash for every shot, but it's there when I need it to control contrast and but flattering downward flash assisted light on faces.

When I want to control shadow tone for a shot like that (full face centered pattern) I stack my flashes vertically like this:







In your shot above the eyes are shaded a bit by the brow. As previously mentioned, outdoors you need to get above the subject so they look up to get the skylight in the eyes. When I shoot I find something taller to stand on, or if doing an outdoor portrait session I bring along a small step ladder to get above. So in the diagram above the camera lens would be about 8' off the ground (for an adult) the flash on the bracket as "key" light 16" above the lens, and the "fill" provided by the slave flash directly below and in front of the ladder on a stand at chin level with the subject. Then by controlling the A:B ratio in ETTL mode I can dial in light or dark shadows as need to fit the age and gender of the subject and the mood I want the lighting to create: light and happy, or darker and more serious.




Mar 05, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #14 · How do i make this better?


CG: I assume you mean you NEVER go out with you bracket?

I am convinced (about brackets) because now all I can see is the flatness that the mounted flash produces. Ill have to wait since I have made a couple investments recently.

And by the way it does make sense, very well articulated. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I am creating a word doc to save this wonderful info.

This last weekend was so enlightening. Im disappointed I forgot half of the stuff I had in mind to do during the actual "play" shoot I did. Mostly because this lens alone is pushing me to concentrate on the setting for every shot.

I look forward to the day I am more automatic but Im also enjoying this part too.

THANKS SO MUCH EVERYONE!




Mar 06, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Javier Crespin
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p.2 #15 · How do i make this better?


courtesy of the Tammy:
(HDR effect added)

Mar 06, 2012 at 04:04 AM
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