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Jul 03, 2012

How to Use a Flash Outside

Shooting for a Natural Look with Flash outside

Today we went out to a preserve with Nina for a shoot!

Using strobes and ambient light with a good ratio will help create more contrast without looking artificially lit. Changing your shutter speed to let in more light will help your image look more interesting (than mostly ambient or mostly strobe-lit) while still maintaining the a style that looks completely natural.

We started off with a relatively slow shutter speed, 1/160, and an aperture of 3.2, so we needed to lower the ISO down to 50. You could also use a ND filter.

To let in more ambient light we’ll slow down the shutter speed even more. As we keep slowing down the shutter speed the images look better as there is more light in the background.


Flash Vs. Ambient

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  • user image

    Lets say you have the aperature set and its lit as you wanted.. But you want more ambient.. so you slow down your shutter.. lets say.. as you did. From 1/125 to 1/40.. how low shutter can you go before the background gets blurry..
    Because the subject is still frozen by the flash?

    Where is the magic line?

  • user image
    Matt Findley

    Guys, I would really like to contribute to this discussion.  I received an AWESOME tip from photographer Doug Box regarding strobe/ambient balance.  Doug said he tried for years to get it just right and he finally came up with a formula.  

    To acheive that “lit, but not lit” look, take an ambient….wait for it…. incident METER reading at the subject towards the camera.  Let’s say the ambient is f5.6, now add your flash and what you’re looking for is a COMBINED ambient and strobe reading that is 2/3rds of a stop above the ambient reading alone.  So, in the above example, your ambient only is 5.6 and your ambient and strobe together is 7.1.  

    I know, I know, you don’t use a meter, but this really does work well and takes a ton of the guess work out of it.  

    I must note that this is how to go about it using lighting conditions where the foreground and background share the same light.  Think open shade that isn’t backlit.

  • user image
    Ian Arneson

    How are you metering this type of situation considering you have ambient and flash which I assume the light meter can meter both.

  • user image

    What light and battery pack was used? Thank you.

  • user image

    Anything less than 1/125 without a tripod and you suffer camera shake/unsharp

    • user image

      A good stance and camera hold technique can produce sharp images. Flash lit subjects helps too.

      • user image

        Absolutely. I’ve even managed 2 second shots without a tripod that were completely sharp by bracing against objects in the environment (trees, rocks, walls or columns, etc.).

  • user image
    Adrian Britton

    Great information as I’ve just purchased some wireless
    triggers to start exploring off camera flash on location

  • user image

    as ever, informative episode. You said, that there is this limitation of the sync speed. That is no longer a problem, since more and more flash trigger could do the high speed sync, i.e phottix odin, pixel king.
    I use them a lot in bright sunlight and fire my AB1600 with a 1/4000 of a second and an aperture of F2.0

  • user image

    Just one question was the light at full power? I noticed that you never touched the power at the light source so i was wondering at what power the light was. :)

    • user image
      Ryan Weiss

      Not that I am certain, but that looked like an Einstein and with the above mentioned ISO/aperture/shutter speed combo for the picture, there’s no way that thing was set anywhere near full power. Probably pretty low actually :-)


      • user image
        Aaron Nace

        Totally, the flash was at about 1/32 power, very low. We are using an Einstien here with an 86″ Parabolic Reflector. 

        • user image
          Philip Martin

          I also see that you’re using the basic reflector in conjunction with the 86″ PLM.
          Does that pare down the size of the source to make it more directional?

          • user image
            Aaron Nace

            Yeah, Philip, that was a result of poor packing, more than anything else. The reflector designed for use with the PLM is much better.