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Flash isn't just for darkness!

I did an outdoor portrait shoot in the bright sunshine at the weekend, so used a number of natural-light photography techniques, such as diffusers (to calm the harsh sun falling on the subject) or reflector to bounce light into the shadows.  

This post is about the use of flash though. But... it's sunny, so why do we need flash? Well, it's about shaping the light and balancing the ambient/background light with that falling on the subject.

In the image 1, this is what it looks like with the camera set to make it bright enough to see the subject (F6.3 1/250s) which is all fine, but the background looks a bit washed out and the sky is boring and white.

Looking at image 2, this is exposed to get that brilliant blue sky by increasing the shutter speed by 3 stops (keeping at F6.3, but the shutter is now 1/2000s) putting the subject in darkness.

I wanted to use flash to fill in those shadows, but regular powerful studio flashes only work for slowish shutter speeds (around 1/250s or slower). So, I used my portable flash head (Godox AD600) in high-speed sync mode (HSS) which allows me to use ANY shutter speed.

In Image 3 we have the same camera settings, but with the flash firing back at the subject, so we get a nice light-shaping of his face and clothes, with the sun giving a rim-light effect from behind. To get the maximum efficiency on the flash to compete against that big old sun, we had a bare reflector on the flash, giving a rugged hard light, which works nicely on a male subject. 

Image with fill-in flash 

Image 4 is the final image, with a bit of Lightroom work, and Image 5 shows the lighting setup.

Finished image, after some desaturation, and adding contrast in Adobe Lightroom. 

Lighting setup for this shot 


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