Matching Sunlight with Lighting Equipment for Outdoor Fashion Photography

When starting out using strobes, you might think that it’s pointless to use them outside during a sunny day. However, there are many situations that call for more than just sunlight and/or reflectors. Outdoors strobes can help you balance your exposure between your background and the side of your subject that lies in shadow. Strobes will give you more brightness than reflected light and can give you a softer, harder, wider, or narrower light depending on the attachment you put on it. In this video, James Schmelzer shows you how he balances sunlight and strobes, and how to get a shallow depth-of-field outside on a sunny day:

Schmelzer uses a Canon 5D Mark III, Speedetron Explorer 1500 strobe, and a very large Wescott 36×48 softbox. To sync his flash and use a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second, Schmelzer has a PocketWizard Flex TT5.

Tips for Using Strobes Outside:

  • Expose for the Background First – Make sure your scene is properly exposed before you worry about lighting your subject.
  • Take Note of Lighting Direction – Where is your natural light coming from? Left? Right? Behind? Think about where you want this light to fall on your subject and how you can balance it out with your strobe.
  • Your Shutter Speed Won’t Affect Your Strobe Brightness – Strobes create a very quick pulse of light. The speed with which a strobe fires is faster than your camera’s default max sync speed. So whether you shoot at 1/60th or at 1/3rd of a second, the flash will remain the same power/brightness. The ambient light, however, will change.
  • Watch For Difference in Color Temperature – Depending on the time of day and the strobe/continuous light you’re using, you may notice that the colors of your lights and that of the natural light may not match. Continuous lights come in a range of color temps., however, with strobes you’ll have to use colored gels to alter their color.
outdoors outside flash strobe lighting equipment matching sunglight

The 1/8000th shutter speed was possible with PocketWizard’s HyperSync technology that allows cameras to shoot at fast shutter speeds with strobes

“The sky is so big, the light sources outside are so big to imitate that I like to use either a big, huge octobox or a large umbrella and put it in butterfly position up really high.”

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One response to “Matching Sunlight with Lighting Equipment for Outdoor Fashion Photography”

  1. mary says:

    That’s a strange pose.

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