On Location PhotographySubmitted by Michael on Tue, 2014-03-18 16:03

Lighting at the Lake

Today it’s about outdoor portraits with flash or reflectors. If you shoot photos outside, you will want to pimp up your available light quite a bit Because you won’t want to work only with what you find over there.


While it is comparably easy to add the bit of extra sparkle when you have nice light outside, I actually do see photographers make one particular mistake over and over again.


They seem to confuse a reflector with a strobe and vice versa. What I mean is that they either work with a reflector exactly how they would use their flash indoors. Not good. Or they actually do use a flash outside, but they use it similarly to how they saw other photographers using a reflector. Not good either.


So I thought I’d make this quick little video in order to make it easier to understand how both options work and how to use them for the most charming light.


How do I smoothly angle down the Easy-Up Softbox with the Mitros+ speedlight inside? I simply mounted a Phottix Multi-boom 16" Flash Bracket on the umbrella swivel. Check it out, it's working like charm!


I actually made a complete article around this topic and the video, and I published it in Good Light! Magazine Issue 08. If you like this video, you will love the magazine because it’s full of useful tips and tricks for better photography.

==> Check out Good Light! Magazine over here!


How about you try yourself what you‘ve just seen in the video? Go outside, shoot with the available light first and then add your reflector or flash. Add it the wrong way, add it the right way and then look at the difference. Doing it this way might help you to develop a feeling for the light you actually want – at least this is how it’s working for me.


I wish you good light!


Sorry, if it is hard to understand my thick, German accent? Maybe this transcript helps.

Hey cousins, today I would like to talk about one mistake that I see photographers making a lot these days when it comes to using reflectors and flashes, in outdoor photography. This is about one point which is probably really easy to miss, but it is critical.


With a reflector, you will typically bounce light upwards into your model, and with a flash you typically send light down towards your model.


Let me give you a bit of background. If you're outdoor and you shoot just natural light, just the light which is there, you don't use any additional tools then typically your subject will not pop out of the photo. It will just sink in, it will probably have ugly shadows.


If you make the photo so bright that your subject is illuminated well then the background is overexposed, bright and commands to much attention. So all of that typically doesn't work.


If a reflector is used, then what you will see all the time is that photographers are bouncing light upwards, from below up. That is perfectly alright because the purpose of such a reflector is to lift shadows. On overcast day, like in o ur example, we just bounce a little bit of this overcast natural soft light back into the model, the shadows are lifted and then we are good to go. It is looking very natural and if you want photos which are looking natural, I could also say just natural, then that is what you do. If there is a bit more sun then you could use the white side of the reflector to limit the light you are bouncing back.


The purpose of the reflector is not to be the main light. You typically don't want that because for the main light, you would need a lot of light. You would need to reflect back the sun and reflecting the sun, it makes your model squint when she's looking back to the camera. It makes her tearing, her face might look tortured because she is suffering. You don't want that. For that you have got other tools. For example a flash.


If you are using the flash, let's say in a soft box then the purpose is to be the main light. It's not for lifting shadows. The purpose is main light. So you would angle it downwards because the main light is always coming from a little bit above the model. Otherwise, you get this kind of creepy under lighting. In extreme cases it would look like, you know, when we were children holding a torch underneath our face to get this creepy Halloween look. You don't want that so you go from up to down.


If you are using a flash then you typically make your subject popping out. It's not a really a natural look. It doesn't look natural. It is somewhere between supernatural and at the other end of the scale it would look just over the top fake. You typically want to be rather on the super natural side, so don't overdo it with flash as a main light outdoors.


What is typically not the purpose of the flash is lifting shadows. Because we don't need the flash for that. You could just use a reflector or you could just put your soft box there and the white front of the soft box would reflect light back. If you are adding flash then it's typically directly over the top.


So to recap, if you are shooting outside, you need additional light to make it interesting. Use the reflector if you just want to lift the shadows. It's looking really natural but can look a bit boring. Use a flash if you want to make your subject really pop out. That can look great but it can also look kind of fake. I suggest you play around with both. With that said I wish you good light.

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