Varying Ambient Light:Flash Light on shoot

Flash Composite

Working with Gemma Butterworth on shoot, on gypsy/boho fashion theme, the discussion of using off-camera flash cropped up in conversation (Gemma being a very accomplished photographer herself).

We shot on a late summer evening where the light was fairly soft and ideal for a hazy, dreamy, sun drenched look. Using natural light alone we could have happily shot away as the sun dropped to create a number of images.

However, eager to try out some new flash brackets I decided to mix the lighting up a bit which prompted the why/when to use flash. It doesn’t have to be as black & white as creating photos that use don’t use flash and photos which do use flash. Flash and ambient light can be mixed with varying degrees to produce different looks and feel.

The main banner type image at the top shows three images. The image on the far left was shot using ambient light only, the middle image is mainly light by the ambient light and a touch of flash, and the right image is predominantly flash light.  Why do this?  Well it depends on how YOU want the images to look.  There was nothing wrong with the natural light but it could be supplemented to varying degrees with the flash to produce different looking images.

In the course of the photo shoot this also gives the model and me different looks/feel when collating the final image set from the shoot.

I love all three shots for different reasons.  The left image is very hazy and sun drenched, the middle image retains a lot of this haziness but a slight punch of flash adds some catchlights to the eyes and bit more contrast, and the right hand image retains the details in the grass and the harder light is more glossy and dramatic.

The soft, hazy effect in the ambient light only shots are achieved by having the model with her back towards the sun. The light streaming through to the camera creates the bleached out, sun soaked look.

When taking photos on location I tend to always decide what I want to do with the ambient light first. By pulling the ambient light ‘down’ and picking up the rest of the exposure with flash we can end up with the images at the top. We can vary the ratio of ambient light: flash light progressively to achieve the desired look.

More images from the shoot can be seen here. There’s a mixture of ambien light only and images where I have used flash to varying degree. See if you can pick which ones are which.


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