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Strobist: outdoor family portrait session

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by Uncle Frank, May 14, 2007.

  1. I shot some family portraits at the lake yesterday. It was my first attempt to use off-camera flash for a payjob, and, frankly, I felt it turned a simple shoot into an overly complicated the session. The problem is, I have too much gear, and couldn't decide on what to use. So I brought too much, and spent too much time fiddling with gear instead of working with the clients. And it showed in the results, which are pretty well illuminated but below my standards for poses and expressions.

    For most of the shots, I set up a stand at camera left, and shot an sb800 through an umbrella as the main, with an sb800 in hand, topped with a 5x7" Lumiquest Softbox, for fill.

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    In hindsight, I don't think shooting through an umbrella made sense for a daytime outdoor shoot, because it took too much power. And a softbox wasn't necessary for the fill light. I just needed one big umbrella I could use to bounce light for the main, and an sb800 on a flash bracket for fill.

    Note: for fill, the better approach would be to put the sb800 on a tall stand, but dealing with 2 light stands is too complicated at my current stage of development. Maybe later.
  2. Frank, great thread.

    I think using a softliter for fill would be perfect. I tried it for key, and could only get f4 out of it (it was at about 3.5' from the model at a 45 degree angle). But outside as fill for ambient as key would be perfect...dial down the exposure to darken the background and shoot the SB800 into the softliter...should be perfect balance...

    OTOH, I think Fred (frede) has just started to shoot outdoors with a reflector for fill...that's my next project...learn to shoot with a reflector outside...maybe that's something to think about...especially given your comments about too much gear.


  3. Since I normally position my subjects so they're in the the shade, the ambient is non-directional and low level. So I was thinking of an approach where the flash would be used for the key, and the ambient for fill. In that case, wouldn't bouncing out of a silvered umbrella be my best approach?
  4. Best approach for maximizing use of light? Probably.

    Best approach for non-directional, soft key light? Maybe not. Bouncing out of a silvered umbrella will give a little harsher light (more contrasty...like the light straight from the SB800), whereas when you shoot through the translucent umbrella it's softer and less directional...it "wraps" around your subject a little more. The softbox will do the same type of thing...much less directional, less contrast, softer light. But that all comes at the expense of power and lighting ability.

    But, it all depends on what you're trying to achieve. Looking at your shots above (in direct sunlight), my thought was that a reflector might be another alternative to flash. You could also play around with gold reflectors late in the afternoon to give more of a warm feel, or white reflectors in the middle of the day to give a softer fill than flash...JMHO...
  5. jfriend


    Nov 11, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    White balance seems way off on this one. IMO, with a color tweak to remove blue and get the Yellow up to the Magenta, this is one of the best of the bunch in terms of both lighting and expression.
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