Why Flash Duration Is the Photographer’s Secret Weapon!

Things changed so much for me when I learned about flash duration!

If there’s one thing that I adore about flash photography, it’s flash duration. This is a secret weapon so many new photographers don’t know about. But once you understand it and tame it, you’ll see how much better your photos will be. It’s is the subtle difference between that extra pop and a flat image! The 3D look that it can deliver is surreal. You’ll be able to see and experience it even when not looking at 100%.

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5 Quick Tips on Shooting Better Night Portraits with Ambient Lighting

For the photographers who come alive when the sun goes down, shooting better portraits at night is a great skill to have.

We get it: you want to photograph a moment just the way you see it! Many photographers who shoot portraits at night eventually begin to understand how lighting works once they get enough experience. During the nighttime, most of the light we know and see is absent, except for the little bit that is provided artificially. So, until you know how to work with strobes, we recommend that you learn how to make the most of available light at night.

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Equipping The Outdoor Studio Portrait Photographer

This is a syndicated blog post from Digital Photo Pro Magazine. It is being republished here with permission.

There are lots of reasons to make portraits outdoors. First and foremost, you avoid the expense and space requirements of setting up a studio. And since most studios are equipped with artificial lighting and modifiers, there’s a lot of gear to buy, too. Outdoors, however, you’re given the gift of one of the most powerful and beautiful light sources around: the sun. And with the simplest tools—a white card as a reflector, for instance—you can learn to manipulate sunlight to gain studio-style lighting control outdoors.

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How the Inverse Square Law Affects Your Lighting

Whether you work extensively with flash and studio lighting, or have a preference for natural and outdoor light, understanding the quality of light when you shoot is crucial to getting well-exposed photos. To our rescue comes the Inverse Square Law of Light, which sounds very intimidating but is actually one of the photometry concepts that largely governs our work as photographers.

Ohio-based Matt Day has found that whenever people hear of the Inverse Square Law of Light, they are immediately turned off because of the seemingly complicated math involved. That’s an obvious reaction, since we’re here to take photos and not solve equations, right? But as Matt explains in his video below, understanding this concept is very helpful for photographers since it tackles one of the fundamentals of good photography: working with light.

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Using an ND Filter to Balance Ambient Light and Studio Strobes

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Stephs first edits (17 of 18)ISO 160

When it comes to working with a flash during the daytime, one of the best ways to do this and ensure that your entire exposure isn’t blown out is to use an ND filter. To begin with, you’re supposed to use flash during the daytime to prevent shadows. You’ll start by positioning the sun behind your subject–but if you’re just working with ambient lighting then you’ll have blown out skies. And that method of backlighting is totally fine if you want that look.

But if you want to balance the background with your subject in the foreground, the best bet is to use a flash. One option is high speed sync or a fast flash duration, but one method that photographers have been using for years is the ND filter. We’ve used it too, but photographer Craig Beckta demonstrated this very well in the video below that shows the difference that an ND filter can make.

One big warning though: an ND filter can also affect your camera’s autofocusing abilities because it cuts down the amount of light in the scene that the sensor sees until the flash goes off.

Try it this weekend, and check out Craig’s video on using an ND filter to balance ambient light and strobe after the jump.

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Useful Photography Tip #116: Use Spot Metering When Working with Multiple Light Sources

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Impact Quikbox and LiteTrek photos (8 of 17)ISO 200

Want more useful photography tips? Click here.

One of the greatest things that you can accomplish technically as a photographer is shooting with a flash during bright daylight and nailing exposure perfectly. If you’re doing this, then chances are that you’ll use a TTL lighting functionality or high speed sync or even making sure that your flash duration is just at a fast setting. But even this can become tedious and frustrating for the best of photographers–especially when using light modifiers like softboxes.

The best approach to a situation like this is to use spot metering on your camera. When you switch to spot metering you can figure out what the exposure is for the ambient/natural light and the flash/strobe output. Spot metering literally meters off of the area that you’re choosing. It ignores things like tying to make the entire scene completely balanced in terms of exposures and works well because it helps you make a more informed decision about what to do with your artificial light.

So where do you begin?

– Set your camera to spot metering mode and meter your subject’s face (providing that you’re shooting a portrait)

– Meter your camera accordingly.

– Use a handheld light meter to judge what aperture you should be shooting at if you’re using a light without TTL. Otherwise, set your aperture to whatever you want and the flash will meter itself hopefully. If it doesn’t then switch to manual mode and do the same method as when using a handheld light meter.

As an extra tip, set your handheld light meter to the fastest shutter speed so that it doesn’t see the ambient light and doesn’t try to work along with it.

How to Make the Most of One Light Source

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Replichrome Astia on Fujifilm rendering (1 of 1)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.4

Lots of photographers try to make things simple when it comes to lighting by working with a single source of illumination. And to be honest, we don’t blame them. When you work with lots of lights, you’ll need to learn ratios and have a better idea of how you want the illumination from the lights to work. So working with one artificial light is usually one of the simplest and most portable way to create images.

Here are some of the best ways to do just that.

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