How to Balance Strobes with Sunlight in Photography

As photographers, we are always trying to capture photographs that pop. That is, images that combine depth and fine details. This short clip explains how to mix strobe lighting with ambient light to achieve just the right feel:

In this video tutorial, Jay P. Morgan demonstrates how to effectively use strobe lights to enhance the natural light of the sun. The lesson starts with a recap of essential exposure information, such as always working in manual mode to gain full control of the exposure settings. Morgan also suggests  starting on an ISO of 160 and make needed adjustments as the sun sets. For this photo shoot, the aperture was set to f8 which was maintained throughout the day and a light meter was used to determine the proper shutter speed. In this case, the exposure time was set to 1/30th of a second, again adjustments were made as the natural light changed. One last piece of of equipment Morgan used was an iPhone app called Sun Secrets, which helps photographers determine the suns locations at any given point of the day, enabling them to shoot at times in which the natural light is at its best.

Balancing Strobes with Daylight

After a the brief rundown of exposure details, Morgan explains to viewers the strobe light setup he used, detailing the location of each strobe and the effect it gave the photograph. His setup is as follows:

  • A single rim light, set at f8, was placed at camera left and aimed at the two subjects of this photograph. The purpose of the rim light is to outline the subjects and help separate them from the background.
  • A backlight, also at f8, was placed directly behind the subjects, just past the first rim rim light. This light was used to brighten the brick wall behind the subjects, creating depth.
  • Two strobe lights (f8) were used to light the broadside of the moving truck that is seen in the photographs to brighten it up and add interest. The light nearest the end of the truck not only lights the tailgate, but also serves as a brightener for the moving crate and the front side of the two subjects.
  • A second rim light (f8) was concealed on camera right from behind the truck to give the two subjects that last bit of pop from the background.
  • The last strobe used for this shoot was set on camera right and pointed at the building behind the subject to help brighten it and balance it with the rest of the image.

In summary, Morgans stresses the importance of using your aperture to control your strobe lighting and shutter speed to control the effects of the ambient light.

For Further Training on Supplemental Lighting in Photography:

These are the best books I have found; they contain extremely valuable information designed to help you learn and master the complicated art of adding artificial light to photography.

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7 Comments

  1. Could you please post the URL for “Sun Secrets” app. I was unable to find it on the App Store. :( Thanks a lot!

  2. Chris says:

    It seems like you were very PROUD to say you fired your assistant.

  3. Stan Kotecki says:

    Good Stuff. Direct & to the point. Extremely Valuable!

  4. bluzepher says:

    the app is called Sun Seeker for the iPhone or iPad

  5. bycostello says:

    dosn’t seem to want to play for me… :(

  6. Tiffany M says:

    @Jose, you can find the Sun Seeker app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sun-seeker-3d-augmented-reality/id330247123?mt=8

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