Question on outdoor daylight fill flash

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by AZLF, Apr 6, 2006.

  1. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    I'm shooting a wedding this month and I found out it will be outdoors at about 3:00 pm. Further I found out this week the bride wants the "formal" shots to be done at the same location this Sunday.

    My question is:

    I have read that for "fill" flash outdoors you meter as if the flash was not present and then lower the aperture by one stop. But is this for when the flash is either on top of or close to the camera? I detest the look of frontal, on or very near camera flash and had planned to take along a stand and umbrella and position them as a true fill light to the ambient sunlight. But so far I have not figured out how I would determine a correct exposure. I'm probably missing something very simple here. Can someone "splain" it to me?

    I will be using a Mamiya 645 for the shoot and it syncs at a 60th. I will be using Portra 160 film. The flash I will take is a Sunpak 611. I have a Gossen Luna star F meter that will meter incident,reflected and flash as soon as I can figure out what to do.
     
  2. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

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    Fill flash experience

    First, I'd absolutely do some tests beforehand. It's a wedding, and if you do your test on the job you'll surely regret it.

    Second, my experience with fill flash.

    1. In general, if you want it to look fairly 'natural', you want a little less flash output (or fill) than the ambient light is giving you. You meter read the sunny part of the picture (like with an incident meter), and you'll probably get something 'fairly' close to f16 at a shutter speed that is fairly close to your filmspeed on a sunny day(sunny 16 rule...I realize that I am oversimplifying, but bear with me).

    2. If you're shooting ASA 160, that shutter speed won't work because of your 1/60 max flash sync (a lot of people who do this kind of work regularly use leaf shutters or cameras that sync at faster speeds for this very reason). So, you need to calculate down to 1/60. Using the example above that would mean something like f22 or so. I usually prefer to err on the side of slight overexposure for color neg.

    3. Then, figure out how to make enough flash hit the subjects to get a reading of one stop less (in my example here, f16 at 1/60 with ASA 160 film). You can manipulate the amount of flash hitting the subject in some cases by dialing it down, by setting an automatic setting, by leaving it on manual and moving it away from the subject, or by using an umbrella. I like using an umbrella if I have enough power, as it makes the light a little softer and more natural. Several companies, like Calumet, offer devices that allow you to mount a flash and an umbrella on a light stand.

    Now, some personal observations. If you're not experienced with some aspect of your gear or its use, it becomes a real anchor on creativity in a wedding situation. The Keep It Simple Silly Rule really applies doubly for these stressful, must-get-the-picture situations. I have frequently, before I got fairly good at fill flash outdoors, gotten back pictures that either had too much fill and looked very artificial or too little. Experiment and test before the shoot. You will have more control, with a camera that syncs at a higher speed. The best bridal and bride and groom portraits I've done were in softer Northern light in a quiet place away from the reception.

    I hope that helps. Good luck.
    Neal
     
  3. darr

    darr Subscriber

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    AZLF: I shot weddings and other special events professionally for 15 years. Here was my tried and true recipe for fill flash with shutter drag. This is using a Hasselblad 500CM with on camera and if necessary 2 stands with Vivitar 285s w/Quantum batteries. I would drag the shutter for the background ambient light when indoors and outdoors. Typical setup: Negative film 160 asa set @ 100 asa, Meter the background, an example would be f/5.6 @1/30th, with this example I would set the lens f/5.6, lights set at f8 and I would always leave these portable lights in the "wide" position with the plastic diffusers on to help scatter and diffuse the light. I think your camera is a leaf shutter is it not?
     
  4. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Neal's explanation is good, but let me take a different tack. Essentially, you want to use a combination of shutter speed and f-stop that will balance between the ambient and falsh components of the total exposure. With a sync speed of only 1/60, you'll be pretty limited because to make the ambient look right/normal, your f-stop will be fairly small. That means the flash may be limited as to how far away you can be and have enough output to match the small f-stop (f11 or f16-ish, to use Neal's example).

    If your Sunpak has auto mode an f-stop setting and compensation, you might use that, setting the compensation to a stop or two down from normal. Watch the distance range the flash says it can handle, though, to make sure you shoot within those distances.
     
