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using flash outdoors creatively

using gels on your flash

  • your flash has a “daylight” colour temperature of about 5600K
  • tungsten lighting has a colour temperature of 3400K
  • the sun's colour temperature is least red at midday when it is about 5500K, and then by sunset drops to about 3200K
  • the light from clouds gives a colour temperature of 6500-7500K
  • the light from blue sky gives a colour temperature of 9000-12,000K, which is why shadows on a sunny are very blue
  • a full CTO gel (orange) effectively converts your flash to tunsgten colour of 3400K
  • a 1/2 CTO gel will convert it to 3800K
  • a 1/4 CTO gel will convert it to 4500K
  • a 1/8 CTO gel will convert it to 4900K, and is often used by wedding photographers to give the bride's skin a bit of warmth
  • a 1/2 CTS (straw) gel is often used in preference to CTO for sunset warmth as the skin is said to look better

simulating backlit sunset on a cloudy day

  • note: this is NOT going to give you a warm sunset sky, but it will be a touch warmer than in reality thanks to the white balance setting
  • set exposure to under-expose for the ambient light
  • set camera white balance to cloudy or shady to create more warmth - esp. in ambient lit areas
  • place a 1/4 or 1/2 CTO gel on your “sun” flash to warm it up, and set power to over-expose a little
  • use a flash without gel in an umbrella or soft-box as your subject's main light - this will provide warm skin tones
  • to get even more creative, you can use:
    • a flash fired through a large umbrella or softbox using a 1/4 CTO gel to mimic the diffuse warm light of the sky around the sun
    • and a 2nd flash in FRONT of, and perhaps below the umbrella with a 1/2-3/4 CTO gel and flash set at lower power to mimic the actual setting sun

creating a deep blue sky from overcast

  • this is called key shifting
  • set camera white balance to tungsten (this makes the sky and all ambient lit areas blue)
  • place a full CTO gel on your flash(es) to light your subject and have normal skin tones

sunset portraits

  • step 1. the whole reason for shooting at sunset is usually the warm lighting, so step 1 is to take control of your camera's white balance, and consider setting it to around 4000-4500K depending upon how warm you want it
  • step 2. set camera to shoot in RAW mode so you can more readily fine tune your white balance later
  • step 3. consider setting your camera to manual exposure so you can control how dark you want the skies - they usually look best and more saturated if under-exposed a touch
  • step 4. set aperture to around f/8 on a full frame camera so that you have sufficient depth of field (DOF) to keep the clouds reasonably sharp
  • step 5. decide on the type of image you want

backlit silhouette

  • this is the easiest - just under-expose the sky and your subject will appear almost black depending on how bright the sun is still or it it is above the horizon or not.
  • no flash!

sidelit portrait

  • using the sun or the glow from the sunset to sidelight your subject while still allowing you to hopefully get some nice skies in the background
  • the subject's shadow areas may be too contrasty, these can be assisted by either:
    • use of a reflector, or,
    • a fill in flash, perhaps with a 1/4 or 1/2 CTO to help match the main light from the sunset

portrait with lovely, saturated skies

  • to get a lovely, under-exposed sky, you will need to under-expose the sky and thus your subject, which then will require you to use a flash as a main light for your subject
  • the flash should preferably be in a soft box or umbrella to provide a nice, diffuse unobtrusive light, and should have a gel to match your desired white balance setting
photo/flash_outdoors.txt · Last modified: 2014/07/15 22:24 by gary1

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