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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #1
charro callado
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Default Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Ok guys here we go - a few of my outdoor portraits with a explanation/justification of the lighting in each. Feel free to add your own.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I estimate that I use strobes on outdoor shoots about 20% of the time. So I'll start with an example of that.

1. Here I have Lauren (a senior a few years ago) in the doorway of an old train car at about 10 in the morning. Obviously the ambient light did not look like this; the lighting here is the result of my Einstein in a large white PLM. There's still a hint of natural light (the rear of the train is lit by the sun) but for the most part, this is all "me." (and her mom holding onto my PLM for dear life in the wind)

Lauren by jk@ebs, on Flickr

2. Hey baby. I did portraits for this little guy a while back for his first birthday. He was unusually mobile and so I basically just followed him around until he poked his head up. There would have really been no way for me to get this guy to stay still long enough for me to set up any kind of artificial lighting. I probably could have had his dad try to follow him with a reflector but he was better used trying to get the kid's attention. So, entirely natural light, around 5pm if I remember right.

Frederick by jk@ebs, on Flickr

3. Sure, the light is nice at 5pm, but what about earlier in the day? This is a simple portrait I did for Stephanie in the early afternoon. Back to the sun and smile. Sure there are some blown highlights in the background but…eh. The quality of light on her face is very nice and soft, if just a *little* hot on the right side of her face. Women who are not models really benefit from natural light - it hides blemishes very well. If everyone looked like Adriana Lima then yeah, I'd take a silver BD out and nuke away. But for most people that's just going to create a retouching nightmare. Anyway.

Stephanie by jk@ebs, on Flickr

4. When I have more time, I'll take people to my locations where I know light is good at pretty much all times of the day. Here I have Bryce in one of those spots. About 3 feet to his left is a giant rock wall, which increases contrast. To his front and right is a clearing in a wooded area - just big enough so that the sky creates a beautiful catchlight in the eye at the 10:00 position. No reflector here.

Bryce by jk@ebs, on Flickr

5. Here's a situation where I honestly think flash would probably do more damage than good: just a simple open field about 90 minutes prior to sunset. Unless I were to have had a HUGE box or PLM out there, I probably would have killed the natural look of this shot, to say nothing of the fact that - despite what it looks like - I took this when she thought I wasn't paying attention. I did have her dad holding a white reflector to my left, but he's at my side and I'm shooting at 200mm; believe me when I say there was no real light coming from it. It did however, provide a small circular highlight in her eyes.

Open Field by jk@ebs, on Flickr

6. I'm going to add another strobe shot even though it will put me over my 20% estimation here. This is just a very simple actor's headshot that I did outside my studio with an Einstein through a large octabox. Why did I go with artificial light here? A couple of reasons. First - I had an assistant to hold everything. That's huge. Second - and unlike some of the kids above - I know that Todd can stand still and take direction. Third - this is a headshot, and I could get that big octa very close to make it very soft and eliminate visible falloff. So yes, I have the tell-tale octagonal catchlights but other than that the quality of light is decidedly natural-looking.

Todd by jk@ebs, on Flickr

7. Back to natural light for some fashion-esque work. I was really hoping for a sunny day for this shoot, but it turned out to be very dark and overcast. We actually got rained out after about an hour. But as any photographer knows, a cloudy sky is just a huge softbox. Very soft, flattering light. Really just no need for flash, even though I think (unlike some of the shots above) that it wouldn't have hurt to use it.

Brittany by jk@ebs, on Flickr

8. I'll close with a shot of Madison here in another one of my favorite shooting locations, where the light is generally good all day. All natural light, no reflectors, etc. Just very soft, flattering natural light. So again, I just don't think there was any need to break out the big guns and dealing with all the headaches associated with light falloff, mixed color temperature, neutral density filters (this is at f/1.2), etc.

IMG_4863 by jk@ebs, on Flickr

So there it is - limited to 8 so I tried to get a wide variety in there.

joe
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #2
david lacey
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Thanks for getting this going Joe. Great examples and explanations too.

I was digging around looking for a natural light and artificial light at the same location and I finally found some. I always take the shot without flash then get an idea of how much I want to light my subject and darken the background. This is pushing a bit on darkening the background for any kind of natural feel but a few pictures later I backed off a bit. I do like drama. I was trying to explain how I ended up there but really when there is good natural light use it and back to flash when it is gone. Also these pictures are an example of things not being perfect on purpose. I have some that start out better but I think showing what is not so good has a purpose too.


