Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Crosslighting on an overcast day

Leni I asked for attitude for this shot! I'd just taken 30 portraits and called Leni back for something a little bit different from the usual smiles. Thanks Leni.

On days when it's sunny I'd use the sun as one 'light' and 1 flash to crosslight it. On a day like this it's one light at the front right, one back left. Start off by taking a shot with no lights. I'll normally do this on the S (shutterspeed) setting with my shutterspeed set at 1/250th which is the fastest speed that my flash units will synch at. Now take your aperture and shutterspeed for that shot and go to M (Manual) enter your shutterspeed as 1/250th but change your aperture by a stop so the next shot will be underexposed. Set your flash units on manual... start with one light at a time. I usually try the front light at 1/4 to start with and adjust it up or down as required. Once it's right I repeat with the back light. Sounds complicated but once you're done it a few times it's a quick process.

If you're shooting sports portraits like this and the players are holding a ball make sure they hold it on the opposite side to the front light. First time I tried this about a year ago I had the ball under the other arm and there was a really obvious dark shadow across the body. They were only test shots at the time but lesson learned.

This is the setup. 2 light stands, front one set high, back set low... opposite each other diagonally from the subject.

5 minutes to set up and adjust settings, 5 minutes to photograph 30 lads. This is relatively easy to do and doesn't need to be that expensive if you're just starting out.

Cheap option: couple of 2nd hand light stands or cheap ebay stands, probably around £40 total. 2 flash units - I have 2 that I picked up from ebay as backups for £20 the pair. I only work with manual settings for flash anyway so they're as good as my Nikons for most things. Umbrella adaptors to link your flash to your light stand - £15 for a pair. Ebay remotes, 1 transmitter, 2 receivers - £30. Just over £100 in total.

Professional option: 2 Light stands - £120. 2 sb-800 flash units - £440. Umbrella adaptors to link your flash to your light stand - £15 for a pair. 3 Pocket wizard transeivers - £500. Over £1000 and we haven't started talking about light modifiers yet (umbrellas, softboxes, snoots, grids & gobos!).

You can break the bank buying all the latest kit, but if you're willing to improvise a little it's amazing what you can do with very little. My kit is a mix of both options, but gradually going over to the Pro option. Just waiting on those Pocketwizards now.

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