Monday, April 17, 2017

5 Types of Outdoor Portrait Lighting

Also in this issue:
  • What's wrong with the Industry
  • 3 new ebooks out!
  • Seminar Schedule
  • Product lighting
5 Types of Outdoor Portrait Lighting

Today I'm taking pictures of a 1-year-old.  And just to add to the unpredictability, I'm going to light him 5 different ways.

1) Outdoors, in the sun.  
Nothing wrong with this; but any iphone could have taken it.  If you want unique results, you need to experiment with better kinds of lighting.

2) Open Shade

Shade is better than direct sunlight, as it doesn't cause harsh shadows which look OK to your eye but can really stand out on the camera.  But open shade can look kind of bluish (your automatic white balance doesn't always work very well in these conditions).  You could set your white balance to "Shade" (adding yellow to the subject to compensate), but that's not as good as the next suggestion.

3) Shade with Fill flash

That's right - add some light!  Notice that none of these images look like I used a flash.  To achieve that look I usually set my flash compensation to either -1 or -1.7 (your mileage may vary; as every camera will produce different results here.  Experiment with the equipment you have.)

To get the blurry background I used a 70-200 f/2.8 lens and set the f/stop wide open.

You've heard me say before that the worst place to have your flash is on top of the camera.  The only exception to this is when you're using for fill flash, augmenting existing light to lighten the shadows.  As you can see it works quite well.  Can we make it better?

4) Shade with off-camera wireless flash

Can moving the flash off-camera make things look better?  For most cameras the answer is certainly "yes"; however for Sony (what I'm shooting with today) I have to make an additional adjustment.

You see, when left to its own devices, the modern Sonys will tend to overexpose the background when your subject is in shade and you're using fill.  (They've been behaving that way for a long time.)  So to make the enhanced drama of the wireless flash stand out, you have to underexpose the background.

5) Shade with off-camera wireless flash with underexposed background

Much better!

But how can you control just the background intensity and not affect the flash intensity?  Here's the answer, an excerpt from the A99 II ebook which was just released:

And here's the setup I used:
One wireless flash and a softbox.  I took this shot as I was packing up.  Look closely and you'll see the accessory flash behind the softbox had been put away. :-)  I used a radio trigger on this day, but in this configuration optical triggering would have worked as well.

New E-books are out!!

A99 II (at last!)

RX-100 V has been translated into French
Fujifilm X-T20 by Tony Phillips

Please help spread the word!

A Spanish translation of the A6300 ebook is also in the pipeline, as is the Olympus E-M1 II and Fujifilm X100F (the last two being the labors of Tony Phillips).  Send me an email (Gary at Friedman Archives dot com) and let me know if you'd like to be notified when these are ready!

Upcoming Seminars

Two of the Friedman Archives High-Impact Photography Seminars are slated for the UK in June - one in Manchester and one in Edinburgh.  Sign up early so there's time to get a larger room if needed!

London (Manchester, actually)June 10-11, 2017Learn More and Sign Up
Edinburgh (actually Peebles), ScotlandJune 17-18, 2017Learn More and Sign Up
Tacoma, WashingtonAugust 26-27, 2017(Send me an email to register interest)

Are you a member of a photo club?   I can bring the seminars to you, and keep your group abuzz for months to come.  Contact me for details.

Product Lighting

So here I am adding to my Old Technology section of the Friedman Archives Website.  I came across two ancient camcorders (one more ancient than the other) so I photographed and posted them.  Old technology seems to appreciate in value over time.

I used to photograph them on a nice blue background, but learned that even though it may look nicer, people like to remove the background and past them into their own contexts.  And so I now shoot on white to make them more marketable.
So how is the lighting done?  I use two strobes; one with a softbox and one pointed at the white ceiling for a diffused fill.  (You can do this with wireless flashes, too.)  And a pull-down window shade from Ikea as a seamless backdrop.

What's Wrong With The Industry

Every time I see ads like this I cringe.  "5,900+ Professional Lightroom Presets for $29.95"

Investing in presets to improve your photography is like investing in fonts to improve your writing.  By the time you familiarize yourself with these presets, you could actually learn to use photoshop (and then have a year left over).  The truth is, if you're looking to add "wow" to your images, there's a better way.

95% off on a bundle of 5900+ Best Lightroom Presets for Portraits, weddings, cinematic effects, landscapes and much more.

Next time: Fellow photographer Brian Ramage and I compare three E-mount 85mm lenses, and discover something disturbing that no optical bench test will ever reveal.

Until then,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. Great post, Gary! looking forward to the FE 85 mm lens tests! Using an old A-mount Sigma 85mm F1.4 on the La Ea4 currently and debating which of the FE options to move to.

    Great post, and I couldn't agree more on your take with the presets and lightroom. Great font/writing analogy.

  2. Are you saying that if the flash is on the camera then you can just turn town the flash- but if the flash is off the camera then you have to underexpose the picture as well? Thanks for all you do to help us.. Regards and best wishes.

    1. Excellent question! Actually you should do it whenever you think the background illumination is too strong, whether the flash is on- or off-camera. Minolta and early Sony flash algorithms used to do this automatically - they would always underexpose the background by one stop when using fill flash.

  3. Gary you indicate in your new A99M2 book that Sony has got its fill flash right and one doesnt have to automatically compensate

    1. That's true! It's the exposure for the ambient light (i.e., background) which you may want to dial back in many instances.

  4. Hi Gary

    As a Sony addicted photographer you may also have played around with Capture One. If so, I would be very interested in your findings and thoughts.
    The most interesting point in my opinion would be a coexistence of both tools in a workflow.

    With best regards

    1. I've played around with it enough to know that I'm not incentivized to learn Yet Another User Interface. The program is a wonderful value -- FREE or $50 for the Pro version. I've heard that the RAW demosiacing and noise control algorithms are better than ACR (used in Lightroom); and in fact I show how to use it in my most recents books and compare the output. The only way to tell if one is better is to pixel peep, which means in the real world the benefit is not that compelling. Google "Lightroom vs. Capture One" and you'll find a lot of good opinions on both sides. If you haven't invested in the Adobe product and learning curve, Capture One is certainly a good way to go. I can't fathom an easy way to use both tools in a workflow. :-(

  5. Hi Gary
    As always I read your archive with great interest. As far as I can see there is no ambient setting on my a6000. Can you please point me in the right direction

    1. MENU --> Gear 4 --> Exp.comp.set. Set to "Ambient Only" and you can control your ambient brightness and flash brightness independently.

  6. Thank you Gary for your prompt response and advice. Yes I checked and set the camera to ambient. How silly of me not to even notice it before
    Have a great day
    Kind Regards

  7. So glad to hear you are producing a manual for the Only Em1 mk2


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