1st no flash
sooc


speedlight in a softbox - a little much but cool to have a few like this out of each shoot
sooc


It was near sunset so I cranked the flash way down to almost nothing
sooc
Finished product

Last edited by david lacey : 17th of October 2012 (Wed) at 23:58.
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #3
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Good thread. As David mentioned, if all possible, it's best to exhibit before (sooc) & after (edited) shots of natural lighting, same goes for ambient and then strobe fill in shots.

I'd guess my ratio is about 60/40 (natural/strobe) when I do outdoor portraits. I'll see if I can dig some up later tonight.

Very nice shots Charro...
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #4
david lacey
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Quote:
Originally Posted by mellofelow View Post
Good thread. As David mentioned, if all possible, it's best to exhibit before (sooc) & after (edited) shots of natural lighting, same goes for ambient and then strobe fill in shots.

I'd guess my ratio is about 60/40 (natural/strobe) when I do outdoor portraits. I'll see if I can dig some up later tonight.

Very nice shots Charro...
I started to do that, I just didn't think it would be fair because exposures and or WB were far off. I did fix them to sooc but it is more work to do it that way so I am liable not to in the future plus I just like looking at finished pictures more.

Last edited by david lacey : 16th of October 2012 (Tue) at 18:59.
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #5
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

I didnt read it all, but I should, all I can say is nice portraits. Makes me want to buy an 85LII now
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #6
david lacey
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Here is one with plenty of light, close to full power and a 22"BD
It was mid day the clouds were not everywhere I wanted them to be but they were nice to have in the picture even if they didn't help much with the strong sun. It takes a lot of power to blue the sky mid day from 15+ feet away.





I started with a 39" DO and got some pictures like this first one but before long she was tired of that and I just chased her around with no flash taking natural light pictures like the second one.

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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #7
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Nice stuff, keep it coming; the explainations and images are all great. I will post something up of mine in a bit.
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #8
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Ok, so here is my first contribution to the thread.


I have mostly just been shooting my family for the past couple of months, so I'm going to lead off with a couple shots of my daughter. The background behind the shots is that we just took a walk to the park and I decided to bring my camera along as I often do. She wasn't too mobile at the time of the shoot, so I could pretty much put her wherever I wanted. The sun was going down behind the trees, so about half the park was in shade. I knew I didn't want to shoot in direct sun, so I ended up putting her in shade for one of the shots and in and the dappled light of a setting sun poking through the trees for the other shot. It's worth noting that even when your in shade, more often than not there is also some sort of directional light present in the form of reflected light from the surroundings which are in direct sun. A lot of times, as in the case of these two images, this directional light comes from of the reflection of the suns light off of a blue sky. Were it not for the tree cover above and behind in these shots, the reflection of the suns light off of the sky would be coming in from the front, back, both sides, and above and would have made for much flatter images. Main reason I decided to use natural light here was that it wasn't practical to set up strobes and it also would have spoiled our little trip to the park.

BelindaComp by Doidinho, on Flickr

This shot of Preet was for her actress port. I decided that I didn't want to futz with lights this time, so I decided to shoot just ambient and scheduled the shoot for later in the day accordingly.

As the sun goes down, the ratio between intensity of direct sun light vs the intensity of the sunlight reflected from the sky equalizes. Put another way, as the sun becomes lower in the sky it's intensity decrease much quicker than the intensity of the reflected sunlight off of the sky. What this translates to is that you get a LOT more fill later in the day than you do durring mid-day. Preet shot late evening in direct sun.


Preet1 by Doidinho, on Flickr

This is a shot of Tea for her model port. She was just building her port and was not experienced at all, so I wanted to give her something to do. I ended up having her practice her prancy Vouge model stride/walk to keep her mind off me snapping pics. I pretty much just had her walk and followed her around. We were shooting in a covered breezeway and it was partially overcast that day. Light was coming in from both sides, but not from above. I didn't use strobes because we were both in motion while we were shooting and also becasue we shot some studio stuff earlier and I wanted to focus all of my energy on getting some pics of her looking natural and not posed. In my experience adding strobes can add unecessary stress from the subjects point of view, especially when they are not experienced models.

Te'a_1_web by Doidinho, on Flickr

That's it for now, but I will post some shots taken in mid day sun and some taken with strobes later on.
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Old 16th of October 2012 (Tue)   #9
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Here are a couple natural/artificial light examples, I think I've posted these in another thread or two, but they're certainly applicable here. These were both with one Einstein E640.

