Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Flash Portrait in Fayoum Desert

Flash Portrait - End Result
I want to share with you a few flash pictures I took during my second trip to Fayoum desert, you might remember my three-part post about my visit there four months ago. I repeated most of what I did before, but challenged myself not to take a single picture similar to the ones I took last time.
When I posted the lead picture you see above on Facebook, it got some nice comments, so here's how I did it. Can you guess how many lights were used? Can you guess the light modifiers used?
 
I started by taking a normal picture using aperture priority, to show you how the available light looked like, we were sitting under a wooden roof with full 3pm sun blazing outside, as expected, the camera was tricked by the strong back light and under-exposed the subject, I opened the shadows in Lightroom.
 
 
Next, I turned the camera to manual mode, I wanted to decrease the available light exposure as much as I can, so I started by choosing the fastest shutter speed possible with flash (sync speed), which is 1/200 in my case, I also reduced the ISO as much as I can, which is ISO 50, finally I closed my aperture and taking test frames, I ended up with f/18, I decided that I want this ambient level judging from the histogram and the back LCD preview, here's the final setting without flash.
 
Ambient light reduced greatly, see the backlight?
 
See that backlight on both shoulders and the head cloth? They will end up in the final picture, they give an edge to the subject. Next, I triggered my Canon 580EX II using another speedlite (600EX-RT) on the camera with it's output turned off, I used the flash on ETTL (i.e. both the camera and the flash worked together to determine the correct flash power), and started shooting. One of my friends was holding the flash, bare, without any light modifiers, we took two or three frames until I got one I liked, here it is straight out of the camera.
 
SOOC
 
Almost there, I like the effect and the shadow covering his mid-section caused by his hand, but I find the eyes that you can see through the sun glasses and the flash reflection quite distracting, so I used the local adjustment brush on the sun glasses to decrease the exposure until it looked natural, and then I cloned out the remaining flash hot spot, and here's the end result for your convenience.
 
Final result
 
I took a similar picture of one of my other friends, using the exact same method and a bare flash as well, but no bright background this time, there was a shaded area behind his back, what I like about this picture is his look, the light shape on his face and eyes, and the black and white conversion.
 
Looking at the future
 
I followed the exact same method with an interesting looking mini-cart outside in the sun, I started by taking an available light shot, but with reduced exposure, can't remember how much, probably -2 EC.
 
 
It looked quite ok, but its color was too close to the sand and the walls behind it, so I turned to manual mode and decreased the ambient exposure, my settings were the same, 1/200, f/18 and ISO 50, here's what I got.
 
 
I then added an external bare flash to the camera right, and slightly higher, mimicking the sun's position, I adjusted the flash exposure compensation until I got this frame.
 
 
I like it more than the available light shot, but the wheels are quite dark, and I wanted to lift the shadows a bit, so I enabled the on-camera flash and set its power to 1/2 the power of the other flash (remember, I'm using ETTL, the camera determines the suitable flash power and then uses half that power for the on-camera flash), but that looked like too much, so I changed the ratio to 1/4 power, and here's the end result, with almost no processing, a few tweaks in the color and some burning using the adjustment brush would yield a better image, but I just wanted to share the concept with you.
 
Final image
 
And just for kicks here's one more picture taken in the same way, I hope you've enjoyed this post. Any questions are welcome.
 
Hanging pot