Mixed Light Portraits

Alright, its been along time since I’ve posted anything and I’m feeling like less of a photographer for my lackadaisical ways. So I aim to remedy that with a nice little piece on shooting portraits using mixed light. In this case in particular a mix of natural and flash.

My aim is to create a well lit portrait that doesn’t a really have that “lit” look, not really going for heavy drama but more something along the subtle lines , something that might make people question if a light was even used .  If that question comes up  I believe we’ve accomplished our goal( unless of course it’s in reference to a poorly shot pic and in that case the sentence is a second round thru strobist’s lighting 101)

So pick a location, hopefully it has a backdrop of some interest or at least free of distractions. When in  doubt shoot against the sky or a good ole brick wall if nothing seems to present itself. What we want to do is find some open shade( shade that is near to an area of strong light) or perhaps an over cast day, or at least wait till the sun hides behind a heavy cloud.

Get your subject be it a family or model or puppy dog into position and remember to develop a rapport with them , get some laughs going  a little self deprecation goes along way,  just don’t over do it as the faith in your skills might just follow your humour down the tubes. Any way we’ll leave the developing rapport bit to a later post and concentrate on the light.

Depending on your location what we want to do is our light to nearly match out ambient level, maybe a stop or 2 over just to add pop but the closer it is to the light level of the immediate environment the more natural  and “unlit” the end result will be. Now this isn’t remedy for every situation, as Full noon sun beating down on your subject is going to take your small flashes and embarrass them into full power and slow recycle times and perhaps a little overheating , and perhaps you’ll get some good stuff but more likely you will still have squinty eyed racoon folk.

In this case I used my lovely backyard here in North Vancouver bc, put my parents and my son into place ,and as it was something like 330 in the afternoon on a sunny day, I waited for a cloud to come and help me out (in North Van clouds are anything but rare).In order to help my cause along a little further I placed my light (an sb900 in a 42 in shoot thru umbrella) to camera right  approx 4 feet away and tried to keep them in the shadow of the umbrella.I was using an 11 stop to give me the depth that would be required to keep my wiggling son in focus  and still hold my dad in the background. I believe a shutter speed of 1/160 gave me a decent level on my backdrop so I dialed in my flash to about a 1/4 power and popped a test frame, a little hot so I dialed in a 2/3 less power and a sense of calm washed over me… ok not really but I was in the right ball park. I wanted to give just a little bit more pop, so I took a 2nd flash (sb600 ), and went bushwaking in to the bg to place it  very precariously on a piece of driftwood. 1/4 power  15 ft away , bare flash. This gave me a little edge light and provided some seperation form the greenery.  A couple more pops and we were done  which was good cuz my old man was running low on beer  and the fun of a photoshoot was about to wear thin. All in all I think this took about 15 mins, 10 of which were spent waiting for the nuclear sun to hide behind some clouds.

Here is a shot from  earlier when the beverages weren’t in such short supply similar light no backlight tho.

Nothing cutting edge here, but something to keep in mind next time someone wants you to shoot something quick, and you don’t want to let the almighty  be your gaffer.

Thanks for stopping by.



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