Summertime is all about the great outdoors, barbecues, and bright sunshine. That last bit, sunshine, scares off plenty of amateur photographers. Though natural light is touted as the best light, the bright sun can make it extremely difficult to capture those beautiful blue skies. As award-winning wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela says, “The sun is a honey badger – it doesn’t care.”
What many people picking up a camera for the first time don’t know is that no matter how bright and powerful the sun, you can overpower it to capture those blue skies in a few different ways. One effective method for taking control of exterior light: through-the-lens flash. To help walk us through this process, we asked TTL experts Mike Fulton and Cody Clinton of TriCoast photography to explain how they use TTL to get the right shot quickly. Here are their two simple steps for perfection.
Step 1 – Setting the Scene: Adjusting for the foreground
With TTL, It’s all about adjusting the background followed by the foreground. Every background, no matter if you are dealing with a hot Texas sun or a dark basement, is controlled by the amount of ambient light that crosses your sensor. This ambient light is controlled by your shutter speed settings. A shutter that is too slow will blow out the background, leaving the shot hot white in the background and omitting those unique clouds and blue skies you are looking to capture.
What you need to do is meter your subject and not the sky behind him or her. Take the meter and manually set it to underexpose. Your camera metering system will tell you that this is the wrong light for your shot, but if you don’t push it to under expose, your image will be blown out with light.
How Much Do I Underexpose?
According to Mike and Cody, there is no cookie-cutter answer to this question, but there are a few factors that will affect what adjustments you make to your camera settings. The first is knowing how blue do you want your sky? If you want it to be a dark blue, you’ll need to go further than if you are looking for a softer, light blue. The most important factor, however, is if your flash unit has enough power to keep your subject and the foreground exposed and still get that perfect blue sky.
Step 2 – TTL Wireless Flash Settings
TTL lighting, no matter what your camera settings are, creates a mathematical formula with the pre-flash of the Master and Wireless flash units that produces close to the perfect lighting ratio every time. With a hot sun, you need to raise the shutter speed up in order capture it (1/1600 usually does the trick). Now, make sure your camera is on High Speed Sync flash (each brand has their own name for this setting: Canon: High Speed Sync, Nikon: Auto FP Sony: HSS Olympus: FP). Here is where you will make the game-changing adjustment. Adjust the master flash or flash comp settings inside your camera body to sharpen the image. Sometimes this means going to a +1 or +3. It depends on your setting. In any case, it’s a simple, fast adjustment.
The photos featured in this post were taken using the simple steps above – making the technology do the hard part and leaving simple adjustments to the photographer. If you want to learn more TTL flash techniques, check out Mike and Cody’s TTL Flash course on creativeLIVE.com July 15-16 and visit their website TriCoastphoto.com