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Exposing for the Son

Exposing for the Son
Tristan his son Phoenix are currently fundraising for “Ride the Rideau” in support of Cancer Research. You can donate to them here & look for their article in an upcoming issue of Kitchissippi Times.

Lighting it

There are plenty of natural light photographers, the good ones can work in any conditions, but even they are likely to admit the best times of the day to shoot are early morning, sunset, or somewhere in the shade. Even I prefer to seek it out because it is much more flattering (even and soft) light for my subjects.

But I don’t always get to pick the time or place, if I’m shooting editorial, or executive portraits I get to work when and where the client says I work. This is why I’ve invested time and money over the years in several portable flash setups to bring on location with me. It allows me to work under harsher light conditions while givingmy images a look and ‘pop’ that I personally prefer (and hope you like too).

There are a number of ways to do this, and not all of them cost a fortune. Indeed, you can probably get a lot of the way there just by using the flash built into your camera. In fact, I’d say that’s the ONLY time I use a pop-up flash. Quick fill on a really bright day can help get light into your subjects eyes that would look dark due to a hard overhead sun.

Portable Speedlights

Of course I play a bigger game than that and will travel *light* (see what I did there?) with 3-5 speedlight flashes with the intent of getting them off my camera and into places I want to light my subjects. Sometimes, to create enough power to get the exposure I need (like here), I will group all the flashes together to create a single, strong, burst of light. Sometimes it’s just to get a few different lights in the right place to light my subject(s) accrodingly (like in the image in this post – taken for the next issue of the Kitchissippi times).


If and when more power is needed, to flat-out beat the sun into submission, i bring out my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra kit, which I’ve written about at length on Tiffinbox and was what I used to light the bridal party in my last post.

Quinn & Mel photographed using a single off-camera Flash (580exII) triggered using the Pocket wizard mini-tt1 & Flex-TT5, used a Lumiquest SBIII
as a mod.

I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t first looking for shade in these situations too, though, because I can better control my exposure and I avoid un-evenness due to the sun. But in a pinch, we can always put the sun at our subjects backs which, naturally, will then cast a shadow on their face. You can fill that forward shadow with reflectors – sending the light back at them – or see if a few hundred watt-seconds of lighting power will do the trick, or simply create some shade of your own.


All these lighting possibilities wouldn’t even exist if you didn’t have a MEANS of triggering your flash, to which there are no shortage of options, but seeing as I’m LONG overdue for a post on what I use – perhaps that will be another update in the coming month. In the meantime, you can read one way of triggering flashes via a TTL cord here or about the different softboxes & light modifiers I use here.

update: you can see this image larger, with a lighting diagram on Flickr

2 thoughts on “Exposing for the Son

  1. Ross Brown says:

    I love using my flash outside on bright, sunny days, when there are mixes of light and shadow. Despite the funny looks I get.

    Nice post. Great example shots.

  2. Tristan says:

    I really like the 'pop'. I thought that was simply the way your display screen presented it when I saw the image in the park.