A recent post in the Viewfinders Facebook group brought up the subject of flash vs natural light. This is indeed an “emotional” topic, with proponents and denigrators on both sides.
Personally, I take the view that light is light (I’m a physicist by degree), and – as a photographer – you need to be able to work with the light where it is and it’s perfectly acceptable to augment it, if you have to, by artificial means. After all, photography is itself an “artificial” process, but that does not mean to say we cannot turn nature to advantage…
As a response to the discussion I posted a very brief description of a photo shoot I had done that very day. “Portraits, outside. Using flash.” Yep… Here is the set-up.
A bright sunny day, so the model needs to be in the shade somehow. A garden shed provided shade and, actually, quite a nice and rustic setting for the shot. A hedge in the background gave a contrasting plane behind the model, who was peeping out from behind the shed.
Knowing that, without intervention, this arrangement would look a little dull, I got a trusty assistant to hold a gold (for warmth) reflector to illuminate the subject. This gives some directionality to the light, so a nice level of contrast to the general picture.
To be sure that there are nice catch-lights in the oh-so-important eyes (used as the target for manually selected, centre-point auto-focus), I use a flash. Not pointing at the subject – that would be too much here: we don’t want to interfere with the natural illumination – but at 90 degrees, using the little pop-up catch-light card in the flash itself. This creates just enough of a bright source to give a specular reflection on the eye, without actually changing the illumination much (if at all).
Another problem in settings like this is colour temperature. Portraits in the shade on bright sunny days have quite a cold, bluish cast (the light source is in effect the beautiful blue sky). Selecting a “Shade” pre-set colour balance can help, but given the context I wanted quite a strong, warm glow on the subject: hence the choice of a gold reflector.
However, the “shadow” side of the face is illuminated by the diffuse light from above and behind. So, it was darker (no issue really), but also rather blue. The light source illuminating from behind was of course the sky, which makes for a quite dowdy-looking shadow-side of the face. Given time (and a very patient model), I could have gone back and set up (for example) a remote triggered flash with suitable gel to fill in from behind, and adjusted it to cancel the blue shadow light and lift the level of the “dark side of the face” some (phew!), but that would have really been trying the patience of the model. This kind of tweak is faster and easier to do “in post”.
So, into Capture One Pro. Basic adjustments done (very few – just limit a slight blown-out highlight on the sliver jacket, really), a mask applied to the “too dark” areas of the face to lighten it a little and, using the same mask, the colour-temperature shifted towards the red to provide just enough compensation to do the job.
Because I like taking portraits.
Especially of little angels…
Other adjustments: A small scar on the face removed using the “spot removal” tool, which is great for quick fixing such things (it seems that little angels can fall off bicycles sometimes, too), plus some bird poo on the shed removed by cloning a piece of the shed over itself, and some “clarity” tweaking to taste. Out of 50 shots in this short shoot, 8 were selected by the client. Total selecting/processing time a little over 30 minutes together with the client, who took away the JPEGS exported from Capture One Pro in two resolutions on a USB stick. Job done.