How to Shoot Portraits with a Mix of Strobe and Natural Light

Mixing strobes with natural light is an exciting proposition. Bring in a few CTO (color temperature orange) gels and you have yourself a really fun working setup for environmental portraits. But why stop at that? Strobes are fun to use in bright outdoor conditions, as well. In this video, photographer Adam Angelides shows us how he blends natural light with strobes while photographing a couple of models at an airfield:

Mimicking the Golden Hour

For the first shot, Angelides fires a strobe through some small window latches. He preps the strobe, a Profoto B1, with an OCF (CTO) gel to produce a warm color—something that you would associate with sunsets. The result is this intense looking portrait.

Strobe and natural light mixed

Environmental portraits mixing strobe and natural light

For the next portrait, Angelides uses a large softbox—the Profoto Deep. For this shot, he uses the natural light coming through a large window and balances it with the softbox to produce a more natural look.

balancing ambient light and strobe

The ambient light was balanced in this shot using the strobe.

High-Speed Sync

For the second location, the runway, Angelides uses the high-speed sync function on the Profoto. High-speed sync breaks the flash-sync speed limitation of 1/250 or 1/200 of a second and enables the photographer to use such insane shutter speeds of 1/8000 of a second. High-speed sync enables the photographer to drop the ambient light considerably, even in bright conditions such as this. At the same time, the model is illuminated properly against a backdrop of the bright sky.

High-speed sync and ambient exposure

High-speed sync can reduce the ambient exposure.

Another advantage of high-speed sync, especially in this situation, is that Angelides can freeze the models in action.

Lens Flare

A battery powered strobe like the Profoto B1 is good for something more than just lighting your subjects. With a clever bit of positioning and tweaking you can use it to replicate the lens flare you would normally expect the sun’s light to make on your lens.

Strobe gelled with CTO to produce warm light

Strobe mimicking the sun’s warm light

It results in this beautiful lens flare.

How to produce lens flare with a strobe

Lens flare produced by gelling the strobe

Give these techniques a try and share your results with us!

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