Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shooting Close-ups in Harsh Light

Harsh light closeup test II
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.

Last year I took a lot of close-up photos but I shot like a landscape photographer in that I waited for the good light. Of course you get the best color and contrast early in the morning, late in the evening, or on days with light high altitude clouds. Shooting in low contrast light makes colors pop. But there are times when the light is harsh and I want to shoot close-ups. Unfortunately there aren’t too many options that will work without causing the subject to take off…

What I did for the image with this post is to shoot in aperture priority with the camera set to -1 EV. I took it in noon day sun, but under exposing by a stop caused the background to darken and the color in it to saturate a little. I also set the flash to -2 FEC and diffused it with a Lightsphere II aimed directly at the subject.

But after discussing the problem of shooting in harsh light at the Strobist Flickr Group I felt kinda stupid. One shooter suggested that I use the sunny 16 rule with a diffused flash. Well it would be pretty simple to just set the ISO to 100 and the shutter to 1/200 and I’d be at about -1 EV at F16. So that’s how I’m going to have my camera setup the next time I’m shooting close-ups in harsh light, dropping the Fstop down if I need more light to maintain the -1 EV under exposure. I’ll use the same diffused flash only this time set to 0 FEC and just let E-TTL take care of the exposure for the subject.

Now all I have to do is wait for the weather to change –it’s turned cold again…

Footnote: I had a chance to experiment yesterday and I've made a few changes. The image stabilization on the 70-200 F4 L IS works with the 500D, but it takes a few seconds to stabilize and by the time the image gets steady the critter is gone or in a position that doesn't work. So I turned the IS off and set the exposure to F11, 1/400, and ISO 100. That's still the sunny 16 rule at -1 EV but with an Fstop that gives me the best combination of depth and image sharpness.

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