Learn to utilise shut­ter speed to cre­ate an at­trac­tive light gra­di­ent ef­fect for flash-lit portraits

Digital Photograper - - Contents -

Take a new ap­proach to shoot­ing portraits with this guide; em­ploy high-speed flash synchronisation and in­crease the shut­ter speed for a cre­ative gra­di­ent ef­fect

Every DSLR cam­era has a max­i­mum shut­ter speed at which there can be ef­fec­tive synchronisation with a flash unit. The flash du­ra­tion must ex­ceed or match the du­ra­tion of the to­tal ex­po­sure, or the scene will not be evenly il­lu­mi­nated. This can be a ma­jor problem, as us­ing flash lim­its the use­ful­ness of shut­ter speed as a means of con­trol­ling bright­ness – with­out ad­just­ing aper­ture, the scene may be over­ex­posed at the locked 1/200sec that is stan­dard. How­ever, if used in mod­er­a­tion and with the cor­rect cam­era mode, the oth­er­wise un­de­sir­able frame dark­en­ing can be used cre­atively. By em­ploy­ing high-speed flash synchronisation and in­creas­ing the shut­ter speed above the max­i­mum limit, a feath­ered bright­ness gra­di­ent is in­tro­duced. This helps to di­rect the viewer’s fo­cus within the frame and gives an im­age some vis­ual ‘weight’ at the bot­tom of the com­po­si­tion. This is a very pop­u­lar tech­nique with por­trait and wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers, es­pe­cially when on lo­ca­tion, where ex­tra­ne­ous detail may com­pete with your sub­ject for at­ten­tion. It is also a very easy tech­nique to learn and can be em­ployed with­out re­quir­ing fur­ther kit in­vest­ment. You may find that you have to use an ex­ter­nal flash­gun for this work, as some built-in cam­era flashes won’t be able to utilise the high-speed mode.


While light­ing is even and pleas­ant, it is overly uni­form, mean­ing the in­tended fo­cal point of

the im­age (the face) is un­clear to the viewer


AT­TACH THE FLASH Be­gin by at­tach­ing an ex­ter­nal flash unit or turn on the cam­era’s built-in flash. Dif­fuse the light as re­quired for a softer spread ap­pear­ance. En­sure there is good am­bi­ent light in or­der to avoid back­ground un­der­ex­po­sure.


ME­TER THE SCENE (AV) In Aper­ture Pri­or­ity mode, cal­cu­late an ap­pro­pri­ate over­all ex­po­sure, us­ing ma­trix or eval­u­a­tive me­ter­ing. You can use TTL (through the lens) flash me­ter­ing for ac­cu­racy, or you can ad­just for flash light later.


SWITCH TO MAN­UAL MODE TTL flash me­ter­ing can vary in its re­li­a­bil­ity from scene to scene. To avoid any un­pre­dictable ex­po­sure changes as you com­pose your shot, use Man­ual and en­ter the set­tings sug­gested by the cam­era in the pre­vi­ous step.


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