Monday, July 27, 2009

Birthday invitation part 2: the shot

So we got to the park and I had to rush to catch the last rays of sunset. I pulled out my lightstand, attached a convertible umbrella in shoot-through mode. I found a tree with some sunlit grass in the background and positioned the light stand near the tree and tried to cajole our son into running around the tree into the direction I wanted. But he was just running everywhere and wasn't anywhere near the position I was thinking of.

With time running out, we tried to improvise and just went for a less specific shot of him near the tree. Before taking the shot, I made sure I was in RAW mode to give me maximum latitude for postprocessing. I set ISO at 200 as an approximation of what I thought to be the appropriate ISO for the amount of light available. I set the metering mode to matrix, and set the exposure mode to Program because I was in a hurry. I wanted the umbrella to be the key and the ambient to the be the fill, so I
1. set exposure compensation to -1.3 stops
2. set flash exposure compensation to +1 stop.
With the Nikon flash system, the exposure comp affects the flash metering as well, so to keep the flash exposure normal, I would have had to add +1.3 stops. However, I intentionally underexposed by 1/3 of a stop to avoid blown highlights.

It would have also been possible to use the ambient as key and the flash as fill, but that combination would have made the background less saturated with color.

Straight out of the cam, the shot needed improvement.

With respect to composition, I was a bit surprised, because I usually make a conscious effort not to put the subject in the exact middle, but that's where his face was. Too bad - it would have been nicer to see his shoes... The colors were also off - not at all what the scene looked to my eyes. (Just a couple of minutes of postprocessing can fix that, as I discuss in my next entry.) But it was more or less ok.

With at least one "safe" shot in my pocket, I was free to experiment. We let our son play in the grass. With him running around, I all but abandoned the light stand. I was pleased with how some of the shots turned out after a little postprocessing.

I liked the light in this one, but shutter speed was way too slow, so the image came out blurry. Mental note to bump up ISO next time.