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Shoot: Think of The Shutter as a Light Modifier

One advantage of flash over other sources of light is that you can use the shutter speed to dim the ambient light. This can be a valuable tool to guide your viewer’s eye.

Directing Your Viewer’s Focus

When we first encounter a new photo, the first spot that we look at is the brightest portion of the image. In portraits, an easy way to direct your viewer’s eye to your subject is to dim the brightness of the background in your shots. This will make your subject’s face stand out more prominently.

In Figures 19.1719.20, I lit Kristen with a single Speedlite firing through an Impact 24″ Quikbox. The difference through the series is that I increased the shutter speed in one-stop increments to show the effect of dimming the background.

In Figure 19.17, the 1by200.jpg″ shutter creates a fill light that balances naturally with the late afternoon sun. Yet Kristin does not stand out clearly from the background. In the subsequent photos (shot at 1by400.jpg″, 1by800.jpg″, and 1by1600.jpg″), the backgrounds get progressively darker. The choice of which frame is the best is a matter of personal taste. I favor Figure 19.19 (1by800.jpg″) because it still maintains the rimmed edge of sunlight on Kristen’s hair.

Keep in mind that as your shutter speed exceeds the sync speed of your camera, you have to activate High-Speed Sync on your Speedlite. See Chapter 7: Control Your Speedlite for the basics on HSS and Chapter 22: Slicing Time With High-Speed Sync for a detailed discussion.

Lighting Details

Environment: Outdoors

Time of Day: Late afternoon

Ambient: Golden hour sun behind Kristen

Speedlite: One 600EX-RT

Mode: E-TTL


Zoom: Zoomed to 24mm

Gel: 1by2.jpg CTO

Modifier: Impact 24″ Quikbox

Distance: About 4′ to subject

Height: Level with subject’s head

Trigger: ST-E3-RT Transmitter

Camera Details

Camera: 5D Mark II

Lens: 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS

Distance to Subject: 6′

Exposure Mode: Manual

Exposure Comp: As listed

Exposure: Manual

White Balance: Daylight

Figure 19.16

Figure 19.16 Lighting diagram

Figure 19.17

Figure 19.17 1by200.jpg″, f/5.6, ISO 400. Speedlite fired in E-TTL with 0 FEC.

Figure 19.18

Figure 19.18 1by400.jpg″, f/5.6, ISO 400. Speedlite fired in E-TTL with 0 FEC.

Figure 19.19

Figure 19.19 1by800.jpg″, f/5.6, ISO 400. Speedlite fired in E-TTL with 0 FEC.

Figure 19.20

Figure 19.20 1by1600.jpg″, f/5.6, ISO 400. Speedlite fired in E-TTL with 0 FEC.

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