Night Christmas Portrait

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Lyncca, Dec 2, 2008.

  1. Lyncca

    Lyncca TPF Noob!

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    I have a friend that wants me to take a family portrait of her, her husband and baby in front of the city Christmas tree. I haven't done any night portraits yet, but here is what I am planning (please tell me of better options):
    • Use a tripod
    • Meter on the background (tree)
    • Use flash off camera (probably will use TTL first and then take some manual flash shots)
    Ok questions:
    • Do I use regular or rear sync flash?
    • Will the flash freeze movement? The adults can stay relatively still, but a one year old? Probably not.
    • If not, what are my options? Faster lens, higher ISO to get it as fast as possible?
    I want as much ambient light as possible with the Christmas lights, but don't want to ruin the image in the process.

    Thanks for yalls help as always :)
     
  2. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    If you're using your SB800 on camera, I would set the flash to TTL BL (not TTL) to balance the ambient light, and set the camera to S mode, so you can increase the shutter speed to allow for the background to be exposed properly. Meter off the people, not the background. The camera will expose the flash for the people, and you will control the amount of background by setting the shutter speed. Probably around 1/30th of a sec or so, or even slower. The flash will freeze the people, and a tripod will help with keeping the background steady. And I would use ISO 400 or 800 on the D300. Good luck! :)
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I don't know the fancy Nikon flash modes, but that sounds about right.

    I always use manual mode in this situation. Set the aperture for the DOF you want and the shutter speed & ISO to get the ambient exposure you want. Then let E-TTL take care of exposing the subjects. Use FEC to adjust the flash exposure (shouldn't need to put the flash in manual, but you can if you want).

    Tripod should help keep the ambient parts sharp.

    Front or Rear curtain shouldn't matter in this situation. If the subjects are moving and have some ambient exposure to them, then you will probably want rear sync. The only problem with rear sync in this situation, is that with a longer exposure, it will cause a delay between the pre-flash and the actual flash, which might cause the subjects to blink or move away.
     
  4. Lyncca

    Lyncca TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Andrew. That is similar to doing a studio setup. I read on another site to meter on the background and use the TTL to light up the people, but it said it would probably be a 4-5 second exposure, which is way long for people (esp children) to stay still.

    I'll be using the SB800 off camera, but using the on camera flash as the commander, so it should still work basically the same.

    Thanks for the pointers :)
     
  5. andrew99

    andrew99 TPF Noob!

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    You definitely don't want to meter off the background, if you do the camera will fire the flash at full power to try and light the whole background, which will totally nuke your people! But you're right, off camera via CLS or on camera works the same.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Sure you do...meter the background for your ambient exposure (aperture and shutter speed etc.) The flash exposure is not decided at this time.

    The flash metering is done with a pre-flash, milliseconds before the exposure. If the subjects are in place, the camera will read the flashed light off of them and use that to determine the actual flash power.

    The two exposures (flash and ambient) are separate.
     
  7. Lyncca

    Lyncca TPF Noob!

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  8. Lyncca

    Lyncca TPF Noob!

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    Rut roh. Mike and Andrew are telling me exact opposites...
     
  9. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A much easier way:

    - Set camera to MANUAL or APERTURE priority (A-mode is easier and the shutter speed will increase automatically as DOF decreases. Raise ISO to taste, serve warm and fuzzy.).
    - Set your aperture to what you want (Depending on the focal length, anywhere from F/4 to F/8).
    - Set flash to TTL BL, which is the default, BTW.
    - Set shutter speed to anywhere between 1/60th to 1/125th to freeze the baby motion.
    - Set ISO so that you have the ability to get the shutter speeds you want (if you use TTL BL, you can leave ISO at 200-400 fairly safely and raise ISO to lower flash output and get a lightly brighter background).
    - at this point, to make any changes in exposure... use the exposure compensation either up or down, whatever YOU need.

    Be aware that the slower the shutter speed, the more the background comes out, the faster the shutter speed, the less chance of getting motion blur. You balance it out to the right choice once you get there and see what works. You will not need more than 1/125th to get motion free shots unless the baby is running around in circles around the parents at 50mph. Lower is better becuase more of the background will show up.

    Poses: bodies and the RIGHT shoulders of all subjects facing forward about 6 inches more than the left (their bodies are facing the area between me and the light), faces all looking at me. The angle is small enough that the baby is easily seen and part of the picture.

    Get there early or the day before... practice so that you know what to expect and just set the camera to those settings and pop off the pics in 2 min flat.

    -------------------------

    Now, if it was me, I would light the scene on 2 planes:

    - subjects 4-6 feet in front of lit tree
    - 1 flash right about butt height, angled upwards and behind one of the parents with a diffuser and light green gel on it. Set to 1/2 power and shooting into the trees behind.

    - 1 flash at 25-30 degrees camera right about 6-8 feet away from subjects, bounced off umbrella (not shoot through!) and set to 1/2-3/4 power.

    My ISO would be somewhere between 400-1600 depending on current ambient conditions.

    My camera would be on full manual with apertures somewhere between F/4 and F/8 depending on current ambient lighting.

    -------------------------

    Now, its near impossible to give advice, since we do not know how dark, how light how well traveled or remote the location will be. Basically, once you get there... wing it! :lol:

    Edit: Man, did I screw up this post! I had 4 thoughts going at the same time at one point!
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2008
  10. Lyncca

    Lyncca TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Jerry :)
    The problem with going early, is that I don't have a person (subject) in front of the tree. I can shoot regular night shots with my eyes closed (my favorite!). It's properly lighting the people and not losing the background (and vise versa) that I hadn't tried.

    *edit, I guess I could use the cable release to do a self portrait to at least get the technical aspects right...
     
  11. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ... or the timer function, yes.
    Knowing the settings will be the difference!

    Now, since you are in Fort Worth, and it is affectionately called Cow Town, don't be taking pics on main street in front of Cattleman's, those buggers are mean and have horns... lol
     
  12. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good advice Jerry.

    I'll have to add an addendum to this point though.
    The shutter speed that you need to safely 'freeze' a subject, really depends on how much ambient light they are getting. If they are getting little or no ambient light, you could have the shutter open for several seconds without any problems. The more ambient they get, the more they will show up...but the faster you make the shutter speed, the less they will show up. Of course, as you raise the shutter speed to control the blur, the less exposure you get of the background....so you may need to find the balance of what works.

    The flash will freeze their movement into a sharp image, so as long as the flash exposure 'overpowers' the ambient exposure, you will be good.

    I've found that at night or in dark reception halls...I can shoot at 1/10 and freeze the subjects just fine.
     

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