Step by step

NPhoto - - Feature -

1 Get the shot set up

All you need to cap­ture this type of por­trait is a Speed­light fixed to a stand with asil­ver um­brella at­tached, plus an ND fil­ter and a means of trig­ger­ing the flash off-cam­era, such as ra­dio trig­gers, a sync lead or your cam­era’s wire­less flash sys­tem. (We used Nikon’s com­man­der mode to con­trol the SB-900 Speed­light here). Direct­ing the Speed­light into the sil­ver um­brella will en­sure you have a soft, dif­fuse light to flat­ter your sub­jects.

2 Ex­pose for the am­bi­ent light

Don’t turn on the flash light yet. In­stead, you need to set the cam­era to Man­ual mode and work out an ex­po­sure for the am­bi­ent light. If sun­light is mak­ing the scene very bright, start with ISO100 and 1/200 sec, then ad­just the aper­ture in a se­ries of test shots un­til the face is cor­rectly ex­posed. Here we used f/4. With the boy’s back to the sun, this cor­rectly ex­poses his face but blows out the sky – but don’t worry about that yet.

3 Un­der-ex­pose with fil­ters

Next, un­der-ex­pose for the am­bi­ent light. You could do this by set­ting a much smaller aper­ture, such as f/11 or f/16, but then you’d also in­crease the depth of field, and in this case you want that to be shal­low so that it blurs the back­ground. So in­stead, add a stan­dard two-stop ND fil­ter and a po­lariser. The two fil­ters com­bined block out about four stops of light, which makes the sky look moody, but leaves the face too dark.

4 Light up the face

Now you can turn on your flash and set it to Man­ual mode. On a bright, sunny day you’ll be work­ing at the power lim­its of most Speed­lights, so start at full (1/1) power, and then re­duce it if nec­es­sary. We po­si­tioned our flash (bounced off our sil­ver um­brella) di­rectly above the face here, from roughly one me­tre away. We also placed asil­ver re­flec­tor on the ground be­side our model to bounce ex­tra light back up into the shad­ows.

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