Thursday, April 27, 2006

On Assignment: Simple Wall/Snoot Portrait

The longer I play with my small strobes, the more I graduate away from soft light.

There is a time and a place for the umbrellas. But, increasingly, I find myself using hard light. More specifically, I find myself using restricted beam light.

Hard light has a bad rap, as we talked about in Lighting 101. The trick is controlling the ratio of the strobe's light to the ambient.

This quickie portrait was a Varsity cover of a state champion high school wrestler who was returning to spend another season embarrassing his would-be opponents.

The snoot-against-a-wall technique is a trick I go to frequently when I am shooting an athlete in an indoor environment. The result is basically a photo that burns its own edges down. The severity of the falloff is determined by (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) the shutter speed. The higher it is, the darker the falloff. Remember - assuming you are within the synching range for your camera - the flash only cares about the aperture. The ambient is controlled by the shutter/aperture combo. So keeping your aperture constant and decreasing the amount of time your shutter is open does nothing for the flash-lit area of the frame, but drops the value of the areas the flash is not reaching.

Why use a wall? Well, as you can see here, the wall provided a nice fill reflector for the camera left side of his face. It is amazing how much light you'll get back from a white wall at close range. Even if the wall is not in your frame, you can use it for fill light. One strobe becomes two lights that way.

So, if you have been reading the articles, the light position, modification and exposure process should be coming to you already.

I have a Nikon SB-28 on a stand about 8 feet away from the subject at camera right. I slipped a home-made, 8" cardboard snoot onto the flash to restrict the beam of light. The flash is on manual. I am purposely not going to tell you exposure info this time because the actual numbers should be getting increasingly irrelevant to you by now.

Here's the process:

I tend to start with the flash set on manual at a quarter power. I was working in sodium vapor lighting, so I greened the flash and shot on the camera's florescent white balance to get close to the ambient color temperature.

Working at a quarter power (at 400 ASA) I start with the camera on the max synch speed (1/250th with a Nikon D2.) I adjust the aperture while doing a series of test exposures until it looks good. Then, I shoot a few more test exposures, opening up the shutter speed until my falloff looks the way I want it.

(If this is confusing to you, you are probably jumping in late. Might want to go into Lighting 101 or On assignment and read some.)

This is a very quick, flash-meter-less process (hey, do you know how much cool lighting gear you can get for the price of a flash meter?)

My target was to use the beam of light to call attention to him, yet make the falloff such that you could still read "Hammond," the name of his school.

By the way, a good friend of mine always thought that Hammond High School should change their mascot to the "Hammond Eggs." (Yes, I have strange friends.)

So, there you have it. A super-quick, one-light set-up that can be used in a pinch almost anywhere. It is a bit of a gimmick, so it is not the kind of thing you want to do once a week. But it is nice to have a couple dozen "gimmicks" that you can pull out and choose from when you need them.

Oh, and while I am thinking about it, I have to remember that I now have found I have readers from (among other places) South Africa, the Philippines, Japan, Finland, England, Brazil, Romania and Alabama. So, the reference to "Bueller" is from a 1986 US movie called "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Several lines from the movie are common slang usage here in the US, but they might not make any sense to my new friend Christian from Romania.

Stick with me and I will corrupt your English in ways you never thought of.


Next: Make the Ambient Work For You


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42 Comments:

Blogger Charles C Stirk Jr said...

Once again well done .....

April 27, 2006 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add readers from Canada to your list.

Paul (aka: The Crappy Photographer)

http://spaces.msn.com/glombick/

April 30, 2006 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Sean McC said...

Tut. You left you. After me giving you the lowdown on the PC less Canons too.. :) j/k

May 01, 2006 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Sean McC said...

Doh! Ireland.

May 01, 2006 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one. You'll never corrupt english the way us aussies do though. Howsitgoinmate?? Fairdinkum??? ;-)

May 25, 2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger Liam said...

Sick, so I'm not like the only Aussie reading this wicked blog and that?!!! Strewth, ken oath!

