How to Shoot Portraits Outdoors Using Ambient Light and a Strobe

Shooting outdoors during the day has its own set of challenges, and shooting with a strobe can also be tricky if you’ve never used one before. In this video, Craig Beckta shows us an easy way to combine both types of lighting for a well lit portrait while also using a neutral density (ND) filter:

Beckta uses a 3-stop ND filter, which allows him to shoot outdoors in the middle of the day using a wider aperture setting. He gives us simple steps to take before starting to shoot with ambient light and a strobe combined.

strobe park setup

1. Meter the Background

First take a test shot of the background without the strobe. Either use a light meter or use your camera to check the histogram and make sure your highlights aren’t blown out.

without strobe

Meter for the background first.

2. Meter the Strobe

Have your subject hold a light meter and take a test shot with a strobe. A light meter is more accurate for checking the strength of your strobe.

model light meter

Take a meter reading with the strobe.

3. Check Your Exposure

If your test shots were exposed properly and your highlights aren’t over-exposed, you can begin your shoot.

strobe and ambient light

ISO 64, 1/60 second,  f/1.8, 3-stop ND filter

Beckta shot with an ND filter using these settings:

  • ISO 64
  • 1/60 of a second
  • f/1.8

Get outside and give it a try!

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One response to “How to Shoot Portraits Outdoors Using Ambient Light and a Strobe”

  1. Joanne Tunbridge says:

    Thank you this was fantastic to watch and really something to learn from. Lots for me to think about from this.

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