Balancing Strobes with Natural Window Light for Photos

A common statement that people make when looking at images taken with flash is about how unnatural the images appear. That happens when the light from the flash is not mixing well with the ambient natural light. When done correctly, natural light and fill flash together can create beautiful images. Daniel Norton from Adorama explains how you can work with natural light and flash to take your flash photography to the next level:

Lighting Setup

Norton has his model stand with the bright windows as her background. In order to balance the light from the windows, he has a Profoto B10 Plus placed to the side of the model. He uses a V-flat to bounce the light off the flash to mimick window light.  Placing the flash with the v-flat on the side and not in front of the model is important so that the lighting doesn’t appear artificial.

lighting setup for natural looking flash photography

Balancing Exposure for Natural Looking Images

In studio flash photography, you’d generally start off by adjusting your settings that you get a black frame first. This way, only the flash affects your photos which is one of the prime reasons why the photos appear artificial. So, for natural looking images, the idea is to start off by exposing for the highlights when using flash.

In his case, Norton first starts off by exposing for the bright windows behind the model. This way, he is able to capture the details on the curtains, while the model appears as a silhouette.

exposing for highlights

Then, he adds in some fill-light by turning the flash on. The key now is to adjust the flash power and aperture settings in a way that the image appears as natural as possible.

image with flash turned on

If you want the image to appear moody, you can try lowering the flash power or increasing the shutter speed. By doing so, the subject will be a bit underexposed, adding a different mood to the image.

moody natural flash photography

If you’re struggling with getting natural looking results when using flash, give this method a try. While it is not rocket science, it will definitely make you images look a whole lot better.

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