  5. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    Thank you all for the input. I also have a Mamiya C-3 which does have a leaf shutter. That takes care of one problem. The wedding is not this weekend. It is the 21st. I'm shooting the bridal shower Saturday (indoors) and the formal shots Sunday at the same location where the wedding will be held. Thankfully all of the events will be at about the same time of day so I'm thinking of asking the bride to step outside Saturday and shoot some tests in 35mm with my proposed lighting setup. I can have the 35mm processed same day and have a much better idea on how to proceed Sunday.

    Again thank you for you suggestions and comments.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I wouldn't shoot the test shots with a different type of camera then the one I used for the wedding itself - especially if the wedding camera has a leaf shutter, and the "test" camera does not.

    I've shot a lot of outdoor weddings with a Mamiya C330. The following is based on my experience with on camera or near on camera flash. In most cases, a single flash or, at most, one additional light on a stand or held by an assistant. In many cases, the pace of weddings prevents anything fancier.

    My rule of thumb approach - if you can avoid it, no shots in full-on sunlight. Where possible, shoot in open shade. If that is not possible, use the ambient light/sunlight as a backlight.

    If in open shade, meter normally, and set your f stop and shutter speed to a combination that permits an f stop that your flash is capable of lighting.

    If your subject is backlit, meter for the sunlight side, and set your shutter speed and f stop combination to over-expose by about 1/2 stop, again choose a combination that permits an f stop that your flash is capable of lighting.

    Use an automatic flash with a fair amount of power that you are confident exposes accurately in automatic mode. A small flash won't put out enough light to let you shoot at more than close distances.

    Set the automatic setting on the flash as follows:

    1) if the subject is in open shade, you are just trying to add some 'kick" to the image. Accordingly, the f stop on the flash should be set at one to two stops larger than the f stop on the camera (if your meter suggests f/8, set your camera to f/8, but set the flash range to either f/4 or f/5.6);

    2) if the subject is backlit, your fill flash is much more important, and supplies much more of the light necessary to give you detail in your photos. Accordingly, the f stop on the flash should be set between the setting on the camera and, at most, one stop larger than the f stop on the camera (if your meter suggests f/8 for the backlight, set your camera to f/8, but set the flash range to either f/5.6 or f/8 or somewhere in between);

    3) use a lenshood, and watch for flare - especially with a TLR, when the sun can spill into the taking lens, even when it isn't spilling into the viewing lens;

    4) try to avoid situations when the sun is streaming directly into the sensor on the flash.

    The task of balancing the flash to the ambient light is tricky, and requires dependable equipment that you are familiar with. I wouldn't discourage you from using fill flash at a wedding, but unless you have used it a fair bit, and are very comfortable with how it works with your equipment, I would make sure that I shot using a variety of different light, so that if some don't come out, there are others that do.

    Good luck, and have fun!

    Matt
     
  7. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    Thank you Matt for pointing out what should have been obvious. If I shoot test shots with the 35mm with a fp shutter then I'm back to square one for the formal shots if using the C-3. However, If I shoot tests with the 35mm with the same asa film and the same sync speed (1/60th) as I use for the formal shots and THEN use the 645 I would have a better idea of what to expect.

    I'm with you on the direct sunlight. In Arizona it is brutal and I had planned on finding some open shade for the bride/groom shots to be done this Sunday. I know the location and there is some nice shade available.

    I've seen examples of the sun as back light and that may offer some possibilities as well.

    I had not planned on having an assistant for the actual wedding and all of this effort is to try and get away from shooting with the flash on the camera which I have done in the past at other weddings. It gets the job done but I don't care for the look. I can come up with an assistant and if that is what it takes so be it.

    Again thanks to all of the experienced hands for the comments.
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you've got a C-3 with leaf shutter lenses, I'd use it for outdoor fill flash.

    Another option is to use a reflector for fill instead of flash.
     
  9. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    Yes as mentioned, just do an ambient reading for your subject and your fill flash should manually fire 2-3 stops under the main reading.

    In dullish days it is very easy to overcook the fill. My printer suggested not using fill-flash or very little as modern films have excellent detail in shadow areas.

    Try a test roll using transparency film to test your equipment under different lighting conditions.
     
  10. Buster6X6

    Buster6X6 Member

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    Hi AZLF
    You can also try to go to www.popphoto.com and look for "Fillflash cheat sheet" it is very informative. It is in pdf file so you can save it.
    Take a look
    Greg
     
  11. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    I downloaded the file.
    Thanks.