Slang aside..nice article, again! I'm half way thru a box of cereal which is going to become my first collections of snoots for my SB-800!

June 03, 2006 11:33 AM  
Anonymous matt said...

Howzit/Annyong - a South African in Korea is another new fan!

June 05, 2006 11:00 AM  
Anonymous JeF said...

You can also add a reader from the Swiss Alps ;)

June 12, 2006 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Brent said...

kiora bro - add a kiwi to your list.

Great stuff, loving your work

Bueller quote 2:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

July 20, 2006 12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can add a fan from Russia as well =)

August 07, 2006 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and (a Filipino) in Thailand.

Great, informative site! Thanks! Now I have to go out and play...

September 12, 2006 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't where to actually put my comment on about this blog- so I just closed my eyes and pointed to somewhere and I got here ;)

This is fairly one of the most entertaining sites I read lately and I can't stop.
Now I know I don't have to feel ashamed only using my old Metz flashes for years.

Keep this on, David and add indian readers from Germany to your list ;-)

yours,
Dan

October 23, 2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Heckler said...

Put Hungary on the list too. :]

It's more than fortunate that I have found your site in the morning, this way I *may* sleep 2 or 3 hours tonight :]

I only have about 1 year of experience with off-camera lightning, not too much assignments yet. I really love your articles and your sense of humour.

Keep up the good work.

October 26, 2006 5:54 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Hej på er.

Add a reader from Sweden.

December 15, 2006 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Prosto Photos said...

Just wanted to let you know you have readers in Russia as well. Thanks for a great site! I'm a returning reader by now.

December 28, 2006 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add one more from Sweden.


Rickard here, from southern part of Sweden.

I really enjoy your series of lightning setups.

December 30, 2006 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

crikey! we're everywhere!!!

January 08, 2007 5:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add Guam to your list!!!

March 04, 2007 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Javier said...

US Slang? Aussies? Nah, there's nothing like an argentinian ruining the spanish language! (Or trying to post a comment in english, for that matter)
Anyway, add Argentina to your list of visitors. This site got high into my Firefox's "Marcadores" folder. It's a great source of knowledge and inspiration. I hope you can keep the good work for a long long time.

Thank you, Dave

July 05, 2007 1:58 AM  
Blogger akim said...

Hailing all the way from MD, USA!

September 19, 2007 2:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from sunny singapore!

strobist keeps the 2nd hand flash market very active here :)

we have seen the light!

October 15, 2007 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Ives said...

Enthusiastic reader from Belgium.
Keep up the good work.

December 08, 2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Jakob Swartz said...

Thanks for a great informational blog from a Danish reader in northern Uganda.

February 08, 2008 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Dominic said...

from The Bahamas baby!

That Buellar reference was hilarious. That is one of my favourite movies. I can't wait to make the snoots and gobos. You have brought me so much closer to recreating the fun I had lighting in my school days. Great article, as usual. I can't wait to get some practice time in and get to freelancing again. Thank you.

February 15, 2008 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tssssk..... even the Dutch know what you mean with Bueller :-)

March 05, 2008 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Jérôme Gallecier said...

FYI, you also have a reader from Tahiti... and who definitely had no clue about what "Bueller" refered to. :)

Your blog is great. Thank you for sharing so much of your experience and knowledge in photography... and slang!

Peace out.

March 22, 2008 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Ami said...

Canada is much too close to forget, Dave!

April 29, 2008 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Mariusz said...

Best regards from Poland :)

July 01, 2008 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Daniel S. said...

And you can add to your list a really devoted-reads everything-mexican designer whom is expanding it's skills getting in to lighting. Thanks a lot for the effort you're putting on this blog. This Behind the scenes is really well appreciated.

October 10, 2008 3:44 PM  
Blogger Carlos P said...

From El Salvador, this blog is my nightly homework, I'm quitting using the auto settings on my cam
and I can see more natural balanced results.

