In my previous post, Window Silhouettes and Exposure Adjustments, I talked about how a simple change of shutter speed or ISO can bring out more detail from a window scene. There, we started with an all white (essentially blown out) scene outside the window, then lowered the exposure to allow the sky and clouds to be visible (essentially a proper exposure for the sky). By continuing to lower the exposure, you can reduce daylight to night. Adding in a thoughtful application of artificial light to the mix, you can create a variety of effects. The sunlight doesn’t have to be in control.
In most cases, you’re going to rely on flash/strobe lighting to make this work. Here is basic formula:
- Reduce Daylight. Adjust your camera settings just to the point that the daylight source is reduced to darkness. You have three exposure controls to consider: 1) Shutter Speed. This can be reduced to the fastest speed allowed by your camera when working with flash (your x-sync). 2) ISO. Whatever your camera’s lowest ISO setting is, use that. 3) Aperture/f-stop. Finally, adjust your f-stop until it looks like someone turned the natural lighting off.
- Add Flash. Next, bring in the flash lighting and simply adjust its power until you get a good exposure for your subject.
In the image above, you can see that the room was filled with lots a great natural light coming in through the windows. But by lowering my exposure settings to my camera’s flash sync speed of 1/250 sec, f/5.6 at ISO 100, I was able to reduce the natural light to darkness. I brought in a single Alien Bees B800 strobe at 1/4 power, modified with a shoot-through umbrella. As you can see in the next image, the strobe provided the light needed for the settings I was using.
In situations where you’re working with daylight, but would like to create images that appear to be taken at night, or you’re simply looking for a more controlled studio lighting look (see the two images below), all you need is a good application of this technique.
This is one of the reasons why I believe that even photographers who specialize in natural light shooting, should become proficient with flash/strobe; this combination of skills will give you the most versatility, allowing you to create any lighting look you want.Get tips, inspiration, and discounts in your inbox! Signup for our free newsletter here!