This was mid afternoon, with intermittent cloud cover. Not a spectacular sky, but dynamic enough for me to want to include in the shot without having it blown out like in the 1st picture. I set the power somewhere in the middle, used a medium soft box, and placed maybe 8 or so feet away from them, camera left.



You can tell by the shadow that this was mid-afternoon, with literally zero shade in the immediate area and no clouds to diffuse the sun. I just cranked the Einstein up to approximately match the sun, and used the PCB silver beauty dish.


Here's a shot of the setup:
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #10
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

A bit of clarification about light reflecting off the "blue sky";
The atmosphere is about 120K feet thick. More than half the atmospheric density is below 10K feet.
Sunlight reflects off of particles in the atmosphere other than the nitrogen and oxygen that make up the bulk of a particulate free atmosphere.
The reason that the period about one hour before sunset and one hour after sun rise is so attractive is that the light from the sun is having to traverse, at an oblique angle a great deal more atmosphere than it does as it gets higher in the sky. What makes for the rosy sunsets we all love to photograph are high concentrations of dust particles in the air. Water vapor also has an impact although its the dust that tends to attract the water that causes the color.

The particles in the atmosphere (pollution is you must) diffuses the sun light not a blue sky. Ironically, the less blue the sky, the more diffusion. Primarily because its the same particles in the atmosphere that diffuse the light, that make the sky look white and "foggy" rather than blue.
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #11
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmward View Post
A bit of clarification about light reflecting off the "blue sky";
The atmosphere is about 120K feet thick. More than half the atmospheric density is below 10K feet.
Sunlight reflects off of particles in the atmosphere other than the nitrogen and oxygen that make up the bulk of a particulate free atmosphere.
The reason that the period about one hour before sunset and one hour after sun rise is so attractive is that the light from the sun is having to traverse, at an oblique angle a great deal more atmosphere than it does as it gets higher in the sky. What makes for the rosy sunsets we all love to photograph are high concentrations of dust particles in the air. Water vapor also has an impact although its the dust that tends to attract the water that causes the color.

The particles in the atmosphere (pollution is you must) diffuses the sun light not a blue sky. Ironically, the less blue the sky, the more diffusion. Primarily because its the same particles in the atmosphere that diffuse the light, that make the sky look white and "foggy" rather than blue.

That's fricking awesome! Thanks for clearing that up and providing a better and more accurate explaination than I could ever have.

Thanks for reading my post too.
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #12
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Both have their own advantages. In general if possible the use of strobe really helps the image to have more of a pop to it and bring the viewer in on the subject.


Victoria Richey, York Harbor, Maine [Explored] by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

This first one is Ambient only. There was no need for strobe as the natural look that was intended was better accomplished without one. The background is not distracting, and is not over exposed.


Lauren Calaway - The Orange Dress by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

This second one was back lit by the sun, and then strobe was used to fill it in. Otherwise impossible without having an area of over exposure.


Cristina by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

Same concept as the last one.


Cristina - Color by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

This was shot with the sun behind me, but the strobe was able to fill in the subject better and ad more contrast and depth.


City of Angels by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

This was side lit by the sun, otherwise all ambient. I used the reflective white building with the sun to create an interesting juxtaposition with the framing.


Kira Dihktyar by RickrPhoto, on Flickr

Strobe to bring out the subject and underexpose the background. Makes the subject pop more.

All in all, use strobe if you want to bring your subject out and make them pop, fix horrible natural lighting (can get away with shooting outside at noon) and to avoid areas of over exposure and dim distracting backgrounds. An ideal photograph uses the right amount of a mix between ambient and strobe.
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #13
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Thanks for the contribution Zerimar.

I personally think that the two images you shot with only ambient light (the first and fifth) look the best out of the selections you posted.

While it is obvious you took the ambient light into consideration and contemplated the size, location, and intensity of the strobes, I can't help but feel that the strobes are a bit too intense on all of the combined shots except for the last.

Overall great images and great reasons for making the choices you made. Thanks Again for contributing.
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #14
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

^^^High key is Zerimar's style just an fyi.
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Old 17th of October 2012 (Wed)   #15
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Default Re: Natural vs. Artificial Light - your examples and explanations

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rittrato View Post
^^^High key is Zerimar's style just an fyi.
Thats great; another reason as to why he chose his settings. I prefer things in the low end of the histogram thus my response. Thanks for putting things into perspective.
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