On November 19, Profoto and photographer Jared Platt will host a free webinar on how to get a natural-looking result when mixing ambient light with strobes on location. To get you in the mood for the webinar, Jared has written an article on the topic. Enjoy!
Scouting locations with a client recently, I came to realise how unimpressed the untrained eye is with open shade. A non-photographer will look at open shade, then look at the pretty sunlit trees and buildings across the street and think, “why is this photographer so impressed with this bland, shady side of the street?” But the client is only seeing what is there, not what is possible.
Finding open shade is the habit of natural light photographers all around the globe. In open shade you find cover from the harsh light of the sun and beautiful soft directional light from the sky; but many photographers only go as far as to find the open shade and begin shooting with the existing ambient light. This is a simple and fast way to work and yields some good images, but there is more beautiful light to be had in open shade if you have the imagination to see it and a few lights to make it happen.
When I see open shade, I see an opportunity to build and shape light.
This image was created in afternoon open shade with three B1 Off-Camera Flashes. The ambient light in the shadow of the building gave us the basic underlying light for the shot, but none of the drama. Our first flash (a B1 with a Zoom Reflector) is our hair light, which is on a stand behind the subject and to the right. The hair light also doubles as our sun flare, turning our bland open shade into a beautiful sunset walk down the boulevard. My client couldn’t possibly have known that I would be bringing the sun with me in my flash bag.
Our second light (a bare head B1) is on a stand next to our hair light and points into the shop window behind the couple. This light helps to make the interior of the shop sparkle just a little. The two lights also help intensify the natural perspective, giving more volume to the building itself by lighting the side and leaving the front in shadow.
Our final light (always the last light to be considered), is our front light, which is on a stand to the right of the camera and slightly forward of the couple (almost as a side light at nearly a 60 degree angle from the camera). The light from this B1 is modified with a Umbrella Deep Silver XL, which provides a very large, powerful and focused light. The light is just out of the frame, as close as possible to the subject, making it a very soft, yet powerful light.
I suspect that I could tell someone that I happened upon the most beautiful lighting conditions, that the sun was filtering perfectly thought the trees and raking across her golden hair and that I nailed it, I was ready, they were ready and the universe handed me this shot. But I know that I can repeat this shot any day, anywhere, because all I need is a little shade and a few good lights.
Photographing in open shade is a great practice and makes beautiful light possible even in harsh, high-noon lighting conditions, but with just a couple well placed lights, you can sculpt that light into something extraordinary. Even if you just have one light, pull it out of the bag and do something amazing with it. My client couldn’t see the possibilities of the location because she didn’t know how much lighting would change the shot. That’s why she hired a professional photographer. My advise: practice sculpting light, know how your light modifiers change the light, so that you can see the possibilities and make something beautiful out of an ordinary location.
In our next webinar, which will take place on November 19 at 7PM CET (November 19 at 10AM Los Angeles, 1PM New York, 6PM London, 7PM Paris // November 20 at 2AM Beijing, 3AM Tokyo, 5AM Sydney)., we will be reviewing images from various lifestyle and portrait shoots on location. Our discussions will focus heavily on mixing ambient light and strobes for maximum effect with minimal effort.
Click here to sign up and we will send you a friendly reminder when its about to start.
Register for the free webinar at www.profoto.com/webinar and tune in on Wednesday, November 19th at www.profoto.com/live.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply!
On a final note, here is some technical shot information: Canon 5D Mark III – 24-70 f2.8 L II – 1/200 sec – f / 4.0 – ISO 400
See you on Wednesday!