Ambient and strobe - Weekend

Ambient and strobe

Albert PedrosaAlbert Pedrosa
Photo Mania

I WAS asked by a friend about his frustration in one of his commercial shoots. He wanted to increase the shutter speed so he can freeze a certain action as part of the client’s requirement. His problem is they’re using a strobe and flash sync should be 1/200th second or below. To freeze an action, you need to be somewhere 1/500th second.

The answer is aperture. By increasing your aperture, you’ll be killing the ambient light and therefore only the strobe will be recorded. What’s amazing about strobes is it appears and disappears in 1/4000th of a second. This is called flash duration. Even if you shutter speed is 1/200th of a second, the subject will freeze because of the flash duration speed.

I can totally relate to photographers being confused that strobes are controlled by aperture and ISO, while ambient light is controlled by all the three elements – aperture, shutter and ISO. I know this is confusing especially if pressure is building up in the set. I’ve been in this situation many times and occasionally, I still get confused about the theory.

f4.5, 1-10, ISO1600, 100mm (Shooting for Plantation Bay)
f4.5, 1-10, ISO1600, 100mm (Shooting for Plantation Bay)

Photography is not only art, it’s constantly a problem solving situation. If your basic theory is in place, you should be able to get yourself out of the mud. In my past shooting assignment, We planned to shoot the models having a romantic dinner, and part of my concept is to capture the warm ambient light of the place.

To achieve the concept you need to mix the ambient lighting of the place and your strobe to light your models. I normally start by getting the right exposure setting of the ambient light and fixing it on an aperture I plan to use in my strobe. For example, if my strobe is set to be exposed at f/5.6, I can then adjust shutter speed and ISO to get the right exposure of the ambient light.

Note that action shots are not possible in this situation, because even if the flash duration is fast, the ambient will continue to light the subject in motion. There’s always a lot of problem solving in the set and the only way you can get used to it is to keep on exposing yourself to different lighting problems.

I don’t think there will come a time that lighting becomes my second nature. Maybe I can solve the problem faster in the future, but in the field of photography, there’s always a new situation to be solved. Keep on shooting, everyone!

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