Start With The Light You Can’t Control.


Start With The Light You Can’t Control.

This is Rick Friedman’s mantra. “Start with the light you can not control.” It’s a good one, easy to remember yet so effective. Rick applies this thinking to his location lighting with speed lights.

The light you can’t control is pretty simple to spot. The sky, the light fixtures, a glare; a streetlight.

You look at that light then decide what you want to do with it. This sets the mood, your approach but mostly your other camera settings.

For example, the midday sun. You have a sky with a few clouds that you want to go to a rich blue.

Meter for the sky, set your ISO to its lowest setting, that sky is bright. Then it is just a matter of tweaking the aperture and shutter speed choices to get the sky exposure you want.

Set your aperture, your f-stop to a low setting. f4 is good.

Now adjust your shutter speed to get the sky exposed to your goal. Your flash, set to ETTL will still give you all the light you need.

If sky or light source is to bright at the top of your camera’s flash speed sync, you can still beat it.

Flashes have a setting for hyper sync. Set the flash to this and you can go beyond the flash sync speed. There is a price. The flash power drops. To overcome the speed barrier the flash fires several short bursts. This reduces the effective power.

Still it is a great solution.

It is so wild to see this dramatic result.

Working with a different sky challenge, lets say the sky is plain or the sunset could use a boost. You wrap your flash head with a tungsten gel. Set your camera to tungsten light source. This will give you a nice clean light on your subject. It shifts the color spectrum over to create this. Naturally the sky and scene lit by daylight now become this amazing blue. Very powerful effect.

 If you want to get real funky, cover the flash with a purple gel or some other color. Photograph a white card with the gelled light hating it. Use your manual white balance setting to tell the camera that this is white.

Your camera will oblige but the wonky color adjustment makes the natural light, especially a sunset light, go incredibly wonderful.

This rule will guide you through so many situations. In a room with mixed light, daylight floods in through the large open windows. the rest of the room is light with bright tungsten light. Both you cannot control.

To avoid the mixed light, turn your subject back to the window or to the tungsten lights. Now they are working for you. The split light is now front to back. One color and exposure is backlighting the other, the one you white balance for, is front lighting.

By making the light you cannot control the base of your approach, everything else falls easily into place.

 PS:The image here is taken near high noon, with speed light set to hypersync, shutter speed 1/320, F11 and ISO100

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