Two Stops Back


A friend of mine who I call the Quadfather, shoots HD video from remote quad-copters and we went to a local park to fly them around a bit. I took my camera and a couple of speedlights to see if I could get a couple of pictures of him in case he wanted to use them on his website.

Main Light

I started out shooting him without any speedlights and it looked really flat and since the sun was behind him off at an angle he was too dark if I tried to meter the ambient light. Off camera flash to the rescue! I put a speedlight at 1/2 power just outside of the camera’s view to the right shooting through a 43″ white umbrella to bring him up out of the shadows. I set the camera’s ISO to 400 and the shutter speed and aperture to around F11 with the goal in mind of getting the ambient light a couple of stops below the light from the flash. I’ve found that this can give a more dramatic look to the picture and reduce the background clutter. I also wanted the focus of the picture to be the quad-copter as well as to show his face, but not a ton more.

Rim Light

It was already looking good, but there was a little something missing. It needed some separation from the background on the other side from the umbrella, so I added just a kiss of light with another speedlight off to the side, camera left, which added a little bit of rim light. Now we’re cooking.

I really liked how this shot came out, and to me it’s due to simply underexposing the ambient light a couple of stops. I would have liked to throw the background out of focus using a wider aperture like F4.0 or F5.6, but my shutter speed sync just wouldn’t allow me to go any higher, even putting the ISO down to 200, my camera’s lowest setting, couldn’t tame the amount of ambient light. Having a neutral density filter could have helped, but since I don’t own one, it wasn’t an option.

Here’s the setup:



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