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Case Study: Casting shadows

Today’s case study is all about controlling the shadows we can cast on our subject by firing flash through objects. To illustrate that concept, my idea for this case study was to position my bride under a branch of thorns to create some sort of crown-like accessory atop her head:

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ISO 320; f8.0; 1/400 sec at 48mm

The light was aimed through the thorns so as to lessen the shadows on her face. I brought the flash as close as possible to the thorns which helped to create the shadows on her face which in turn are not very noticeable but still present. As a final stylistic touch, I asked to close her eyes to support my concept.

The basic operating rules for here are quite simple, but widely applicable across a wide range of scenarios:

For softer shadows bring your light source as close as possible to the object you are casting shadows with.

For harder shadows move your light source further away from the object you are casting shadows with.

 

I’d love to see some examples of how you’ve cast shadows in your photography.

Share some in the comments below!

 

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Case Study: Shadows and High Contrast

Today’s case study is a throw back to an earlier post I made on here about exposing for highlights. You can read that here. To create this image, I had the bride in the background in the sunlight and the groom in the shade:

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ISO 200; f11; 1/400 sec at 24mm

Here I had my flash in my left hand, which was aimed at the groom, and I exposed for the highlights (the sunlit part of this image) while setting the exposure compensation at -0.7.

I feel the shadows in the background add to the dramatic effect of this image. It almost looks like there are 2 images in one, one high key-image and one low-key image at the same time.

When you’re shooting, look for the shadows and high contrast areas like in this image. Your flash is strong enough to overpower the sun. In these conditions your flash works very hard and might overheat quickly, so make sure you have a spare flash just in case your main flash needs to take a break.

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Case Study: Mixing flash and ambient light / using multiple strobes

While this image is one of my more popular images, it is also great example of mixing external ambient light with your portable strobes. So today, I’m going to reveal how it was made:

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ISO 800; F8.0; 1/200sec at 28mm

Here we used three flashes with amber gels affixed to two of them. All three were connected wirelessly with TTL mode enabled on separate channels.

The light that illuminates the bride’s face is coming from the window so I set my exposure from the window area.

  • The first flash is gelled and set to the 105mm zoom setting while pointing next to the model at seat level.
  • The second flash is also gelled and zoomed to 85mm while pointing to the ceiling where the groom is sitting.
  • The third flash is bouncing behind my back to create the overall fill. It is not gelled since it is bounced off the colored wall, which reflects warm and pleasant light.

Again, please note that each flash is on a separate channel allowing me to control them separately.

The trick with working with multiple flashes is to test them one by one. This will give you a much better understanding of how they play with each other.

I hope this is helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a note in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to answer.

 

~Michael

 

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Case Study: Leveraging time and resources

 

You might be surprised to learn there is only one flash with a CTO gel that illuminates both subjects here:

_DSC2911

The flash is coming from camera left, held on a monopod by my assistant, set to TTL and triggered remotely. The majority of the emitted light is falling on the bride, however a little bit of it spills onto the groom’s back.

Although the flash is set at a distance from the subjects, it still illuminates them from a higher angle. This is achieved only if the flash is raised high above, so I suggest putting your remotely triggered flash on a monopod. I also changed the zoom settings on my flash to concentrate the light disbursed, eliminating the spill.

In my experience, Indian couples generally shy away from being affectionate in front of the camera so I have had to adjust my way of shooting them accordingly.

I find there is more of a grandeur and stature in the culture and I think this comes across in this photograph, emphasized by the dramatic sky.

Speaking of which, after three minutes at this location it started raining.

In summary:

  1. Put your remote flash on a monopod to illuminate from a higher angle.  
  2. You can change the zoom settings of the flash to concentrate the light disbursed, eliminating the spill.
  3. Act quickly and get your shots. 
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Case Study: Dragging the shutter

I was lucky with this shot. It all happened within a second:

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1/8 of a second, to be exact: ISO 2500; f5.6; 1/8 sec zoomed from 24mm

This is one of those key moments where you have to be aware of what’s happening around you. If I wasn’t, I would have missed the dancing finale. My assistant was keen too – on the left holding my flash and pointing it at the couple.

Zooming out while the shutter is open creates this kind of effect. Low shutter speeds allow the colorful light to seep onto the sensor.

For this technique to be successful, make sure your subject is in the dark and is not illuminated by the ambient lights. Use front curtain sync to be able to capture the moment. With rear sync it will be almost impossible.

In summary:

  1. Drag the shutter for interesting results.
  2. Train your assistant to always be aware of your intentions.
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