Strobist: Outdoor family portraits

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I tried a one flash rig for some family portraits today. It was a neighbor's party, so it was a good opportunity to experiment with no pressure to deliver.

I positioned the subjects in open shade, used an sb800 on a raised lightstand at camera left for the main, and shot it through my new 45" umbrella. I used the su800 as the trigger. Here's a few samples.

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Lessons learned:

1. Using a tent stake and a bungy cord to hold down the light stand worked like a charm! Even with gusty winds, the light stand was as solid as a rock:).

2. I need to carry a backup battery for my su800 in the future. I've only owned it for 6 weeks, but I've given it a lot of use, and the battery ran out of juice, necessitating a trip to the drugstore. Can't let that happen during a wedding!

3. Some of my pictures were pretty underexposed. I think I may have been pushing the limits of my sb800, trying to use it as the main through a 45" umbrella. I'll have to try it in bounce mode and see if the results are any better.
 
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Frank have you tried a Brolly box yet? I was just wondering how it compares to shooting through a translucent umbrella.

Great shots by the way
 
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Frank have you tried a Brolly box yet? I was just wondering how it compares to shooting through a translucent umbrella.
I haven't got my hands on one yet, but there's something very much like a Brolly on the way to me from ebay as we speak. But for outdoor use, I don't think there's any difference between shooting through an umbrella or shooting through a Brolly.
 
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Be sure to let us know how you like the imitation Brolly.

I don't think there's any difference between shooting through an umbrella or shooting through a Brolly.
I might have been mistaken, but I thought I read that brolly box had a reflective service on the backside, to increase light output. I might be thinking of something else.
 
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Frank, the lighting on these is superb. Nicely done.

I also find that I have to push the exposure on my main llight when using the SB800 bounced of an umbrella or through my softlighter using my SU800 as the trigger. This really doesn't make any sense to me. Shouldn't CLS automatically adjust the output to expose properly? I'm usually +1 on my main light. This has always bothered me!

I've also been stung by the dead battery in the SU800. It goes without any warning. I now carry 2 spares at all times.
 
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Frank

Very nice, and well up to your standards. Too bad that Frank and Nancy didn't get their portrait taken.
 
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The lighting on these is very nice Frank...soft and flattering. Shooting in open shade really makes a big difference, eh?

I might have been mistaken, but I thought I read that brolly box had a reflective service on the backside, to increase light output.
Fred is right. There is a silver reflective material on the back side...at least on the brollies I got from Alien Bees.

Because a brolly is enclosed, there is no light spill and any light reflected off the front is bounced back on to your subject as well...which is why I much prefer the brollies outside. This light spill and reflection off a shoot-thru may explain the underexposures you mentioned also, as the SB-800 should be able to handle these shots (f/4-5.6) with no problem. But there could be a couple of other factors as well. Remember, when you use FP mode you're going to lose some power. Also, how far away was your umbrella? As a general rule, the closer the better. Were you using iTTL? If so, it can be fooled from time to time. If your exposures are inconsistent, switching the flash to manual will fix it straight away. Actually...manual really is better, but I'm lazy sometimes and if the TTL seems to be doing its thing, I run with it.
 
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Remember, when you use FP mode you're going to lose some power. Also, how far away was your umbrella? As a general rule, the closer the better. Were you using iTTL? If so, it can be fooled from time to time. If your exposures are inconsistent, switching the flash to manual will fix it straight away.
Good points. I was shooting in manual (at full power), but I had left the sync speed in high speed mode. I just checked, and all my shutter speeds were over 1/250, which means FP sync was used, reducing the effective power of the flash. Good catch, Ray.
 
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No problem man.

I think the FP combined with the shoot-thru, is what caused your underexposures. But also, how far away was your umbrella? Because even considering the above two factors, to need full power seems a bit much for f/4.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, great idea about the tent stake!
 
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I think the FP combined with the shoot-thru, is what caused your underexposures. But also, how far away was your umbrella? Because even considering the above two factors, to need full power seems a bit much for f/4.
Maybe 4-5 feet away from the person at the center of the bench.
 
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