Lighting the dramatical location portrait

To start something quite new here on this blog; I’m gonna give a pretty detailed guide / tutorial how to expose / shoot dramatical portraits with flashes on location,

Obviously the most important thing when lighting on location is your balance between flash and ambient light.  For now Im gonna go over how I expose my images when I want my flash light to completely take control over the light on the model, and how to make those flashy dramatic skies.

What you need to do this is simply a camera and a external flash (you can even use it mounted on the camera, although that isnt something Id recomend, but it works!).

When exposing my location shots, what I do is underexpose the background quite a bit. Perhaps 2 – 3 stops. Then I use the flash light to fill in on the object Im shooting.

Here’s a example how one of my shots look when the flash is not firing (I do get a few of those 😛 Im pretty trigger happy, and shoot about 2 – 3 frames between every recharge or something like that 😛 )


Now, I have my sky perfectly exposed, and the general background, and the subject is pretty much all black. The background is underexposed. Now its time to add that flash.

Here Ive used a sigam flash on a OC cable, set to TTL in a small softbox, and this is how my image looks right out of Lightroom without any adjustments.


Heres a finished piece after editing from the same shoot:

What Ive done here is first to first bring in some of the highlights to get some more drawing in his face. Then Ive added some more color to the sky, with a gradient map (purple/orange), set to softlight, and Ive warmed up the entire image with my own Heat it up! action (wich you can find HERE(opens in new window)). To finish up Ive added a little contrast with a slight S-curve, and a small Highpass filter.


The problem with working with small flashes like I did here, is that they have a low power out put. So you cant really overrun the sun if its a bright day. So for my location work that requires more power, I also have a vagabond powerpack, and a ABR800 ringflash to match.

The good thing about my ABR is that it can be used as a ringflash:


(for this shot I used the same xposing technique I explained over, and its lit with a ABR800 used as a ringflash on my 1d mk ii, shot on 24mm, with the flash slightly tilted upwards)

Or I can use it as a decently soft lightsource with a umbrella:


(for this shot of robert, Ive used the ABR with a large shoo trough umbrella, placed just outside the frame)

Or I can use it as a single hard lightsource off-camera:


(shot of my dad, with the ABR without any modifier off camera, for a harsh, gritty look)

Ofcourse location work and dramatical portraits, aint all light, exposure and editing.

When I pick my lense for location work, I usually go a bit wider than I do in the studio. Especially if you want the sky to be a important part. It looks much more dramatical with a wide angle lense, from a low perspective. The lense I use is a 24-70 F2,8 and I find myself mostly using it mostly around 24 – 35 mm, and I prefer to go a little lower than in the studio, to get that larger-than-life look.  Its easier to get a dynamic shot with a wide angle.

Now heres a few more images that show my use of wide angle on locations.

_u1c5916(see how the vignett, sky and the foreground drags you in to her face? this is why I love wideangles=D )


And thats all for now; I’ll probably do a post on blending flash and ambient light later! So check back later =D


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