On Assignment: Real Estate Developer
This shot of a commercial real estate developer shot in Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a good example of how to easily overpower daylight with a small, AA-powered strobe.
Most high-end shoe-mount strobes these days are designed to calculate and provide the "right" fill flash values while sitting on your camera (or at arm's length with a TTL cord.) But I rarely use that feature unless I am working in a fluid situation where I am following a moving subject.
I still like the control (and choice of lighting angle) I get working in manual mode with the light off camera on a stand if my subject gives me that luxury.
First, who's to say what your TTL flash in going to think is the right amount of fill? Even with the compensation buttons, the camera is really driving, not you.
And second, I like having the ability to put my flash anywhere I want, while working wirelessly. (Yeesh, say that three times fast.)
So, in this case the ambient light is coming from behind the buildings but is going in an out of the clouds. So I exposed for the blue sky and set the flash to 1/2 power, which still gave me a very good working distance.
Remember to start out working at your maximum synch speed to give your strobe the most flexibility in a bright-light situation.
There was actually a stop of power still to burn here. I could have made the sky a stop darker for a more ominous look by cranking the strobe to full power and dropping the working aperture a stop. But I wanted to save some detail in the buildings (as it was I brought them up a little in Photoshop) so I struck the balance between the sky and building exposure.
Again, plenty of working light from the strobe in the middle of the day. These little strobes are far more useful than just automatic, TTL fill-flash-o-trons.
This photo brings up another point. I was following this guy around for the morning, shooting mostly available light. But I knew I wanted a lit portrait I could use as lead if I wanted, so I carried the little "light-stand-on-a-strap" on my shoulder with me all morning as I worked.
Those little guys really are not that much to carry around, provided you are working light on gear to begin with.
Next: Blind Snoot Portrait