View Full Version : Fill lighting for portrait using single strobe

19-May-2017, 21:33
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 (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53b2fabae4b0cce59c2e9019/53b2fbc2e4b0b419e9fde20e/53b465e6e4b06f16e5c0c945/1404332705473/1987+Jill+%26+Polly+in+the+Bathroom.jpg)
I have an umbrella if that helps

19-May-2017, 21:50
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

20-May-2017, 05:01
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:
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:

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.

20-May-2017, 05:49
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!!!

20-May-2017, 08:04
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

20-May-2017, 09:33
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.

20-May-2017, 10:49
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.

Peter De Smidt
20-May-2017, 12:06
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.

20-May-2017, 14:07
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.

Peter De Smidt
20-May-2017, 14:35
Yes, that works great if you have the space.

20-May-2017, 16:27
Here's what I use for that:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0027IS6NG
Hemmed and ready to use, the price is right. In terms of light loss, they work about the same used as reflectors or to push light through from the back.

cool breeze
21-May-2017, 14:24
There's a great website available for strobe education. <strobist.blogspot.com> Lots of lighting lessons and examples.

Jim Jones
21-May-2017, 15:43
The shower curtains mdarnton suggests two posts up sound very good. I've used cotton sheets in much the same way. 1x2 inch wood strips drilled to fit on top of a light stand support the sheets.

21-May-2017, 16:29
The old rule for exposing strobe with daylight is "the aperture controls the strobe exposure, the shutter speed controls the ambient level", which means the flash is faster than the shutter, so the sync'ed shutter speed then controls the ambient exposure level... So as mentioned, you would set the camera exposure for the out the window daylight exposure, then find the strobe f-stop that matches the outside f-stop by changing the power setting, or distance subject to strobe until you find the same f-stop as the ambient exposure...

How you light your interior is your choice, but your example photo shows it was lit using greatly diffused light, so as to create a shadowless overall light without cues from directional light (such as highlights nearer the light, and shadows behind the subject along the light axis... So the discussion has been about (how) and what to use to reflect the direct strobe light to bounce off a larger surface (or go through), to have a broad surface illuminating the scene and eliminate the harder "axis effect" of a direct light... As mentioned, a white ceiling is there and produces a natural look when lights are bounced off of it, but lacking that, you have to bring in your own reflectors, light banks, soft boxes, etc... Do you have the room for that stuff???

Another thing we used to use was getting clear & white shower curtain liners for the store (as mentioned by Mike), where the white could be pinned or taped up on a wall or ceiling as a reflector or tent, or light enough to held up with a couple of medium light stands... The clear matte could also held up (maybe with a pole between the stands) with lights behind them as a big light bank... (I lit cars/stuff/backgrounds/etc with this stuff on many different commercial shoots...) Cheap, easy to get/use, and packs down to very small size... Just keep hot lights at a safe distance from the vinyl, to prevent burning...

Steve K

22-May-2017, 07:27
gel the window

22-May-2017, 17:31
gel for the windows can also be used to match white balances if needed. Probably not needed if you're using strobe, but I've seen it used for video where hot lights lit the indoor.

Another option is to wait for later in the day when outdoor brightness is reduced. You'd have to be prepared and work quick for that as the outdoor light will change quickly at dusk.

Tina's work, which I was not familiar with, seems more like a mixup of architectural photography with people instead of furniture, with wide angle portraits. Big diffusion and bounce; look at the peoples' and objects' shadows to judge the strength and direction/diffusion of the lights and how near/far relationships are similarly or differently lit. This is not the press photographer style.

A blend of press photographer style and nicer style with one light would be like the Mortensen basic lighting where the flash is in a reflector and slightly closer to the subject; basically a predecessor of the beauty dish. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntoUMoRP9o8 https://www.flickr.com/photos/13759696@N02/8311820995

24-May-2017, 07:57
gel for the windows can also be used to match white balances if needed. Probably not needed if you're using strobe, but I've seen it used for video where hot lights lit the indoor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntoUMoRP9o8 https://www.flickr.com/photos/13759696@N02/8311820995

I was thinking ND gel..roscoe makes a whole bunch of it with and without color correction... also black mesh to cut down on exposure... I've found it easier to match the outside to the inside...esp when the windows are as small as the one in the example

24-May-2017, 16:56
Got to borrow a DSLR to preview some lighting and I am.very satisfied with bouncing off of the ceiling or umbrella. Only thing I wanted to double check on was compensating the exposure for the bellows?

Kevin J. Kolosky
19-Jun-2017, 23:00
another thing you have to take into consideration is the light ratio that you want. You want to have some ratio or your lighting will look very flat.
Usually, for most portraits at least, a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio looks about right. And generally, although not always, you would want the strong part of that ratio on the short side of the face, and also on many subjects. this give roundness and depth to the subject.

Remember, light is additive. So if want a 3 to 1 ratio and you have a fill light and a main light, you would have one unit of light over the whole subject, and then another 2 units of light on the short side of the subject. This would give you a 3 to one ratio.

Pere Casals
20-Jun-2017, 01:18
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 (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53b2fabae4b0cce59c2e9019/53b2fbc2e4b0b419e9fde20e/53b465e6e4b06f16e5c0c945/1404332705473/1987+Jill+%26+Polly+in+the+Bathroom.jpg)
I have an umbrella if that helps

In the past some commercial photographers where using Polaroid instant prints to check illumination before spending a single sheet. The Polaroid photograph usually was smaller format so it was shot with a reducing back, moving the camera back or with wider lens, or just with another plastic camera.

Strobes have a level of uncentainty for the photographer, this is the purpose of modeling light.

A 4x5 sheet is a treasure, so one have to nail that, with no room for surprises. Face volumes are critical, so one has to be very aware about what can result.

Today we have an awesome photometer for this: a DSLR !!!! instead the Polaroid.

Rig the DSLR on the rail and use it for preshots. You'll see what will happen when you learn how the DSLR image translates to Porta, in the same way that in the past photographers knew the Polaroid to the sheet translation, of course including bellows extension correction.

More than to know the exposure the DSLR shot is to know illumination balance to get the volumes or the flatness you envision.

Also you'll have your subject relaxed, not knowing that you are finished with adjusments so you can also take his face while he is unaware.

When you take the sheet shot also make the DSLR fire at the same time, so you will know if eyes are closed, and will see face expression to know if you are done.

Hollywood work that way. They take preshots with Alexas and when it looks right they play rock & roll with the Panaflex to get the unique film footprint. Also they monitor result with that, mostly to see face expressions to know if they are done.

A Nikon D3200 is way enough for that, but a D750 or an IQ3 enhances the view camera and photographer status :)