Sunset Portraits: Using Strobes for Balance

In this tutorial, photographer Jay P. Morgan demonstrates how to balance strobe lighting with the ambient lighting created by a sunset to compose a striking portrait. Taking advantage of both natural and artificial lighting, Morgan starts by setting his background exposure, adds a key light on his subject, adds a strobe light to illuminate a prop in the background, and lastly a light panel to reflect light back onto his subject’s face.

“The challenge is keeping the fading sun balanced with our strobes long enough to give us time to shoot.”

Although the most important light source is the sunset, it is constantly changing, so Morgan changes the exposure every few minutes to accomodate. He starts out with the following camera settings: shutter speed of 1/160 to control ambient light, aperture at f13 to control strobe light, and ISO at 160 which moderates the other two settings equally. However, the key to the success of this photo shoot is lengthening the shutter speed to accomodate the background as it gets darker:

sunset photo lit with strobessunset photo

Morgan used a Tamron 24-70 mm 2.8 SP lens, a Photoflex Octodome with Dynalite travel head for his key light, and a Dynalite strobe head (MP1600 Power Pack).

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