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Thread: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

  1. #1

    Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    I'll be shooting 4x5 400 portra and have one (1) alienbee 1600. I'll be looking to shoot indoors during the day. When I meter in most places I don't have enough light I'm only a stop or two away from what I want so I was hoping to use the strobe but not have it look overly dramatic. Ii like the way Tina Barney and bruce davidson do their work. Speaking of which how do I meter to have both the inside and outside of a window be correctly exposed? Example
    I have an umbrella if that helps
    Last edited by georgekushstanza; 20-May-2017 at 07:52. Reason: I meant bruce davidson ha

  2. #2

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    Use the strobe, but also get a piece of white foam core for a reflector from the main light... Clip it to a cheap light stand and get it near your subject... If you need more fill, put a crumpled layer of aluminium foil over it...

    Or just use the reflector above with the window light...

    Steve K

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    I wouldn't call the example you show an example of window light at all. The outdoors and window sill are exposure matched with the inside strobe, but virtually all of the light in the room is coming from the strobe, so you can't really call it strobe fill. Had there been no strobe, with an exposure that has rendered the outside perfectly exposed, there would have been nearly nothing--almost black--inside.

    This is a nice example of bounce lighting, probably off the corner of the room behind the camera's left shoulder. When I used to do this, I used a barebulb flash, to give a bit of sharpness to the light, but mainly the bounce is doing the job. It looks more natural if you can keep the flash lower--off the walls as much as the ceiling, and not too close to the subject.

    This isn't quite the same, but it's bounce flash more off the ceiling, and closer, no bare bulb. The flash is mounted on a camera bracket, tilted left and up:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdarnt...in/dateposted/
    Here's another, bounce more to the side, with a bare bulb. The dark-walled room gives less fill and a definite shadow, but still with a soft light:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdarnt...in/dateposted/

    In the example you show, because the room is so small with bright walls, bare or bounce would give about the same effect, so it's hard to tell here. Bare gives a stop or so more light, though, when that matters, and better contouring on the subject in most situations. It doesn't matter in the LF context, but when I was a news photographer, I just held the bare bulb flash in my left hand, as far as I could get it from the camera, and that was good in most siituations. It's a type of light where you really don't need to think much, the results are almost always good, and it never looks like flash to most people. That's probably exactly how the second example I give above was shot.

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    1. Meter the outdoor light however you like. I would use an incident meter pointed at the camera location.
    2. Choose the f-stop you want and set the shutter speed according to the meter.
    3. Pump the flash light up or down to get to that f-stop, using a flash meter. How you increase or decrease the flash light is your choice -- add flash(es), use variable power controller, etc.
    4. Adjust the flash light to make the interior lighter or darker than the outside. The outdoor appearance will not change.
    5. Always bracket!!!

  5. #5

    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    xkaes thank you for how to do that. My question was not worded the best. There wont alway be a windows where i'll be but I was just wondering how to do that just incase. As far as fill lighting i will plan on bouncing off of the ceiling Bare bulb. If it is not a white ceiling or its too high though how do you reckon I mimick that press photo flash technique with a view camera and strobe? Just place the stand a few feet to the left of the tripod? I'm aiming for most people to not be able to notice I used extra lighting like you said. Thank you all for your help

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    There are a million ways to increase the amount of flash light, so I won't go down that road. What I can suggest is using a flat incident cover instead of a typical dome. Then fire each flash, taking a reading from the sides of the subject/scene. Place the flash(es)/reflector(s) to get the different sides of the subject/scene as close (or far apart) as you want. If you find an area that is getting too much (or too little) light, adjust the flash(es) by distance, power control, etc.

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    I suspect that in the photo you posted the light was basically pink, since the walls and everything else, and that it was color corrected after. You might consider that option.

    Another way to work would be to bring your own wall and ceiling: get a huge white umbrella--they come up to at least six feet in diameter. You shouldn't have a problem from uneven exposure; the larger the light source (the wall is the source in bounce light) the more even the exposure will be across the picture. The inverse square law only applies to point sources. Note in the party photo I posted that the background, which would be very dark with direct flash, is still quite illuminated with bounce.

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    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    In my commercial work, we have large black and white "silks". These are 8 feet by 12 feet, or bigger. You can buy them from grip companies, or make your own. I use ripstop nylon, which is fine as long as you're not photographing super shiny things, like Mercury Marine outboard motors, with the fabric right up against the object, as the nylon has a texture. For the great majority of things it's fine. If you need to bounce light but there's not good surface/color to do so, fly your silks, whether using stands, tape...., and bounce off of those.
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    I found that a good place to obtain extra large pieces of thin, white nylon are marine supply stores. They sell it for use in sails, etc. But I don't use it to bounce the flash off. I use it with one or two flash units about three feet behind for a very nice, extra large, diffused, flood light. The material also comes in different colors.

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    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

    Yes, that works great if you have the space.
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

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