eTTL for Studio Portraits Part II: Real Clients, Real Portraits

In my last post on using speedlites in eTTL for portraits, I showed how you really can create soft, pleasing studio lighting via the combination of speedlites, softboxes and RadioPopper transmitters to keep the camera and speedlite eTTL communication intact.  You might be thinking, “Hey, that’s nice for messing around and experimenting, but you wouldn’t do that for real work for real clients, would you?”  Oh, ye of little faith.  I like a challenge.

The day I posted the last blog article (blarticle?), I had an in-studio engagement session schedule for Daniel and Bauj.  When they came in I asked them if they were cool with my experimenting with some new equipment during their session.  They said they were game for anything, so the Flash Fu test was on!

I started off with a simple background to complement their outfits.  Then, I set up my standard studio lighting…except in this case, I replaced my Larson Softbox/Alien Bee Strobe combinations with Canon speedlites in Creative Light softboxes:  580 EXII with a RadioPopper PX in a 5′ CL Octabox as my key/main light (slave group A); 580 EXII with a RadioPopper PX in a 2′ CL Square Box (slave group B); and a 430EXII in IR Slave mode in a CL 1×3 Stripbox attached to an extension arm on a c-stand for my hair light (slave group b).  I also brought in a shiny silver 4x8ish floor-standing reflector opposite the key for a little fill.  (See the diagram for setup.)

Michael Mowbray Flash Fu eTTL speedliteMichael Mowbray Flash Fu eTTL speedlite

Here’s where it gets interesting and a little cool:  I set

my shutterspeed to 1/160th to knock down any stray ambient light in the studio; I set my aperture to anywhere between 5.6 and 7.1, depending on the shot; I set my ISO to 400 just to allow the speedlites to use less power and thus recycle faster; finally, I knew that I wanted to create a little dynamic ratio between my key light and my accent lights, so I initially set my ST-E2 transmitter to a 4:1 ratio A:B.  Meaning, that I wanted my A slaves (the key light only) to output light in a 4:1 ratio brighter than the B slaves.   I left the speedlites alone at that point…I wanted the camera and the speedlites to “talk” and work everything else out based on my desired f-stop and my desired lighting ratio.  This point is key, and the primary reason to even consider using speedlites in the studio:  I could at any point dictate my f-stop and my lighting ratio, and the camera and speedlites would automatically work it out.  So think about it:  with the camera to my eye, I could shoot one shot with a shallow DOF (let’s say, F4) and then with the camera still at my eye, I could shoot the same shot with a deeper DOF like F8.  The speedlites would automatically adjust their output based on my desired f-stop.  Let’s take this one step further.  I could shoot one shot with a standard portrait lighting ratio of 2:1 or 4:1 key to accents.  What if I wanted to do something edgier?  Like, strong edge lighting and switching my key to front fill?  I could just swap my ratio from 4:1 A:B to something like 1:4 A:B.  All from camera, all in just a few seconds without needing to run to each light and making an adjustment.  Ah….now do you see the light?

One other nice feature:  I set my camera to “Flash” white balance, which was pretty much dead on since this particular white balance is setup for speedlites! The images shown are primarily SOOC and process through Lightroom without exposure corrections.

Want to learn more about using your speedlites off camera in both manual and eTTL modes?  Want to see how to perfectly blend multiple speedlites in one image?  Want to find out how to neutralize the effects of full sun with your speedlite?  Or, do you want to learn just how to turn the puppy on and use it?  All these questions and many more will be answered in my upcoming Flash Fu black belt workshop: Flash Dancing.  The tentative date is Sunday, August 22.  More details and booking information to come soon!

Michael Mowbray Flash Fu eTTL speedliteMichael Mowbray Flash Fu eTTL speedliteMichael Mowbray Flash Fu eTTL speedlite

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