November 05, 2008 12:15 AM  
Anonymous kevin adams said...

THIS SITE IS SO LEKKER! - another big fan from South Africa.
this site has been the best thing ive read for a very long time. I love your sense of humour, been laughing out loud so much

April 29, 2009 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, here in the Philippines. you have a lot of viewers or let say students here. Thanks for giving a lot of helpful info.

June 04, 2009 10:33 AM  
Blogger Alexandre Fagundes de Fagundes said...

Hi, there, you also have readers from Brazil.
I´ve been through the 101 and am now checking the assignments, having a lot of new information, but havent tried it all yet.
Congrats on a great blog!

June 06, 2009 11:17 PM  
Blogger Wall Street Watcher said...

Do you ever use use a grey card for custom white white balance (CWB) ? Do you every use CWB in your workflow either on-location or in post-processing? Please help me understand your thought process. I just found your site and I find it fascinating. I would like to develop my hobby in Photography. I took Photography in High School over 25 years ago. Being unemployed, I cannot afford expensive equipment. Your approach to photography seems very cost effective because you use non-TTL flash and no light meter. Thank you.

July 15, 2009 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there! I have just spent my ENTIRE weekend reading through your blog. A weekend well spent, I must add :) ... though my husband might beg to differ.

Anyway, I'm writing to let you know that you also have readers from the UAE!

Ujala from Dubai

August 21, 2009 11:45 AM  
Blogger octav said...

Hey, I read every bit so far from your Lighing 101 and Assignments.
Hence, I purchased my storbist kit and my pictures became obviously better.
Stil a fan of smooth lighing, guess takes time to accept hard light principles.
Thank you for your effort and you already know your blog is a refference point for strobists arround the world.

Octav from Romania

P.S. We have almost no issues with ya' slang.

November 24, 2009 10:53 AM  
Blogger Toufeek said...

Lebanese (middle east) from Abu Dhabi, UAE (United Arab Emrates). keep up the good work, what goes around comes around.

March 30, 2010 5:11 PM  
Blogger Toufeek said...

Lebanese (middle east) reader living in Abu Dhabi, UnitedArad Emirates. keep up the good work. what goes around comes around.

March 30, 2010 5:13 PM  
Blogger julski said...

Yeah Philippines ;D wow this article dates to '06 no wonder u were using a d2h ahehe. God i gota lot of catching up to do

July 18, 2011 5:15 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

damn" no french reader ??? stupid froggies

Add France !

shame...

July 21, 2011 3:40 PM  
Blogger Felipe Rabat said...

I just wanted to congratulate you on a great site. I just found it, and have spent a good couple of hours (SHHHH!!! Don't tell my boss!) reading through it. And these "On Assignment" parts are just a FANTASTIC way to illustrate many of the points in the Lighting 101 module (I have not yet gotten to Lighting 102).

I also find it interesting how Baltimore keeps affecting my photography life... I took my first steps toward becoming an amateur photographer when I took an elective in Photography in Loyola university (Loyolla College back then!). And now, I am following a Baltimore photographer to learn how to use speedlights! Go figure...

Oh, and before I forget, do not forget to add Panama (the one with the canal in Central America, not the one in FL) to the list of countries!

January 21, 2014 2:55 PM  
Blogger Felipe Rabat said...

I just wanted to congratulate you on a great site. I just found it, and have spent a good couple of hours (SHHHH!!! Don't tell my boss!) reading through it. And these "On Assignment" parts are just a FANTASTIC way to illustrate many of the points in the Lighting 101 module (I have not yet gotten to Lighting 102).

I also find it interesting how Baltimore keeps affecting my photography life... I took my first steps toward becoming an amateur photographer when I took an elective in Photography in Loyola university (Loyolla College back then!). And now, I am following a Baltimore photographer to learn how to use speedlights! Go figure...

Oh, and before I forget, do not forget to add Panama (the one with the canal in Central America, not the one in FL) to the list of countries!

January 21, 2014 2:56 PM  

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