Balancing Strobes & Daylight for Portrait Photography

Many beginning photographers think of strobes as devices to be used when there is a lack of light in the scene. However, they can also be used to emphasize or compliment the existing light. In fact, a balance of natural light and strobes often produces some of the best images. In this tutorial, photographer Jay P. Morgan demonstrates how to blend your strobe light and ambient light together to provide a natural and beautiful look:

Balancing the ambient and strobe light may seem difficult, but it is actually very easy. The key is your shutter speed. Assuming your aperture and ISO stay the same, you can change your shutter speed to affect the ambient light without affecting the strobe light. This is because the strobe light fires faster than whatever your shutter speed is (up to a certain speed).

So whether you shoot at 1/10 of a second or 1/200 of a second, your strobe will have flashed on and off in between the time your shutter opens and closes. If you need your flash to be brighter or dimmer, you can simply change the power of the flash. With this in mind, you can balance almost any scene with the appropriate flash power and shutter speed.

strobe only daylight shutter speed

This first shot was captured with a high shutter speed to show how the strobe lights the scene

strobe ambient light slow shutter speed

This second photo was captured with a slower shutter speed to blend the strobe in with the daylight

In this shoot, Morgan uses a large softbox light to not simply add light to the scene, but to exaggerate it. He places the strobe in a position and angle similar to that of the sun so that, in the photo, it appears to be strong sunlight. To do this, he simply meters for the ambient light and then increases the power of the strobe until he gets the amount of light that he likes.

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One response to “Balancing Strobes & Daylight for Portrait Photography”

  1. Great Video.. interesting

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