What’s the Difference? is a series of video lighting tutorials. Each episode responds to a single question. In this episode, Jared Platt compares lighting when shooting in studio and on location. The entire series, including all videos, articles and lighting diagrams, is available at our website. And feel free to leave a question in the comment section if you have one!
I am an on-location photographer – my principal photography business (weddings) requires that. When I am in the studio, economy of lights and equipment is not too critical, but when I am flying to a wedding somewhere around the world, or setting up a bridal portrait on a cliff over the Grand Canyon, I need a balance of portability and power.
For this shot, we compared photographing in studio and on location using roughly the same gear: the Profoto B2 Off-Camera Flash with an Umbrella Deep Silver M. On location, this was the only light we needed. But in the studio we had to simulate the sun and the ambient light we would get on location, so we added two B1 Off-Camera Flashes into the mix.
In studio, the B2 was our main light, which was modified by a Umbrella Deep Silver M. Our sun was simulated by one bareheaded B1 which was placed behind the model and off frame left, which created the rim light we would end up getting from the sun on location. We also needed to simulate the general ambient lighting we would find outdoors as well (to light up the entire background), so we used an additional B1 and bounced it into the white ceiling in the studio and that provided the even exposure throughout the background.
A studio portrait of a bride can be nicely done and there is certainly a place for it. But in the end, a bride in a dress on a white background feels a little unfulfilling. It certainly didn’t have the dramatic feel we wanted. We could certainly composite her into a dramatic landscape shot, but shooting the shot on location and in reality is far more fun and actually takes less time!
We took a drive into the mountains outside of Phoenix, Arizona to find our dramatic location. Our car was filled with a model, a wedding dress, a photographer, an assistant and a videographer, which didn’t leave room from a lot of equipment! Fortunately, the B2 kit with an Umbrella Deep fits into a bag the size of a shoulder bag. I love to travel light weight!
We had less than 20 minutes from the time we arrived on location until the sun went down and at least half of that time was spent finding the best spot to place our model. Once we had our location and I had my composition, we set our ambient exposure (50 ISO 1/160 sec @ f8).
The sun was about to set in the west, just behind our model, which provided the needed hair light to separate her from the background (just like in the studio) and the cross light to add depth to the mountains and texture to the cliffs. The rest of the sky softly lighted everything not directly struck by the sun, but the shadow side of our model would be as dark as the shadows on the cliffs behind her without adding our main and only light (the B2), which we modified with the Umbrella Deep. An umbrella is far easier to travel with than a Beauty Dish and much faster to set up than a softbox, so the umbrella is perfect in a quick portrait situation like this; and the Profoto Umbrella Deep Silver M also pack a wicked punch and can even increase the light you get from the flash.
Finding the exposure for the flash was as simple as turning on the B2 and the Air Remote TTL-C in TTL mode and firing a test shot. The TTL returned an exposure that was close to perfect. With a slight adjustment of a third stop on the flash exposure compensation settings in the camera, the flash was just where I wanted it.
Aside from the obvious advantage of having a beautiful backdrop, getting out on location provides energy to any shoot. The thrill of the chase for a location, the finite time frames as the sun threatens to set, the unruly lighting conditions, unpredictable wind or weather – it all adds up to a fantastic challenge. When given the choice, I’ll take the location shoot every single time. Having lights that are powerful and portable makes the process so much more enjoyable.
Needless to say, this comparison was done tongue in cheek. But I hope you liked it. If you have any questions or so, please leave a comment below, and I’ll reply as soon as I can!