As photographers, our desire for unique and impactful imagery often begins with us moving outside our comfort zones, exploring new techniques, and incorporating personal stories and styles.
Recently, amidst the numerous unhealthy air quality alerts I have received in NYC, I found myself motivated and inspired to create and raise awareness about the severe climate change and air pollution issues plaguing our world. I envisioned a series of photographs set in a flower field, symbolizing clean air and offering respite from our environmental challenges.
However, with the constraints of being in NYC without a flower field, I set out to experiment with bringing this vision to life using a combination of flash and constant lights in my small home studio and used what I had available to me (a bunch of dead, dried flowers; the irony.)
The Purpose Behind the Imagery
Amidst the orange-polluted sunset skies and air quality alerts that have recently dominated much of North America, I intended to create imagery that highlights the significance of clean air and the consequences of its scarcity. I started by conceptualizing a mood board that embodied the struggle to breathe, and I sought to capture the essence of a flower field – where there is hope of clean air.
Crafting the lighting setup
To bring my vision to life, I combined flash and constant lights to create a dynamic and eerie hazy-golden sunset. In my home studio, I positioned two equally spaced Elinchrom FIVE lights at my white ceiling to establish a balanced, subdued base exposure and a neutral canvas for my idea. I also wanted to try something new and attempt a creative challenge for myself, so I combined a constant light and a slower shutter speed.
I brought a Nanlite Forza 60B with a small Softbox and set it up very low to the ground to be my ‘sunset’ light. By carefully diffusing the light using layers of diffusion material and adjusting the color temperature to 3100K, I created a beautiful, warm glow that harmonized with the cooler tones of the flash.
I am sharing here some unedited images to help visualize and demonstrate what my lighting looked like with only the flash firing, an example photo with only the constant lights on, and the results of combining the two types of light:
When using this technique, it’s important to set your shutter speed slow enough to capture the ambient light of the constant lights but not so slow that your subject is completely blurry. You should experiment here and adjust the shutter speed up or down depending on the specific lighting conditions.
I opted for a shutter speed of 1/60 second for this shoot and an aperture of f/2.8. This allowed me to capture the ambient light from the constant lights while also creating a shallow depth of field that blurred the foreground and background and helped to make the subject stand out.
One of the challenges of recreating sunset lighting in a studio is getting an even exposure. I found that shooting into a white ceiling with my lights positioned at equal distances from myself and the camera helped to create that even exposure while also reflecting the light from my constant lights back onto my subject. This resulted in a beautiful and balanced image that captured the essence of the warm glow of sunset.
The synergy of flash & constant lights
Combining flash and constant lights can be a powerful tool in a photographer’s toolkit. Beyond the ability to experiment and push creative boundaries, this technique provides the best of both worlds. Combining the sharpness and precision of strobe lighting with the unique qualities of continuous lighting, we can capture stunning images with complete control over light intensity, sharpness, color temperature, and shadows.
When you use constant and strobe lights together – you get that much more control in the end results and unlock endless creative possibilities.
From replicating the golden hour’s magical glow to exploring dramatic contrasts and freeze-frame effects, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in camera. By adapting and manipulating light, we can shape the mood and atmosphere of our photographs and create captivating visual narratives.
The art and experience of mixing flash and constant lights provide us with a toolkit for boundless creativity. Through thoughtful experimentation, we can transform ordinary settings into extraordinary images. So get out there and do not be afraid to try something new and brainstorm ways you may be able to use your craft as a medium for personal or even societal change. I can’t wait to see what you create!
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The FIVE is a battery monolight with 522Ws of power, allowing you to work on location with up to 450 full-power flashes. The Elinchrom FIVE features TTL, HSS, a bi-color LED modeling light, and a removable battery.
TTL, HSS and Hi-Sync all in one. The Elinchrom Transmitter Pro is more than a trigger for flash units, it’s the key to a whole new world of possibilities.
The Elinchrom FIVE has been awarded the prestigious TIPA World Award 2023 in the Best Portable Flash category.
Though it may seem intricate and daunting, achieving a cinematic look isn’t as complicated as you might think.