Isaac Alvarez Shot These Flower Photos by Overpowering the Sun

Quarantine Projects like Isaac Alvarez’s are a fun way for photographers to still be creative while stuck indoors.

Photographer Isaac Alvarez found himself bored with not much to do during quarantine. So, he decided to find a way to stay creative. Isaac went outside carefully while social distancing to photograph flowers. It’s a smart idea: he’s got flowers around him, he found a way to make them look awesome as they’re great subjects, and he did this safely. And if you’re really into off-camera flash, you’ll really love how he did it. Even more impressive is the fact that he used no post-production for the photos. As he tells us, “…there’s really no editing involved here. I opened it up in Photoshop and saved it as a Jpeg.” And so Isaac did it by overpowering the Sun: a method you don’t hear about too often any more.

“The idea originated from being stuck at home and thinking about how I can continue to be creative,” relates Isaac. “So I thought about it since I can’t really photograph people I’ll do something else. I’ve done toys in the past, so I wanted to stir things up and shoot something different.” Naturally, it’s Spring, and there are a lot of flowers blooming on his street.

Gear Used

How Do You Go About Overpowering the Sun?

If you’re really curious to know how he did this with bright light outside and no electronic shutter, you typically have three options:

  • A strobe with a fast flash duration that acts as shutter speed and therefore kills all ambient light. (This is the method Isaac used.)
  • A flash with high-speed sync
  • An LED light on your subject while using an electronic shutter at an insanely high shutter speed. With an LED though, you’ll most likely need to do post-production

These are the three ways you can overpower the Sun.

How Isaac Did It

For Isaac, high lights were set to 1/4 power, and he shot at 100 ISO, 1/160 shutter speed, and f14. Then he positioned the black background behind the plant and fired the strobe. The result is an effect that looks like it’s in a studio. So, how does this work?

  • Isacc’s low ISO of 100 makes the scene not very sensitive to light even though he’s outside in bright sunlight.
  • 1/160th is a ubiquitous shutter speed used by photographers who shoot strobes (1/250th is the standard these days). It lets the photographer kill all the ambient light they can while still getting the flash to sync with the shutter curtains.
  • F14 gets the flowers sharp and in focus. He’s using a 100mm macro lens here. Plus, f14 kills lots of ambient light. At this setting, Isaac is really just using the flash output to light the scene. “The strobe helped a lot ’cause it guided where I wanted the light,” Isaac tells us. “It defuses the sunlight and focuses on highlighting certain areas on the flower. It gave it a nice, elegant tone behind the flowers I’m shooting.”

High-speed sync doesn’t occur with each and every light you have, and it often requires a particular setting. Though, in recent years, there have been flashes that automatically go to HSS. You’ll need to check your flash’s manual to confirm this.

Here are more images from Isaac in the series. They’re beautiful works of art that look very much like still life paintings.