Balancing Ambient Light and Flash

We need all the tools, techniques and creativity we can muster to tackle whatever situations we encounter when we’re crafting killer images on location. Sometimes available light and a reflector, scrim or both get the job done. Other times, Mother Nature needs a helping hand from a flash. Balancing ambient and flash doesn’t mean each source contributes the same amount of light. In most cases, ambient light is the dominant source providing the majority of the illumination in a scene, while flash adds additional light where needed. You may need very little light from your flash to get the job done, while other more dramatic looks call for more flash and less ambient light. Having these creative options makes incorporating flash into your ambient shoots so compelling.

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Depth & Drama with Accent Lights

Creating lighting styles is a lot like cooking. You start with an idea of what you want and season to taste, adding what you need as you go. Each step taken on the path to achieving the look you’ve visualized is a series of building blocks with an eventual whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Readers of this column know I’m a big fan of working with one light, but there are times when additional lights are called for. This month, I turn up the heat and show you what’s possible with four lights.

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Why You Should Intentionally Shoot For Black & White

If changing an image to black and white is a careless afterthought, what are the chances that you’ve created a monochrome masterpiece? When we change our mindset from “I don’t know what else to do with this so black and white it is” to “I am going to create black-and-white photos today when I shoot,” a radical thing happens: Your monochrome images become more focused and striking.

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How Light Diffusion Can Affect Your Portrait’s Mood

Emotion in your portrait work comes from your subject almost entirely, for lots of obvious reasons. That said, other elements in your portraits can affect and enhance their overall mood—especially the lighting. Simple decisions about light diffusion can alter or augment the mood you are after. There are differing opinions on what light diffusion does to a portrait’s mood. It’s subjective. But there are some tried and true light diffusion techniques that work consistently to evoke or enhance specific moods in human subjects.

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Top 10 Lighting Mistakes

As a longtime photographer and mentor to other photographers, I’m uniquely qualified to speak about mistakes. I’ve made them all more than once and seen them all. That’s ok. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and if you’re not failing forward, you’re not trying hard enough. These top 10 lighting mistakes are all specific to flash. If you’re not using flash yet, read on for a few aha moments, and check out last month’s feature about why you need strobe in your life. Let’s get this party started.

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