Saturday, November 21, 2009

Photography 101: Outdoor Flash

I've been a busy girl! I've got so many great families getting pictures done for their holiday cards, and needless to say, I'm behind on the blogging.

But, today I'm taking a break from photo jobs, and I'm holding a mini workshop for some of my friends on people photography. I like to think of it as me 'hosting' the workshop, because really, I'm hoping it's going to be more of a discussion and practice session. I can always learn too, and I hope we all learn something today.

One of the things I've been asked to lead a discussion on today is outdoor flash for portrait photography. I almost always do sessions completely using available light, and where needed reflectors. I spend a lot of time during sessions looking for natural reflectors as well (light colored walls, the gorgeous desert ground in Papago...). But, I do know that a lot of photographers depend on flash, even for outdoor photos, and in Arizona where our sun is so harsh, this is a necessary skill.

So to prepare for my discussion, I just went out on my back porch where Mika was sunning herself and snapped a few photos for reference. Let's start with the 'before':

This photo has a few good things going on for it. First, you can see I've kept her face in shadow and used the sun as rim lighting. I've also set my camera to manual so I can have more control over the exposure for her, and I still kept the background from getting blown out (although it is partial shade on that wall behind her, so not the best example). BUT, she's got horrible shadows on her face. This is the 'raccoon eye' effect you get when you take a picture of someone outside in the middle of the day. Not attractive at all.

Well now, aren't you looking pretty! You can see a complete change between this picture and the last. In this one I've put my camera in 'manual' mode and exposed so that the background was a tad darker then if it were the subject. This helps make my puppy 'pop'. Then I used a flash (SB600 for my Nikon with a Gary Fong 'cloud' diffuser) to expose Mika. Doesn't she look much prettier in this picture? And you can see, I've actually got TWO light sources that I'm taking advantage of: the flash to expose her face correctly, and sun which is providing some very nice backlighting.

Voila! You can practice this yourself at home if you have an external flash by making your own dog sit with her back to the sun, or you can always set up a stuffed animal on a chair. One more thing to remember: I sat myself in the shade so I wouldn't have to contend with sun flare, but you can definitely use a lens hood as well. I was just too lazy to go find mine. (although you can see a tiny bit of flare snuck into the second picture, and that's not necessarily a bad thing!)

If you have any people (or dog!) photography questions, I'd love to hear from you!


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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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